Set of Six: NRL should shoulder some of the blame

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Kade Snowden of the Knights walks from the field after being sent off during the round 24 NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Newcastle Knights. Photo / Getty Images.
Kade Snowden of the Knights walks from the field after being sent off during the round 24 NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Newcastle Knights. Photo / Getty Images.

Justis Kamu takes a look at the lax shoulder charge laws as well as other key issues from the latest round of the NRL.

1. Hard rule required for shoulder charging

The NRL should shoulder some of the blame for the incident that occurred on the weekend which effectively ruled out Cowboys hooker Ray Thompson for the remainder of the season.

Thompson was on the receiving end of a Kade Snowden shoulder charge which resulted in the Cowboys rake breaking his jaw.

Snowden was sent off, and has received a seven match suspension for his tackle on Saturday night.

Late last year the NRL outlawed the use of the shoulder charge in the game.

As expected the new stance by the competition's law makers had equal amounts of lovers and haters in praise and opposition.

Medical evidence strongly affirmed the NRL that their step in making this tackling technique illegal was the right one to prevent the raft of knocks, injuries, and retirements which have occurred from its use.

The NRL and the respective medical associations were patting each other on the backside having pushed this through for the benefit of 'player welfare'.

Their job was done.

The illegality of the shoulder-charge was now law. And so the season 2013 rolled on.

That is where the problems started.

Having made it illegal, the NRL didn't go far enough.

Their failure to implement a strict rule to deter players from never using [the shoulder charge] again has not eliminated it's use.

For instance the no-punching policy which results in automatic sin-bin for players that strike another player has been quickly adopted by the competition.

It's promptly bringing about a cultural change in the game with players acutely aware that punching another player is going to leave their team exposed for ten minutes.

However the shoulder charge rule this season appears to have been applied with a pilot series mentality.

The shoulder charge has popped up every weekend and the referees have been inconsistent with the punishment they should employ.

That would be at the fault of the NRL who have, under their rules and interpretations, given them five actions to take in the event that its executed.

A penalty, caution, sin bin, dismissal (sending off) or place the player on report.
That is four actions too many.

We are now 24 rounds deep and players still apply it as part of their defence or even too shield themselves from impact.

An automatic send-off for a player who attempts a shoulder charge is a hard-and-fast rule that needs to be established.

Extreme, perhaps, but if the NRL is serious about avoiding serious injury this is the type of action required for the safety of all players at every level.

2. Raiders better off without Ferguson

Canberra Raiders centre Blake Ferguson wants out from his current deal.

The club have been on a roller-coaster ride full with him in the past six months and should cut him from their playing squad.

On his day, Ferguson is one of the top centres in the game, as was highlighted by selection to the NSW Origin side and subsequently his display in game one.

Yet his off-field immature, half-wit antics has dragged the club through the mud of the Australian media.

Rather then appreciate the club's never-ending support Ferguson has submitted a request to leave the club at the season's end.

The club should cut their losses while they can.

They did it with Josh Dugan and Ferguson's head should be the next to roll.

He is no superstar.

Yes he is talented, but the club needs have it's undivided attention on holding on to Anthony Milford who is being heavily tracked by the Brisbane Broncos.

Milford's departure would be a greater blow to the Raiders.

3. Brooks steps up to deliver Tigers win

Luke Brooks had a blinder in his debut match on the weekend in the Tigers 34-18 win over the Dragons at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Scoring one try, laying on two four-pointers for his teammates, Brooks was able to help the Tigers to their first win since round 17.

He will take great confidence from the match but unfortunately for Tigers fans he will play no further part in first grade in 2013.

Brooks had the commentators drooling over him on the weekend after his man of the match performance.

Fair enough, he did deliver in his debut match but let's not pump his head up too quickly, one game may just have been beginner's luck.

As was seen at the SCG he has sweet footballing skills to make a name for himself as a halfback at the NRL level but there are many before him who have been hyped up only to fall off the rader two or three seasons later.

Likening Brooks to Andrew Johns is far-fetched and is the same comparison that was put on halfback Joe Williams who is probably best remembered for playing with the Rabbitohs from 2004-2007.

Williams played just 49 games before retiring from league to try his hand at boxing.

4. Meninga would be ideal for Raiders

Mal Meninga doesn't want the Canberra Raiders head coach job nor is his name being mentioned as a possible successor to former teammate David Furner at the club.

In fact, he is part of the committee that is involved in appointing the next head honcho at the club.

But could the position be just the role he needs to prove his coaching credibility?

Meninga's first stint at the Raiders as head coach (1997-2001) brought 'mixed' success with a 53% winning percentage after five seasons in charge.

He admits in an interview with the The Australian that he was 'naïve' and 'didn't really have a coaching philosophy' during that time.

A lot has changed since then.

After eight series wins as head coach of the Queensland State of Origin side he has built a dynasty which is likely to not be repeated or eclipsed by NSW.

It's been argued however that in this capacity, with the elite players and support staff at his disposal he is more of a motivator or man manager than a coach.

The Queensland playing group is a collection of the top players in the game such as Greg Inglis, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith, Bill Slater and included until his recent retirement Darren Lockyer.

Meninga will rightfully go down as the finest coach ever in the Origin history but would he be able to repeat similar or even just a little bit of that success in the NRL?

5. Young Warriors earn recognition

Two Warriors have received recognition for their outstanding displays this season.

Star back Ngani Laumape and Junior Warrior David Bhana have been selected in the NRL.com Rookie Team of the Year and the Holden Cup Under-20's Team of the Year respectively.

Laumape was named at centre (3) in a side that features two former junior Warriors, Sosaia Feki on the wing and Peta Hiku at standoff.

The 20 year old burst on to the scene with a number of eye-catching displays with his powerful running style and unflappable temperament seeing him become a key part of the first grade squad.

Bhana, selected on the interchange bench, is the sole Warrior included in this season's lineup.

He started the season as captain of the Warriors Holden Cup side before being elevated to the play for the Auckland Vulcans in the NSW Cup.

The Northcote Tigers junior is a tackling machine and is highly regarded by the club's first grade coaches who have signed him to a one year deal in 2014.

6. Team of the week - Round 24

1. Fullback: Billy Slater (Storm)
2. Wing: Jerome Ropati (Warriors)
3. Centre: Benji Marshall (Tigers)
4. Centre: Konrad Hurrell (Warriors)
5. Wing: Wayne Ulugia (Cowboys)
6. Five-eighth: Brett Finch (Storm)
7. Halfback: Luke Brooks (Tigers)
8. Prop: Tim Grant (Panthers)
9. Hooker: James Segeyaro (Panthers)
10. Prop: Paul Gallen (Sharks)
11. Secondrow: Luke Lewis (Sharks)
12. Secondrow: Jordan McClean (Storm)
13: Lock: Thomas Burgess (Rabbitohs)

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