NRL players attempting big hits from the kick-off are set to come under scrutiny after Canterbury prop Sam Kasiano was charged yesterday with a grade-two careless high tackle for his shot on Parramatta's Fuifui Moimoi.
The tackle, which left the Eels a man short after a heavily concussed Moimoi was forced from the field just 16 seconds into Friday night's match, has brought into focus a recent trend of players attempting to smash the ball carrier from re-starts.
Several similar tackles have raised concerns about NFL-style tactics being employed at the kick-off, with teams opting for high kicks to create longer hang time for the defenders to rush down the field and smash the player given the task of running the ball off his own line.
Coincidentally, the tactic has become more prevalent because another NFL-style ploy - the use of blockers to obstruct tacklers - that has left the kick-off as one of the few opportunities for a defender to put a big shot on an opposition player.
When executed well, it can be a spectacular play that inspires a team, as evidenced by Tim Grant's hit on Petero Civoniceva in the opening tackle of Origin II, which left the Queensland prop gasping for air on the ground.
However, Kasiano's tackle on Moimoi went horribly wrong after the Parramatta prop slipped just before the moment of contact. As a result, Kasiano - listed in the NRL media guide as weighing 122 kg - struck Moimoi in the jaw with his right arm and he now faces a one-match ban that will rule him out of Friday night's match against premiers Manly at Brookvale Oval.
The Bulldogs were considering last night whether to contest the charge as Kasiano will receive the same suspension if he is found guilty by the judiciary tribunal and Canterbury officials believe he should not be held to account because Moimoi slipped and fell into the tackle.
But the match review committee is understood to have taken the view that Kasiano was so intent on smashing the ball carrier from the kick-off that he left himself with little margin for error if Moimoi changed direction. Under the rules, tacklers have a duty of care to avoid head contact with the opposition.
Kasiano and lock Greg Eastwood raced up from the Bulldogs' next kick-off to meet Eels prop Tim Mannah as he carried the ball from his own in-goal, and Canterbury coach Des Hasler said afterwards he was pleased with the aggression shown at the re-starts.
''We started pretty intensely and put some sting into our tackles,'' Hasler said. ''We realised that we would need to do that against Parramatta heading into this game.''
The Bulldogs are not the only team to use such tactics. It is understood the match review committee has noticed an increase in the number of players trying to line up opponents with big hits from the kick-off.
Former Manly prop Mark Carroll, who regularly traded big hits with Newcastle's Paul Harragon during their clashes in the 1990s, said it was becoming harder for the ball carrier to make ground from the kick-off.
''The goal of any front-rower should be to get to at least the 20-metre line from the kick-off but not many guys can do it now,'' he said. ''It used to be a little bit easier for a front-rower to get 20 metres but these days it seems to be a lot harder because they are catching the ball on the goal line on the full and they are lucky to get 10 metres before the defence arrives.
''That is because the kick-offs are getting a lot higher. It is like NFL in some ways, the ball is really, really high,'' he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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