Why the NRL has to stamp out the shoulder charge

For reasons I fail to comprehend, talk of bringing back the shoulder charge to rugby league has reared its ugly head once again.

It resumed as a major talking point following last Friday night’s National Rugby League clash when Rooster Kane Evans drove his shoulder square in to the chest of Bulldogs enforcer Sam Kasiano.

Phil Gould leapt out of his Channel Nine commentary box chair in delight as Kasiano was sent hurtling back in to the turf.

“Now if fans don’t come to see that, I don’t know what football is all about,” Gould bellowed.

The shot was replayed time and time again, beamed live in to living rooms all around the country.

“Look at this! Get that into ya!” said Gould as it was replayed for the second time, before going on to voice his displeasure at a penalty being awarded.

“The crowd goes up and the first thing we do is blow a penalty. That used to be footy. Anything that looks tough now we just penalise it. Anyway …”

Sure, the crowd might have loved it. But there is a network of people in Queensland that would be glad to see the back of the shoulder charge forever.

In June of this year, 25-year-old Sunshine Coast Falcons prop James Ackerman lost his life as a result of a shoulder charge.

One of three brothers, Ackerman left behind a loving wife and two young children as he lost the fight for his life in hospital.

For Australian captain Cameron Smith, it is “clear cut” that the shoulder charge has no place in the game.

“Only five weeks ago, James Ackerman tragically lost his life to a shoulder charge,” said the Melbourne Storm skipper.

“Whether it was the direct contact to the head or the effects of the blow, to me it doesn’t matter.

“If someone has lost their life to a tackle such as a shoulder charge, we shouldn’t even be looking at it.”

Peter Sterling, however, added fuel to Gould’s fire two days later, saying that all NRL players would support the shoulder charge being re-instated.

“We are all for player welfare. If you hit the bloke in the head … you’ve got a problem,” said the Parramatta great.

Sterling’s calls to bring back the shoulder charged were echoed by New South Wales captain Paul Gallen, who

“I just think they should bring it back, to be honest with you,” said Gallen.

“I just think, if you’re going to shoulder charge someone and it’s going to go wrong and you hit someone in the head, they’re going to have to mark it really, really hard and give you weeks on the sideline.

“If it comes off like the one on the weekend, well, you know, play on.”

The problem is, a head shot is not the only danger we have to contend with.

Ackerman, like Kasiano, was hit in the chest, not the head.

People have stated that whiplash was the main factor in the Ackerman tragedy, and to an extent was non-existent in the Kasiano incident – but why continue to test the waters, when the loss of a life could be one shoulder charge away?

The NRL needs to sort this problem out. Kane Evans sent Sam Kasiano in to next week with a blatant shoulder charge – but copped nothing at the judiciary.

The shoulder charge is either in the game, or it isn’t.

How many more men will we say goodbye to before the NRL decide that they mean business?

A big shot is hardly worth losing another life.

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