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NRL Mailbox: Explaining the 'missile' tackle rule

NRL Wed, Jul 06, 2011 - 10:00 AM

There has been a lot of talk about ‘missile’ tackles or ‘cannon-ball’ tackles recently, as well as the changes introduced in relation to these by the NRL.

This is an area that the NRL has been monitoring all year and this is not a case of the NRL suddenly reacting to a single incident any more than it is a case of the NRL believing there is a need to change the way the game is being played.

What has emerged this year though is a trend where players will come in as the third man in a tackle with a direct attack on the ball carrier’s legs to bring him down and slow the play-the-ball.

Clearly nobody wants a rule that prevents people from tackling around the legs and in most instances we have seen the player coming in around the legs towards the end of the tackle in fact playing a legitimate role in stopping the momentum of the attacking player.

Unfortunately there is also the potential for a defender to arrive after the point where an attacking player’s momentum has effectively stopped and this is where injury is a real risk.

The safety of the players has to be the primary concern in all of this and that is why the following guidelines were issued this week:

-    Referees are asked to be more vigilant on their "held" call when an attacking player is being held up by a defender/s in an upright position and is deemed to be in a vulnerable position.

-    If a player offloads the ball at the same time as the referee calls held, the football will be returned to him and he will be asked to play the ball on the mark where held was called by the referee. (This is an interpretation change, not a rule change)

-    If, in the opinion of the referee, a player forcefully spears his body at an opponent’s leg/s in a dangerous manner he will be penalised by the referee.

-     A player may face further action by the NRL Match Review Committee if he forcefully spears his body in a dangerous manner at an opponent’s leg/s whilst an opponent is deemed to be in a vulnerable position (being held in a tackle by other defending players).

-    “Dangerous” in circumstances detailed above is defined as contact that involved an unacceptable risk of injury to the opposing player.

These additional guidelines came into effect yesterday for all Telstra Premiership and Toyota Cup matches.

They are not intended to impact on the way the game is played, nor are they part of a ‘crack-down’ by referees. What they do provide is a framework to better protect players.