Time to get tough

Manly’s Steve Matai is put on report for a high tackle during the Sea Eagles’ NRL qualifying final against Canterbury last Friday. Despite a long history of similar offences, Matai was suspended for only one week.
Manly’s Steve Matai is put on report for a high tackle during the Sea Eagles’ NRL qualifying final against Canterbury last Friday. Despite a long history of similar offences, Matai was suspended for only one week. GETTY IMAGES

DISCIPLINE is vital to success in sport - just ask any decent coach.

It's also vital to the success of a sport, so it might be time the National Rugby League mentioned that to those who run the judiciary and those who decide how games are refereed.

Manly centre Steve Matai has been suspended for one week for a high tackle against Canterbury in the first round of the play-offs.

One week!

The bloke has a record as long as your arm.

If it was a repeat drink-driving offender he would not just have lost his licence for years but probably be in jail.

In what has been a great season of rugby league, high tackles and shoulder charges have been a blight on the game.

It's time to get tough on high tackles like a decade ago and, as they have done in rugby union, it's time to outlaw shoulder charges, which are fine if they connect with the body but sickening when they connect with the head.

There's too little margin for error - just ask the Dragons' Dean Young.

Players aren't stupid. Matai and his like know that the judiciary has long stopped taking firm action so they are prepared to risk it.

Bring back decent suspensions and the high shots will stop.

So much for the judiciary; what about the referees?

In a sport where rules have been changed to allow tries that didn't use to be tries, one way of seeing more attacking play would be to keep the defence back a genuine 10 metres.

Manly coach Geoff Toovey alluded to the poor 10 metres in the Sea Eagles' loss to the Bulldogs - and he's right.

Watch a game from the 1990s on TV.

See how much more open it is with the teams being kept further apart.

The attacking team has more time to use the ball and it's simply more entertaining.

Players on the field know how far they can stretch the rules.

If they can defend from an off-side position they will do it all game - why wouldn't you?

It's an effective tactic but not much fun for the spectators.

They won't do it if they know it's going to bring a penalty.

A more open game may also result in more line breaks and if it did the referees would need to be on top of that, too.

Players now know they are unlikely to be sin-binned even if they lie all over a tackled player to prevent a quick play-the ball and a try-scoring opportunity.

They don't mind conceding a penalty if it means avoiding a try, but they might think twice if the sin bin was used as liberally as it used to be.

It's all about discipline.

The NRL has come a long way in the past decade but a tougher judiciary, providing a genuine 10 metres and bringing the sin bin back into vogue would make a good game even better.

Topics:  manly sea eagles, nrl, steve matai



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