Hugh McGahan is a former Kiwis player and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Hugh McGahan: NRL make mockery of own tough line on lifting

Greg Bird. Photo / Getty Images
Greg Bird. Photo / Getty Images

What a joke.

The NRL are guilty of failing to reinforce the rules they introduced to clamp down on the lifting tackle. Or is it a case of the New South Wales contingent favouring their players before State of Origin?

It's a case of both as they try to translate a more aggressive stance on safety for the player.

Greg Bird's ability to have his charge reduced, which allows him to play the final two Origin games, is a sycophantic gesture to please NSW coach Laurie Daley.

That in no way implies any impropriety or influence from Laurie to the NRL hierarchy. It is more the reverse, to please the coach and increase his chances of breaking the hoodoo over the nemesis north of the border.

A few weeks ago, the furore over the Storm's Jordan McLean and his tackle reached boiling point and led to a seven-week suspension. This harsh penalty was more about dampening the hysteria of the injury to Alex McKinnon than the danger of lifting in the tackle.

New interpretations were introduced to combat lifting and the precedent was set with the penalty handed to McLean.

I didn't agree but accepted it was a starting point for players to change their thinking.

I said the next player, be it rookie or star, would be subjected to the harshest of penalties if the NRL were serious about their new stance.

But when the first player to be judged under this new ruling is charged, what do the NRL do? Reduce the charge so Bird can play in the final two Origins. The tackle looked worse than McLean's. It is irrelevant there was no injury. Bird let him go after leaving him vulnerable and it was just lucky how that player landed.

Because there was no injury, it's perceived there was little wrong.

The administration wanted to eradicate these tackles but, with this penalty, they have failed.

It proves that paying lip service to issues with outlandish rhetoric is enough to promote change when little or no change is what they seek. And all for the sake of Origin, where change is all they desire.

It's all about NSW winning, not preventing injury to the players they have vowed to protect.

To make it worse, Bird has crossed the line on many occasions, yet his record was not taken into account in this case.

It might be an old cliche, but the more things change, the more they stay the same.

- Herald on Sunday

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Hugh McGahan is a former Kiwis player and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Hugh Joseph McGahan MBE was a renowned rugby league player and coach who represented New Zealand in no less than 53 test matches, captaining 17 of them. Beginning his career in Auckland he later moved to Sydney where he played over 100 matches for the Roosters, finishing his career in 1991 as captain-coach of the eastern Sydney outfit. Accolades were never far away from the impressive Kiwi lock and in 1987 McGahan jointly won the prestigious Golden Boot Award, the first row forward at the time to win the award. Hugh McGahan’s international career was similarly impressive coming to the fore in 1982 after scoring a remarkable six tries for the Kiwis against Papua New Guinea in Auckland. Hugh Mcgahan ended his career with distinguished honours as he was awarded the Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to rugby and later inducted into the NZRL Legends of League. He continues to write sports columns for the New Zealand Herald.

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