The Cumberland Throw

The Spotlight – Time To Re-Define The Dominant Tackle

Is there a bigger blight on rugby league than the succession of wrestling inspired manoeuvres designed to slow up an opposition’s ruck speed?

Winning the tackle and slowing the play the ball speed has become close to the biggest goal for every team in every match but it’s come at a price – injuries and the six-again call.

The NRL’s response to injuries has been to outlaw every “innovative” method employed by coaches who are determined to either get an edge over their opponents or to not fall behind others.

At best, ruling that nefarious tactics such as the grapple, chicken wing, cannon ball, crusher, rolling pin, pressure points and finally the hip drop can draw a suspension is simply a stop gap measure. Another potentially dangerous manoeuvre will soon rear its ugly head as coaches continue to stretch the laws of the game.

Whether or not it’s a club south of the border leading the way, effective methods spread with the same evil efficiency as a killer virus and soon all clubs have some measure of guilt.

But there is a simple answer, and one that might have the rugby league purists singing hallelujah.

Make the one person tackle a dominant tackle.

The cannon ball

As things currently stand, what is deemed dominant is surely arse-about. Defences are rewarded when piling multiple defenders into the tackle. It’s an advantage based on numbers rather than skill, with extra time afforded to lay on the ball carrier and slow up the tackle.

In contrast, the more skilful and safer legs tackle has the referee barking for the tackler to immediately release the ball carrier, and even though many of these are terrific cover or scramble tackles, failure to release quickly often results in a sin bin.

Past arguments have suggested that a multiple defender tackle should not be allowed. That’s obviously absurd as you can’t expect extra defenders to not get involved when the attacking player is battling to cross the line or if he looks like he’s pulling out of a tackle.

The hip drop

Coaches look for ways to gain an advantage, so if the NRL’s goal is to reduce the injuries brought about by the “gang tackle” and it’s associated evil byplays, let’s award the single player tackle an advantage. Call dominant for every tackle executed by a lone defender, where that defender starts and completes the tackle on his own.

By calling dominant, the player is given more time to hold onto the attacker- whether that time is utilised by the tackler to get to his feet or to have another player get into a marker position. Furthermore, penalise any attacker who tries to kick/lash out when securely held in a one-person tackle.

In contrast, multiple player tackles would not qualify as dominant, with referees immediately calling for defenders to move.

Let’s reward this!

I’d even suggest taking it one step further.

The one-on-one strip rule has a massive grey area with multiple defenders peeling off once one of them has secured the ball. Again this rewards the multiple player tackle.

How can the NRL expect to reduce the impact of such tackles when they continue to find ways of rewarding them? It makes no sense!

Therefore, removing this varied interpretation and only allowing a strip to occur in a one-on-one tackle provides further encouragement for players to develop their individual tackling technique.

Were this change in interpretation be introduced, it surely wouldn’t be a bridge too far.

As a youngster learning footy skills, I was only ever taught how to execute a legs tackle. There was never instruction on gang tackling technique. All players would relate to such younger days when they learn to play safely. It’s in their kit bag of skills, regardless of how thick the layer of dust on it might be.

If the NRL is serious about reducing injuries, and as frustrated about the dangerous tackles as I suspect they are, then maybe, just maybe, putting the classic legs or sole player tackle back on the pedestal might just be the answer.

It’s time to re-define the dominant tackle.


Eels forever!





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This is my pet hate.
I would not allow the attacker to be pushed back by multiple defenders into the in goal or for that matter anywhere in the field of play. One on One fair enough.
Call held when the forward momentum is stopped as the rule book states or used to state!
How many times is the attacker held up and multiple defenders get involved and the weight of numbers push him back.

Brett Allen

I have no problem with that at all, it doesn’t say forward momentum, it just says momentum. So long as there is momentum in the tackle the defence should be able to push a player back.


A good one on one usually drops the attacker like a stone leaving more blokes in the defensive line for the next play. It effectively reduces gaps in your line. Sadly, like common sense from the refs it appears a thing of the past.

Colin Hussey

I have been using Stone as the primary eels current player as a great example of the low legs tackle, and its not just the occassional one either, the last game I saw him in he made them consistently and more often than not was able to get to the next runner and take him down as well.

If the whole team could develop that tackling method as standard practise how many penalties would they really give away in the game?

Brett Allen

I’ve long argued that the great I’ve in one tackle isn’t rewarded nearly enough.

