They rose almost as one to vent their anger about the outlawing of the shoulder charge, while some expressed their frustration that they were not asked first.
The truth is, they were.
In the embryonic stages of the report that eventually convinced the ARLC to abolish the shoulder charge at a meeting on Tuesday, NRL players were emailed and asked for their opinions on the tackling technique. Brian Canavan, who put together the independent report, received only one emailed response and a telephone call.
''The committee who ran this process for us went through a process with the RLPA [the Rugby League Players' Association],'' the NRL's director of football operations, Nathan McGuirk, said. ''They obviously set a brief of what the research was, including the terms of reference, asking for feedback, either written or verbal, on the review.
''I believe the result of that totalled one written summary from a player, along with I believe one verbal conversation with Brian Canavan. They also received written feedback from one club.''
The sheer number of players expressing their disapproval of the commission's decision, which followed a recommendation from management, including McGuirk, will have surprised the NRL, and officials there were not taking it lightly. The same can be said for RLPA boss David Garnsey, who confirmed that the process by which the ARLC banned the tackle was due to be discussed in depth at a scheduled board meeting on Wednesday night.
''Clearly, it will be discussed there,'' Garnsey said. ''It needs to be something the board looks at. The views of the players [on Tuesday and Wednesday], they are respected and a matter of some significance.
''Certainly, there was an invitation at the very outset of the review, to offer their view on the shoulder charge. I don't know how many did because the responses were to be forwarded directly to Brian Canavan - but there was certainly no consultation once the review had been finalised.
''This is obviously a matter of enormous interest to the players, given the way they've reacted. And regardless of how many responded, players have been expressing views [about the shoulder charge] publicly for some time. It's not been a secret [how they feel].''
McGuirk maintained he was comfortable with the level of consultation given to the players, despite the chorus of disapproval. ''We felt it was important that we properly consulted the playing group,'' McGuirk said. ''The research committee thought it was best to go through the association, and that process had to be formal as well. We were comfortable with that process.''
The report did not recommend that the shoulder charge be banned. ''The players and the clubs were given the opportunity to present their information,'' Canavan said. ''But this was a research-based review, therefore evidence was found and findings were presented.''
Opinions had been sought from medical staff, sports scientists and with the NRL Competition Committee, which included Wayne Bennett, Daniel Anderson, Brian Smith, Ivan Cleary, Bill Harrigan, Stuart Raper and Darren Lockyer.
Canavan consulted the NZRL, which had banned the shoulder charge domestically in 2006.
''We gave Brian our feedback from our medical council and explained to them that we had had some very positive results from an injury perspective and from [reduced insurance] claims in the domestic game,'' chief executive Jim Doyle said.
McGuirk will now consult the competition committee to finalise proposed rule amendments, which will be put to the commission next month.
- Sydney Morning Herald
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