SYDNEY - A NSW Supreme Court judge has found the Melbourne Storm and league players Stephen Kearney and Marcus Bai are liable to pay damages to former West Tigers skipper Jarrod McCracken over a spear tackle which ended his career.

McCracken, a former Kiwi, sued the two men and their former National Rugby League club for more than A$750,000 ($823,000) over the tackle on May 12, 2000.

The 34-year-old suffered neck and spinal injuries and claims the incident ended his football career.

Another hearing will be held in August to determine the amount of damages.

Justice Robert Hulme found both Kearney and Bai intended to injure McCracken in the tackle.

"I do not agree that what occurred was but a normal incident of the game of rugby league," he said in his judgment.

Outside the court, counsel for the three defendants, Robert Crittenden, said his clients were disappointed with the decision and its implications for those involved in contact sports.

"It sets a very dangerous precedent in the sense that ... the judge has found that effectively every tackle - because there's the slightest intention of causing injury by putting the player on the ground - that's sufficient to enliven the provision in the Civil Liability Act so it defeats the whole purpose of the legislation ... "

Crittenden said they would most likely appeal against the decision.

McCracken's lawyer, Bernard Gross, QC, said he and his client were happy with the result but would not comment further.

- AAP