NRL: SBW faces four-game shoulder charge ban

Sonny Bill Williams looks up at a replay of his shoulder charge during the round one NRL match between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Sydney Roosters. Photo / Getty Images.
Sonny Bill Williams looks up at a replay of his shoulder charge during the round one NRL match between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Sydney Roosters. Photo / Getty Images.

The controversial shoulder change is again in the spotlight, with Sydney Roosters superstar Sonny Bill Williams facing up to four weeks on the sideline after being charged from Thursday night's NRL season opener.

In a torrid encounter won 28-8 by South Sydney, the banned tackle reared its ugly head on a number of occasions with officials even scrutinising Williams' technique during the game.

The dual international was hit with a grade-two shoulder charge on Friday for a last-minute tackle on Souths prop George Burgess.

Williams will cop a three-game ban if he takes the early guilty plea, or spend four games sidelined if he unsuccessfully fights the charge.

Rabbitohs back-rower Ben Te'o was placed on report, but not penalised, for a possible shoulder charge on Williams earlier in the game, while Roosters young gun Dylan Napa was penalised over a suspect hit.

After banning the shoulder charge last year, the NRL moved in the off-season to clarify what would be deemed illegal by the Match Review Committee in 2014.

According to an edict issued to all 16 clubs, tackles where an arm is separated from the body will be not deemed a shoulder charge with officials believing such a position indicates an intention to make a legitimate tackle.

Channel Nine Commentator Phil Gould revealed in the second half of the Roosters-Rabbitohs match that NRL officials had taken the unusual step of contacting the broadcasters during the game requesting footage of a Williams hit.

Roosters coach Trent Robinson said the NRL needed to find consistency on the shoulder charge issue.

"I didn't get any close ups of Napa's or Sonny's. But if they are shoulder charges, fair enough; give them a penalty,'' Robinson said post-game.

"But the refs missed one of theirs and saw the next two of ours. If they are going to get them, then get them.

"Napa's style of tackle is straight arm, separated from the body. They (referees) came about and showed us it was alright.

"If they come back and say: `Yes, they were shoulder charges', then they need to get that right.

"But if they are wrong, then they better be careful.''

-AAP

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