Rugby league: Australia to get tough on dangerous tackles

Australia's National Rugby League (NRL)  told its match review committee on Wednesday to take a hard line against players who lift opponents into positions where head or neck injuries may occur. -- FILE PHOTO AFP
Australia's National Rugby League (NRL)  told its match review committee on Wednesday to take a hard line against players who lift opponents into positions where head or neck injuries may occur. -- FILE PHOTO AFP

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia's National Rugby League (NRL) told its match review committee on Wednesday to take a hard line against players who lift opponents into positions where head or neck injuries may occur.

The move follows a review of the first six rounds of the season and comes after Newcastle Knights forward Alex McKinnon was left with a devastating spinal injury following a lifting tackle.

"If you lift a player and put him in a dangerous position you will be charged unless you pull out quickly and return the player to a safe position," said NRL head of football Todd Greenberg.

A dangerous position is considered one in which the head or neck of the tackled player dips below the horizontal level of the hips and is not immediately corrected.

Greenberg said there had been several cases this year in which players had been able to get away with this kind of contact because the tackled player was able to position himself so as not to get hurt.

"We have been disappointed that some players have escaped charges for tackles we believe were dangerous," he said.

He said that from this weekend, players will be charged if they lift an opponent into a position in which they could land on their head or neck.

"The only discretion the match review committee will have is the grading of the charge," he said.

"It is important to stress that the rules have not changed... rather, the way in which they are to be applied has been re-emphasised with the match review committee.

"We've given the committee a clear definition of what we believe is dangerous and we want them to police it ruthlessly."

Melbourne Storm prop Jordan McLean was suspended for seven weeks for the lifting tackle on McKinnon after being found guilty of a dangerous throw charge.

McKinnon suffered a broken neck in the tackle, which also involved two other players.

"We believe it is not the three-man tackle that is of concern but the dangerous lifting tackle where a player goes beyond the horizontal," Greenberg said.