Former New Zealand enforcer Brendon Tuuta once complained he had only been following instructions from coach Frank Endacott when sent off for an ugly tackle on an opposition playmaker.

Challenged over his actions after the match, Tuuta told Endacott he had been under instructions to "harass" his victim.

"What does harass mean," an incredulous Endacott asked Tuuta, who was nicknamed "the Baby-Faced Assassin" after his one-man search and destroy mission against the Kangaroos in the 1989 Christchurch Test.

Tuuta replied: "Eliminate".

The incident, which is detailed in Endacott's biography, Being Frank, is an example of how players can misinterpret a coach's instructions or take them too far.

Every team tries to apply pressure to the opposition's playmakers and kickers to force an error or reduce their effectiveness but after four serious incidents in as many rounds offenders are set to face tougher penalties.

NRL head of football Graham Annesley has reminded referees that they can use the sin bin for foul play, while late tackles on playmakers are likely to attract higher gradings from the match review committee.

Broncos lock Tevita Pangai accepted a two-match ban on Monday for his late shot on Roosters halfback Cooper Cronk, while team-mate Matt Lodge, Sea Eagles prop Addin Fonua-Blake and Titans forward Moeaki Fotuaiki have been suspended for similar incidents this year.

Lodge (Cameron Munster), Fonua-Blake (Benji Marshall) and Fotuaiki (Blake Green) were all charged with dangerous contact after tackles on kickers.

Playmakers have always been the target of aggressive tactics from defenders, with three players facing the same judiciary hearing for separate tackles on North Sydney halfback Jason Taylor in 1998.

NRL head of football Graham Annesley has reminded referees that they can use the sin bin for foul play

However, the NRL felt the need to introduce a mid-season policy change last June after a spate of late tackles on playmakers, including back-to-back incidents involving Johnathan Thurston in matches against Manly and Melbourne.

Referees are now able to sin bin players for foul play, whereas they could only previously do so if the victim was forced from the field and unlikely to return.

There were 11 late tackles in 2018 after a player had passed the ball, as Cronk did when hit in the back by Pangai during the first half of the Roosters 36-4 defeat of Brisbane at the SCG last Thursday night.

Pangai received a grade two dangerous contact charge but is only serving a two-match ban because of a 20 per cent loading and 40 carry over points from two previous offences.

If Pangai's hit on Cronk had been timed right he would have been lauded for a great tackle but the ball was well on the way to James Tedesco when contact was made. Many feel the Broncos forward got off lightly.

The next offender may not be as fortunate as the NRL match review committee has the ability to grade incidents higher if it is felt that a greater deterrent is needed to discourage late tackles.

Annesley, who said that Pangai should have been sin-binned, confirmed that tougher penalties than the one imposed on the Broncos star could be introduced without another policy change.

"There is no guarantee it will be the same going forward," Annesley said of Pangai's grade two charge.

"The gradings are prescribed in the judiciary code but what this allows the match review committee to do is to look at all factors which include the prevalence of the alleged offence and the need for a deterrent.

"I am not for a moment suggesting anyone is doing anything to deliberately hurt anybody but when you have got a kicker who has both legs off the ground or at least one, the risk is high.

"A player who has passed the ball and isn’t expecting to get hit is at his most vulnerable.

"We've seen a lot of incidents that are borderline, we have seen incidents that are not so borderline and have resulted in penalties and charges and we will continue to monitor it.

"If we believe the deterrent factor isn’t sufficient we do have other levers we can pull."

Pangai's guilty plea means that his tackle cannot be used as a precedent for a grade two offence at future judiciary hearings and players could receive tougher penalties for similar offences if tribunal chairman Geoff Bellew advises the panel of the need for a deterrent.

 

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.