News has just broken that Dylan Brown has taken an early guilty plea for a crusher tackle and will serve a one week suspension.
Cue my outrage!
Three short weeks ago there was a media furore surrounding Felice Kaufusi’s tackle on Ryan Matterson during the Storm’s clash with the Eels at Bankwest Stadium.
Despite immediate evidence available to match officials, Kaufusi remained on the field. With the Eels back-rower clearly concussed and forced out of the game, there was no send-off, no use of the sin bin.
Video replays provided graphic footage of Kaufusi’s use of the elbow in delivering a strike to Matterson’s head.
Since that time, Ryan Matterson has not been able to return to the field.
The punishment for Kaufusi was a grade 2 charge and a mere two weeks out of the game. He’s now returned to the field whilst Matto remains out of action.
Fast forward to this week and the match review committee responsible for deciding upon Kaufusi’s fate has farcically charged Dylan Brown for a crusher tackle. Two distinctly different tackles, but a minor difference in the grading.
The penalty, if Dylan had unsuccessfully fought the charge, would have been a two week suspension.
Is it just me or is that messed up? (NB – I had originally used an expletive here but exercised a self edit).
This may be rare for me, but I’m going to channel Paul Kent in declaring that the NRL’s values are all skewed.
Players can be dismissed to the bin for holding down in a tackle or interfering in kick chases, whilst those who deliberately take an opponent out of a game are simply placed on report.
The match review committee add their weight to the imbalance by charging those who commit unintentional offences (is the word “offence” even appropriate?) with gradings that aren’t too dissimilar to deliberate striking offences.
Let’s compare Felice Kaufusi with Dylan Brown, because depending on the plea, both tackles could have resulted in identical suspensions.
In one instance a player is seen deliberately cocking his elbow before striking his opponent. Given the rightful focus on concussion injuries, it was a tackle that brought the game into disrepute.
In the case of Dylan Brown, a player making a standard ball and all tackle is locked into the contact by a team mate as all players fall to the turf. It was obvious that there was no intent to apply pressure to the neck of Tyrell Fuimaono.
Truthfully, I couldn’t recall the tackle and had to search for it after the charge was announced.
It was as innocuous as I suspected.
Dylan should have challenged the charge, but given the Eels history at the judiciary, they’d likely be without his services for two weeks. The same outcome as Kaufusi.
Though there is a bias in my opinion, I’d suggest that all NRL supporters should be concerned about the suspensions handed down to both players. The match review committee could go through every match with a fine tooth comb and find multiple incidences of similar “crusher” tackles.
However, when crushers are applied deliberately (which is thankfully rare) or carelessly, the positioning and movements of the defender are obvious. Such offences must be punished, and heavily so, just as Kaufusi’s use of the elbow should have been.
Rugby League is a contact sport that involves multiple defenders stopping ball runners. The game can be made safer by applying heavier penalties to those who commit deliberate illegal tackles, but you can’t eliminate accidental injuries.
It’s time for a complete revamp of the match review committee and the charges available to them.
The NRL can ill afford to have striking incidents which bring the game into disrepute adjudged similarly to unremarkably tackles which result in unintended or unavoidable contact.