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Time to get message: V'landys warns players will be marched for high shots

Stay away from the head.

It's a fairly simple edict but for some reason the excuses come thick and fast every time a player is felled by a high tackle or shoulder charge.

ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys has had enough, NRL head of football Graham Annesley has told the players repeatedly any contact above the shoulders will be penalised - it's time for them to heed the warnings.

V'landys was on 2GB on Friday morning reinforcing the message that match officials are under instructions to come down hard on any players who still haven't got the message.

"We will not tolerate any hit above the shoulder, on the neck or the head region. Any foul play will be penalised heavily. We’re going to get all that out of the game," he said.

He said the NRL was hellbent on ensuring high contact is eradicated just like punching was virtually elminated from the game following the automatic sin bin edict which was introduced in 2014.

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"We are just as determined to get rid of any knock around the head.

"It's never been allowed to hit anyone in the head - never in the game's history. All we need to do now is enforce it and we will."

V'landys said the ARL Commission had reached a view that referees need to use the full extent of the rule book to punish foul play. Teams that deliberately or repeatedly push the envelope on six-again infringements are also risking a trip to the sin bin.

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"We wanted to eliminate all and penalise heavily, even if it was accidental or reckless and definitely intentional. We wanted them to be sin-binned or sent off.

"I'm sure the refs who are all aware will implement it. The refs have been fantastic this year, it's just a shame last week we had a hiccup," he added in reference to the failure to banish Eels duo Marata Niukore or Dylan Brown for incidents against the Roosters.

Blues skipper James Tedesco was on the receiving end of Niukore's hit - it was the second time the Roosters star has been a victim of a shoulder charge in three weeks.

The first transgressor, Dragons winger Jordan Pereira, went to the bin but the other one, Niukore, faced no on-field punishment at all before being suspended for two games earlier this week.

Rather than insisting that Pereira and Niukore show a duty of care, the discussion in some quarters has somehow turned to Tedesco "falling into the tackle" as if that should exonerate the offender.

If Niukore and Pereira hadn't led with their shoulder in the first place it woudn't have mattered whether Tedesco was falling or not.

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Then there's the old chestnuts that have been tossed out about "throwing out a lazy arm" or "being wrong-footed", which we got when Jack Hetherington was sent off for his high shot on Val Holmes and when David Fifita got Adam Doueihi across the head.

Plenty of people expected Fifita to successfully have his charge downgraded at the judiciary on Tuesday so he'd be free to face the Panthers on Sunday.

If you ask me, the judiciary got it spot on.

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If the game is going to stamp out all contact with the head, and put the onus on players to change their tackle technique accordingly, then there's no point going easy on blokes because "the tackle didn't really do any harm" or "he didn't go out there intentionally trying to take his head off".

The head has to be sacrosanct and there can be no half measures in dealing with these offences.

If it's good enough for Jake Trbojevic and Victor Radley to aim at the hips or ribs and cut players in half with a copybook tackle then it's good enough for everyone else.

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Trbojevic is widely regarded as one of the game's premier defenders and when he hits 'em, they stay hit.

The Manly lock's tackle effectiveness is 94.8 per cent, right up there alongside the likes Andrew McCullough (96.7 per cent) and Jayden Brailey (94.8 per cent), who get through a power of work plugging the middle for the Dragons and Knights respectively.

Brailey's teammate David Klemmer (95 per cent), Warrior Leeson Ah Mau (96.4 per cent) and Tiger Alex Twal (95.8 per cent) also feature prominently on the list of players who make a majority of their tackles stick.

All have different techniques they have mastered over the years and techniques they trust to stand up under fatigue.

With the pace of the game increasing markedly during the past 12 months and fatigue taking more of a toll late in games, the propensity is there for defenders to throw out a lazy arm as Fifita did or to be wrong-footed as Hetherington was by Holmes.

Both those tackles occurred late in the game but for Niukore and Pereira there was no such excuse as the high shots on Tedesco happened before half-time.

At the end of the day it was poor technique that cost the Dragons winger and Eels centre time on the sideline and left their sides in the lurch.

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The cost to the Roosters was Tedesco off for the rest of the match and coach Trent Robinson was adamant in the post-match media conference that his side was disadvantaged the most by having to replace their captain more so than St George Illawarra having to make do without a winger for 10 minutes.

It's high time players did more to protect one another and lived up to the unwritten code that "no one goes out there to intentionally hurt another player".

That may well be the case but it's just an empty promise unless every player in the game makes a concerted effort to tackle lower and stay well clear of the head.

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Of course, there will always be accidental head clashes and that's a danger players accept when they sign up to play the toughest game in the world.

What they shoudn't have to accept are shoulder charges, coat-hangers or elbows to the head like the one that cost Parramatta's Ryan Matterson five weeks on the sideline.

The time for excuses is over. It's time to make duty of care the only factor we take into consideration.

 

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