League: ARL shoulder charge ban draws mixed reaction

St George Illawarra coach Steve Price. Photo / Getty Images
St George Illawarra coach Steve Price. Photo / Getty Images

The rugby league community seems undecided over the ARL Commission's decision to ban the shoulder charge, with NRL players and coaches admitting officials faced a delicate balancing act in appeasing fans and protecting the game's stars.

The ARL Commission (ARLC) on Tuesday announced it would outlaw the risky practice, deeming developments in the size and speed of collisions had made the risky tactic too dangerous to players' health.

St George Illawarra coach Steve Price threw his support behind Cronulla counterpart Shane Flanagan's suggestion that reducing the number of interchanges would have been better than banning shoulder charges as a way of limiting the impact of collisions.

"I'm actually a fan of the shoulder charge, but I'm also a believer in player safety and welfare - we want to see young kids playing the game," Price said.

"I'm sure if they had made harsher penalties for contact with the head, that would have been a deterrent to players in the future."

Manly coach Geoff Toovey was also a touch confused by the crackdown.

"We've got rules in the game that already cover dangerous play so, to me, it's a non-issue," Toovey said.

"There's plenty of other important issues in the game that need to be covered and we're waiting for that.

"I think it takes the focus off things that are important in the game."

Ironically, two of the smaller players in the NRL gave their support to the shoulder charge - provided it came with the associated risk of a long ban from the game if a tackler did not get it right.

"We're going to tread a fine line where we get to being like rugby union," Dragons playmaker Jamie Soward said.

"They probably had it right toward the back end of last year where, if you want to risk losing one of your star backrowers or front-rowers for 12 weeks, then shoulder charge by all means."

Sea Eagles halfback Daly Cherry-Evans said: "I enjoy watching highlights reels and seeing nice shoulder charges being performed.

"Obviously, the illegal ones are frowned upon for a reason but it would have been nice to see it stay."

Perhaps no one summed up the overall mood better than the latest Immortal Andrew Johns.

"I don't know. I'd like to reserve my judgement," Johns said.

"It hasn't been a rugby league decision - I think its more of a medical decision.

"It's pretty exciting to watch but, when it goes wrong, it can be ugly."

- AAP

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