NRL players are up in arms about the Australian Rugby League commission's decision to outlaw the shoulder charge, and it's hard to disagree with them.
On Tuesday, after reviewing a detailed report into the shoulder charge, the ARL made the decision to ban it from its competition. It accepted the recommendation that the increased size of players meant the execution of the shoulder charge was creating an unacceptable injury risk.
What the ARL has clearly not reviewed or taken into account, though, is the opinion of those playing the game, and the fans who provide the support and funds to keep it running.
Rumours about the possible banning of what, for a long time, has been one of the most marketable aspects and biggest points of difference in rugby league have been swirling around for the past couple of years.
However, I doubt that many players or fans were confident it would ever happen, at least not so soon. When the ARL's decision was released on Tuesday, a number of NRL players took to Twitter to vent their frustration.
"Worst decision ever made - BANNING THE SHOULDER CHARGE - if u don't like the contact sport we play - maybe MARBLES would be more up Ur alley." said Sydney Rooster and former Warrior James Maloney.
"If the shoulder charge is taken out of the game we should just play soccer, this is a joke. Don't like it don't play the sport," were the thoughts of Josh McGuire of the Broncos.
Cronulla Shark Wade Graham felt he was summing up the thoughts of all NRL players.
"Almost 100% sure that 100% of the players were happy with how the rules were!".
Along with reducing the risk of head injuries, the ARL claims the loss of the shoulder charge is not as big a part of the game as many think. Its research suggested only 0.05 per cent of tackles made during the 2012 season were shoulder charges, so spectators would not be missing out on as much as they think. What the research also showed, though, was that only 17 per cent of shoulder charges resulted in contact with the head and less than 4 per cent led to injury to either player involved.
The reality is rugby league is a contact sport, and that contact is often of a heavy and brutal nature. Taking away the shoulder charge is not going to stop the odd player getting a head injury. Every now and then, swinging arms are still going to stray too high, and players will inadvertently get into situations where their head takes a big blow. Sure, the shoulder charge brings an element of added risk and several doctors are praising the decision, but it has also been around since the game began over 100 years ago and has only seriously injured a very small percentage of players in that time.
The doctors' answers to that is that a series of significant blows to the head may not have serious consequences until later in life, years after the player has retired.
But the players are not completely oblivious.
They all knew the risks they were taking when they chose careers as professional rugby league players.
Surely the opinions of the people that are out there on the field, playing the game, count for something.
Many players have already voiced their disapproval, but perhaps the thoughts of one, Cronulla and NSW captain Paul Gallen, sums it up best.
"I'm still in shock," Gallen said.
"We don't want players getting hurt, but it's taking some of the toughness of the game.
"When you have a look at the highlight reels they're all big hits, the fans love shoulder charges."
- The Marlborough Express
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