Should the shoulder charge be banned?
A year ago I would have scoffed at anyone calling for the abolishment of rugby league's shoulder charge. I used to think the heavy collision from a shoulder charge was highly spectacular and set the NRL well apart from rival codes.
Slowly but surely though, I have altered my previous hardline stance. The shoulder charge must now be banned.
I know some in our game still love the shoulder charge's thunderous collision but times have moved on and I don't think we can continue seeing what we did when South Sydney's Greg Inglis hit St George Illawarra's Dean Young last Saturday night.
It was a sickening hit. There is no worse sight in the game than seeing a player taken from the field in a neck brace on a medicab.
I still feel a little awkward suggesting it should be banned. The shoulder charge has been around rugby league for a hundred-plus years. Our game is arguably the toughest contact sport in the world. We don't want to lose the tough elements but the shoulder charge - while it gets the crowds to their feet - doesn't make rugby league the sport that it is.
I have not suddenly wanted it banished because of the Inglis situation but that and the other instances this year have demanded some further discussion.
Changing the minds of former players can be difficult. They tend to be set in their ways and live by the same rules that were in place when they played. But the game has changed so dramatically. The collision is brutal these days. We have 110kg players who run 100 metres in even time. They are massive human beings.
Can you imagine the force of the collision when Inglis and Young came together?
The concussion was bad enough but it could have been worse. The game is tough enough without collisions to the head. I don't think scrapping the shoulder charge will take anything away from the toughness and physical nature of our game.
The problem is that contact between shoulder and head has been banned for a few years now and still we have players willing to take the a risk and attempt a shoulder charge. There is such a small margin for error, and even though there mightn't be the intention of striking the head, a slight miscalculation can see it go wrong.
Slapping a ban on the shoulder charge won't eliminate it completely, just like we still have players charged with dangerous throws. The game did a good job on the spear tackle, and even though we still get some, there has been a dramatic reduction in the numbers and more importantly the seriousness of the charges. The players are getting the message.
Another dangerous consequence of a (currently legal) shoulder charge is the colliding of two heads. We saw an example of that a couple of weeks back in the match between Souths and Newcastle. Sam Burgess made shoulder on shoulder contact with Kyle O'Donnell but they collided heads, leaving the young Knights player sick and sorry, and needing assistance from the field.
The shoulder charge has become too reckless.
Times have changed, the game has changed, our attitudes must change.
I see where the NRL has set up a committee to look at the shoulder charge and determine whether it should remain in our game. There are trained medical experts on the panel. I think I know what their recommendation will be!
Kids that play rugby league will always try and emulate what happens in the NRL. The thing is however, the shoulder charge is already banned at junior league level.
Yes, the shoulder charge is spectacular - but also highly dangerous.
It's time we have good look at leaving the shoulder charge in the past.
The views in this article are those of the author and don't necessarily reflect those of the NRL.