Canberra coach Ricky Stuart fears the NRL’s latest edict could tear apart the fabric of rugby league after more sin-bins and a send-off in Saturday’s Magic Round opener.
Raiders forward Josh Papalii was sent off for a high shot while teammate Jack Wighton was sin-binned for a cannonball tackle. Jaydn Su’a was sent to the sin-bin in the early stages of South Sydney’s clash with Cronulla that followed.
Their punishments follow a staggering eight sin-bins across the first two Magic Round games on Friday.
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With four matches still to play, the number is well on track to surpass the record 14 players that were sin-binned in round 11 in 2018 as the high in the NRL era.
The sudden rise has come as part of a two-pronged crackdown across the game on high tackles and repeated ruck infringements, with the NRL desperate to eradicate dangerous contact and the deliberate slow-down of attack.
Stuart said he understood the NRL’s intentions but had to stop himself from unravelling when quizzed about the controversial mid-season crackdown after the game.
“We’ve got to play to our mums and dads … and I want to promote the game to parents,” he said.
“But we’ve got a game that’s quite unique, it’s not for everyone.
“It’s a tough, brutal, contact sport so if we want to take that away, let us know, I’ll start recruiting different types of players.”
Stuart argued Wighton’s contact was above the knee and was a tackle that needed to be made.
“If he doesn’t make that contact I’m into him (for not chopping the legs to halt the ball-carrier),” he said.
“It’s sad we’re talking about it … we’re giving other sports a leg-up.
“It’s a wonderful weekend of rugby league and we want to promote our game, but it has to be spoken about.
“I just hope they don’t change now if that’s going to be the precedent; we’re going to find a completely different game of rugby league (to the one) we’ve been following for years.”
Bulldogs coach Trent Barrett agreed with Stuart, saying as a former player he accepted occasional, accidental high contact was inevitable.
He said the NRL had created its own trouble by speeding up play and increasing the likelihood of poor technique resulting in injury.
“There’s no thuggery in the game anymore; there’s no swinging arms and elbows like in the 80s,” he said.
“It’ll turn into a game of Oztag. If that’s what they want, well, that’s the concern.
“If you keep changing the rules who knows where it ends up?
“I don’t like seeing uneven contests and you can see that even before these rules were in that the six-to-go changed the game dramatically … I don’t know if that’s good for the game.”
© AAP 2021