NRL: Bennett calls for cannonball ban

Newcastle's Alex McKinnon is taken from the field after being injured in an alleged 'cannonball' tackle. Photo / Getty Images
Newcastle's Alex McKinnon is taken from the field after being injured in an alleged 'cannonball' tackle. Photo / Getty Images

Newcastle coach Wayne Bennett has repeated his call for the NRL to ban the 'cannonball tackle' after Knights backrower Alex McKinnon was stretchered off in their loss to South Sydney on Saturday night.

After scoring the opening try, the 21-year-old's match ended just before halftime in an ugly sequence of events.

McKinnon first butted heads with Rabbitohs interchange forward Josh Starling then was left crumpled in a heap when Nathan Peats was third man in and hit him low with the Knights forward's legs firmly planted in the ANZ Stadium turf.

A bloodied and sore McKinnon was taken from the field on a medi-cab and it was initially feared he had broken his right leg.

Newcastle medical staff later said it was likely a syndesmosis ligament injury that may cost McKinnon at least six weeks on the sidelines.

After the 25-18 defeat, Bennett first bemoaned his side's first-half penalty count of 7-1 in favour of the Rabbitohs that he argued got them back in the game after the Knights led 12-0.

But Bennett was scathing of the so-called 'cannonball tackle' that he first wanted banned three years ago.

"That's the third injury this year we've got from that tackle," said Bennett.

"The game's got to ban it. It will only stop when the game gives the referees the authority and backs them to get that guy out of the tackle. They're caught by two players, held up, the third guy comes in and that's when the damage is done."

The veteran said wrestling at the tackle and manipulation of the ball carrier has regrettably become too strong a focus in defensive coaching strategies.

"We're all guilty of it because we're all coaching it now," he said.

"It's wrong, I don't believe in it but the team's disadvantaged if you don't do it.

"The game has to come out and say 'that guy is not going to be allowed in'. It's quite simple. They've got to call held a little bit earlier."

Aside from the injury risks, Bennett was adamant the game's administration should also be motivated to eliminate the use of three defenders in a tackle as it will lead to a better spectacle.

"The fans have been cheated," he said.

"It's all designed to slow the play-the-ball up.

"Nobody gets entertained when you've got four players lying on the ground. And we're in competition with other sports."

Souths coach Michael Maguire didn't have an issue with Peats's tackle.

"Nah, you see hundreds of those sorts of tackles," he said.

"It was just a really unfortunate one. You don't like seeing that, but accidents happen in the game."

- AAP

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