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NRL refines high tackle 'descriptors' after Robson sin-bin error

The NRL has "further refined" its criteria for punishing high tackles on the field after Graham Annesley conceded Cowboys hooker Reece Robson shouldn't have been sin-binned last week.

Annesley, the game's head of football, noted Robson's shot on Sharks prop Aiden Tolman was "very different" to other tackles that have resulted in sin bins since a crackdown on high contact began in round 10.

But Robson was made to leave the paddock by referee Peter Gough, on advice from the NRL Bunker, in the 77th minute of North Queensland's 26-24 loss to Cronulla on Friday night.

Tolman's height decreased markedly just before entering contact and Annesley conceded it wasn't Robson's fault that his opponent ended up being dazed.

"Robson approached Tolman almost with his back parallel to the ground, he was bent at the waist," Annesley said at his Monday media briefing.

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"He had both arms outstretched and for all intents and purposes looked as though he was intending to tackle Tolman around the waist if Tolman had still been upright.

"In this particular case, we've had further discussions with the referees across the course of the weekend. We need to apply a test of what I call reasonableness.

"And is it reasonable to expect that Robson, in this case, could have done anything more to avoid the outcome of that tackle? And I think the answer to that is no."

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Annesley supported the match review committee's decision not to charge Robson.

"We've given the referees very detailed descriptors [regarding high tackles], for want of a better term … We further refined that across the course of the weekend," he said.

"We're going through an adjustment period … What we're trying to do is make nuanced changes to how they [match officials] deal with these things in the hope of getting more of them right.

"There'll still be debate about some of these things because it does come down to a matter of judgment at the end of the day.

"What we have to try and do is get the referees and the Bunker officials as much as possible on the same page. We provided them with lots of video the over the last month or so, trying to assess some of these tackles against each other. We'll continue to do that.

"We're building up a catalogue of all these things so when they review them, they all start to think along the same lines as much as possible. That's our objective and we're not there yet."

While there have been several instances this season where a defender has been sin-binned, sent off and/or suspended despite the ball-carrier falling into a tackle, Annesley said the key variance in Robson's situation was his intended target zone.

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He added that although it's fine for players to attempt ball-and-all tackles, defenders take on the responsibility of having less margin for error when they aim higher.

Meanwhile, Annesley said it had not yet been determined whether the Raiders will be penalised after incorrectly activating their 18th man in Saturday's 22-20 loss to the Dragons.

NRL CEO Andrew Abdo will make the decision after reviewing all information.

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Debutant back Xavier Savage was injected into the fray when the second half got underway after centre Sebastian Kris was ruled out with blurred vision from a poke in the eye.

St George Illawarra's Jack Bird was placed on report for a high tackle, but an 18th man can only be introduced after foul play resulting in a sin-bin or send off, or when three players have failed HIAs.

"I do have some sympathy for how it took place," Annesley said.

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"When you look at the video, which we have, and read the reports from the people involved, this all happened very, very quickly and very unexpectedly.

"It's not like the Raiders had decided to make the change and activate the 18th player during the half-time break.

"In fact, Sebastian Kris, who ultimately passed his HIA, ran back onto the field to start the second-half. It was only when he got back onto the field that he realised he couldn't continue."

It took 11 minutes for Savage to be taken off and Annesley said the blunder ultimately boiled down to Canberra forgetting the rule amid "mass confusion on the sideline" as they scrambled to replace Kris.

"We'll put some additional measures in place to try and prevent this sort of thing from happening again," Annesley said.

"The Raiders have been very open and honest in their assessment. They haven't tried to blame anyone else, they've accepted full responsibility."

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