The Australian Rugby League Commission has today accepted a recommendation to outlaw the ‘shoulder charge’ from all competitions from 2013.

The Commission has reviewed a detailed report into the shoulder charge and accepted a management recommendation that the increased size of athletes was creating a situation where the shoulder charge could, if maintained, lead to an unacceptable injury risk.

Work has already commenced with the England’s RFL and other member nations of the Rugby League International Federation with a view to extending the move at all levels of the game on an international basis (New Zealand already has a domestic ban) in place.

A number of concerning incidents in 2012 led to the shoulder charge review headed by Brian Canavan and led to the Commission also issuing a statement on August 30 that any illegal contact emanating from ‘shoulder charges’ would attract increased sanction.

The review demonstrated that:
-shoulder charges made up 0.05% of the 142,355 tackles made in 2012

-less than 4% of these resulted in injury to the attacking player and less than 1% to the defensive player

-17% resulted in contact with the head of the attacking player

-players in the Telstra Premiership have grown over the decade from 2002 to 2012 to be on average 4kg heavier, 1.2cm taller and by measure of a superior Body Mass Index, stronger and more powerful

-that the average G-force of the shoulder charge  (measured from accelerometer data taken from GPS tracking) was 76% greater than a conventional head-on tackle (10.682 compared to 6.056).

“This is about reducing a potential risk of serious injury to our players,” NRL Interim Chief Executive, Mr Shane Mattiske, said today.

“The Commission has gone through a thorough review process and been public in warning players about the risks of illegal play.

“The report shows that the shoulder charge is not a significant part of the game and its removal is not likely to impact on the way the game is played.

“With the increase in size and strength of the players, we believe this is the time to eliminate a potential risk.”

NRL General Manager of Football Operations, Mr Nathan McGuirk, will consult with the game’s Competition Committee (comprised of former and current coaches and players) to finalise proposed rule amendments in relation to the shoulder charge.

The proposed rule amendments will be put before the Commission at the December meeting.

“We want to be sure that we have looked at all the implications of any drafting of the new rule,” Mr McGuirk said.

“The Competition Committee plays an important role in the game and will ensure that all aspects of the rule change are canvassed before the Commission finalises the matter.”