Brett Allen

You’ll find that we agree on much more than we disagree


Ahhh the blog of the season for me Sixties; thank you. Why did the NRL bring in the 6 again rule? Was it another ruck area to tidy up? YES of course. I couldn’t agree more Sixties, make the copy book tackle dominant, and then let us see what changes. Thurston was a superb exponent of this tackle technique. The game for me has not been the same since around 2006-08 or whenever it was that C Smith was rubbed out of a big game, GF. It started from one club for my liking and then everyone (or almost) copied… Read more »


Good arguements Sixties. I’m enjoying the 6-again only because it diminishes the wrestle. It does introduce an arbitrary referring call which is not being consistently applied.

Anything that diminshes the wrestle and improves consistency should be considered.


In the last game against the Storm young Ray Stone picked up big Nelson one on one and drove him sideways onto his arse. It is the type of hit that lifts your team mates. Where is Ray Stone this week.

Colin Hussey

Sixties, had my say on an earlier blog regarding the old single man tackling around the legs, so don’t have a lot to add with it though, except the way that multiple tacklers are involved these days. A single player in a tackle I would like to see more off, loved the tackle from the Penrith forward some years back that ran an opposition player down near the try line and got him over it IIRC, love to see more of them. The biggest issue with modern tackling methods that are multi tackled are two faced or pronged. For me… Read more »

Last edited 2 days ago by Colin Hussey

I have a solution. If any team makes 3 consecutive one on one tackles Cameron Smith gets sent to the sin bin for 10 minutes , no matter where he is playing. Problem solved.


100% sixties. With the one-on-one dominant maybe a line break or really dominant run if brought down last ditch from behind shouldnt
be under rewarded by allowing the tackler to dwell.
Yes, the strip one on one from first contact til strip.
The concept of forward momentum be re- introduced when more than one tackler.
Dragging over the sideline from sometimes over 10 metres could be looked at.


Yes perfect. I get the concept when a team has made a break and they want the momentum to continue,but if you ain’t good enough to step around the full back or do a Phil Blake chip over,too bad you butchered a certain try.Those one on one tackles are usually spectacular examples of perfect timing and technique only for the tackler to have all their fine work undone by having to let go in 1 second, may as well have let him stroll passed you in that case.Great idea ,I’ll put it to the brains trust at the pub tomorrow… Read more »

Achilles' Eel

Other options include: reducing the number of players for each team to twelve, or abolishing the interchange rule altogether. This will at least add to player fatigue that will negate the need for wrestling to some extent. But it’s a right, royal mess currently. The problem for the copybook tackle is its rapid effectiveness. An attacking player is felled in an instant and there’s no disguising the fact the tackle is complete. On the other hand, wrestling creates the illusion that the attacking player is still fighting in the tackle, all for the purposes of slowing the play down. Furthermore,… Read more »

Achilles' Eel

But it will create another grey area, forcing the referees to interpret the duration of that dominance

Achilles' Eel

‘Fair is foul, and foul is fair.’ Sorry Sixties, I’d rather the game be allowed to flow than stop to applaud every instance of good play like we’re at the cricket cheering on the aggressive batting of a local hero. We wouldn’t be having this discussion if not for the advent of wrestling into our game. In fact, I’m alarmed at how long the wrestling has persisted given the nature of the injuries sustained by the players and the NRLs professed duty of care for them. I feel that the only solution from this point on is to start a… Read more »


I can see a few other upsides to reducing the number of tacklers Sixties. If a second defender comes in to stand at marker, it makes it quite cleare where that mark is, so the ball gets played there, instead of the attacker moving forward or sideways then the defender getting pinged for not being in the right position. Reducing the number of bodies would also limit the ability to the attacker to grab hold of the defender and pretend that they are failing to peel off, or the defender pretending that they are trying to roll away when they… Read more »

Colin Hussey

Great reply Wilhelmina, & agree totally. Watching last nights chickens & black cats game, there was enough incidents from both sides that show how the game has degenerated into nothing more than something akin to who can do the most damage to an opponent with no penalty for either side. Sure it was an almost gladiators contest, of course without the nets and swords, but there is so much going on in the match and will continue to do so to satisfy the cheer leaders, they being the commentators on the various TV shows and those in stands baying for… Read more »

Brett Allen

I think the other thing the 6 again rule has done is to bring the mid size player back into the game. Guys like Victor Radley, Cam Murray, Ray Stone, Brandon Smith, Cam McInnes, Tyrone Peachey etc have reclaimed their place in the modern game. Prior to the 6 again most of those weren’t big enough to be real middles, not dynamic or athletic enough to be edges, nor were they skilful enough to be key playmakers or quick enough to be centres or wingers. Wherever they played you always felt their team was half a player short in that… Read more »

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