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Dragons prop Paul Vaughan.

The NRL is planning on sending the crusher tackle the way of the cannon ball, chicken wing and spear tackles by eliminating it from the game as soon as possible.

The rule change announced last week increasing the points value for each level of indiscretion means players are unlikely to avoid suspension even for a grade one charge.

Three players in round 15 – Paul Vaughan (Dragons), Marata Niukore (Eels) and Moeaki Fotuaika (Titans) – have pleaded guilty to crusher tackles under the new points system and will miss game time.

Penalising players is one thing, but the NRL's Head of Football Graham Annesley also raised the issue of alleged play-acting by ball carriers – grabbing their neck and staying down to attract a penalty.

Crusher tackles: Match review process

"These rules are there for the benefit of players and if players decide – and I'm not suggesting any of them have – to try and use the rules of the game as a way of gamesmanship or to get some sort of on-field advantage they need to take a serious look at their motivation and objectives," Annesley said in his weekly Monday briefing.

"It's not what our game should be about. It's not like a number of other codes around the world where there are serious issues of players playing for penalties, or a benefit on the field.

"Some are almost hilarious how they happen," he said, not naming any codes but football sprung to mind.

"Our players are better than that and particularly when there are rules put in place specifically to protect them."

Annesley said he felt the majority of players were acting genuinely when they felt pressure applied to their neck.

"If there are any who aren’t, they are doing a great disservice not only to their own reputation but a great disservice to every other player who plays the game."

Former Manly premiership-winning winger Michael Robertson is one of four retired players on the match review committee who decide the grading for each crusher offence as well as other dangerous play. The other players are Michael Hodgson, Luke Patten and Anthony Quinn.

Robertson told Monday's briefing that the Cooper Johns tackle on Maika Sivo – which did not result in any charge – took half-an-hour deliberation by the MRC.

He said having the time to go through the tackle methodically meant they could  eliminate alleged play-acting.

"The Sivo tackle took 30 minutes of discussion. Those in The Bunker have five to 10 seconds," Robertson said.

He suggested that defending players needed to "open up the space" between their torso, arms or legs so the attacking player's head can poke through. This means the neck is not in a vulnerable position.

Cooper Johns placed on report for crusher tackle

Annesley said the crusher penalties were increased because there had been a 50% rise so far this year on the number from last year.

"This is not about penalising players – we'd rather not be taking action. We just want to provide a safe environment for them to play the game. That was the sole motivation behind it," Annesley said.

"No-one wants to see a serious injury come from these sorts of tackles.

"We see very few incidents of deliberate foul play in our game and that's because the rules have driven them out of the game. That's what we're attempting to do with this change."

Of course if there is not a drop in crusher numbers then it is likely the penalties will rise again.

"That's a possible outcome," Annesley said.

"One of the things we've committed to do with the RLPA at the end of the year is do a detailed analysis of all these tackles. And if we have to make further changes, we can do that."

Graham Annesley weekly football briefing - Round 15

He said that would go hand-in-hand with an RLPA-driven education program during the off-season to try to help players understand ways to avoid crushers.

He said it was not as simple as getting players to stop backing into a tackle as that was a legitimate tactic to try to keep the ball in play. But the NRL was determined to stamp crushers out.

"Each time we have an increase in these tackles, that's increasing the likelihood that we will get a serious injury."

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