NRL referees boss Tony Archer says officials will be vigilant in protecting playmakers as calls for a crackdown on late hits grow louder.
But Archer believes whistleblowers have been consistent in policing late hits this season despite North Queensland half Johnathan Thurston’s recent plea for more protection.
Brisbane halfback Ben Hunt on Tuesday joined the chorus for a crackdown, saying the league had to “clean up” late hits.
Archer revealed the topic was a high priority.
“Understand this, we have been very vigilant in this area,” he said on the NRL website.
“It is an area that we need to continue to be vigilant on and we will be.”
Archer also tried to clear up what constituted late contact on a kicker.
“In relation to contact on a kicker the defender has to make a genuine attempt to tackle,” he said.
“The tackle can’t be late, high or dangerous.
“The referees have penalised this consistently throughout the season and for the most serious players have been suspended for that sort of contact on kickers.”
Hunt said halves accepted they would cop some tough tackles when they took the ball to the defensive line but felt there was a line being crossed by some defenders.
“Us halves get taught to play right near the line and when you do that you have to accept that you are going to get hit a bit,” he said.
“But it’s those ones where you pass the ball a bit early or a player comes in and cleans you up late is something they really have to clean up I believe.”
North Queensland coach Paul Green issued a “please explain” to the NRL after his Test playmaker Thurston complained publicly about treatment he copped after kicks in the Cowboys’ loss to South Sydney last week.
Gold Coast coach Neil Henry backed Green’s call for more protection for playmakers after his halfback Aidan Sezer suffered a shoulder injury following a hit from Bulldogs giant Sam Kasiano on Sunday.