North Queensland Cowboys captain Johnathan Thurston has called for the NRL to introduce a five-minute sin-bin to deter defenders from taking out playmakers after they have passed the ball.
Speaking at the 2018 Telstra Premiership season launch in Sydney on Thursday, Thurston was quite vocal in suggesting the governing body reassess the rules regarding players whacking halves off the ball, adamant the game needed to do more to look after the little men.
''I just think we need to protect our players,'' Thurston said.
''It’s like when we took out the spear tackle and the punching and the shoulder charge. I think this is another thing we don’t need in our game. If you take it to the line, it’s fair game.
''But I’m talking about three seconds after you’ve thrown the ball and your body is all relaxed and someone jams you in the middle of the back and your neck gets whiplashed and you start getting tingles down your arm and start getting back spasms. You need to protect the players.''
The Cowboys No.7 believes players should be harshly punished as part of a crackdown on off-the-ball contact.
''A five-minute sin bin for those type of offences,'' Thurston said.
''They’re cracking down on holding players down when they’re attacking and are talking about sin-binning players for repeated offences, so surely if there’s a warning at the start of the year it can be a sin-bin offence.''
Thurston isn’t as susceptible to such contact as other halves given his willingness to play right to the line.
He admitted he hasn’t received many late shots throughout his career but hopes the game doesn’t wait for a serious injury before enforcing tougher sanctions.
''Hopefully we don’t get to that,'' Thurston said.
''We talk about it every year. Every year it comes up and we see examples of it throughout the year. I hope as a game we can stamp it out. I’m sure parents don’t want to see those type of plays that are going to deter their kids from playing our game.''
Thurston is coming off major shoulder surgery and will no doubt be heavily targeted by opposition teams in what will be his final season in the NRL.
The usually confident playmaker admitted he is nervous about his comeback and has huge mental hurdles to overcome.
''F---ing oath there is,'' a brutally honest Thurston said when asked if he had any mental demons.
''I haven't been nervous for a game for a very long time, but that Wests Tigers [trial] I was extremely nervous. Melbourne have got some big boys in that team as well.
''I wanted to get some confidence out of the trials and I was able to do that and I'm very happy with where I am. Now that I've got my confidence I need to start working on my timing and making sure I'm doing my job for the team.
''The more footy I play the less those demons will be there. When you're younger you don't fear as much. Certainly, it's been a lot tougher than I imagined this time around.
''I'm glad I got through it now and I'm looking forward to round one and hopefully a really big year.”