Australian captain Cameron Smith says the recent death of James Ackerman illustrates why the shoulder charge must remain banned from rugby league.
Amid calls by the likes of NSW Origin captain Paul Gallen and former great Peter Sterling for the spectacular, but potentially damaging, defensive ploy to be reinstated, Smith is adamant the NRL must stamp it out of the game completely.
Ackerman, 25, played for the Sunshine Coast Falcons, one of the Storm’s Queensland-based feeder teams, and died two days after being injured in a tackle.
“It’s pretty clear cut for me – it’s got no place in the game anymore,” Smith said.
“Only five weeks ago, James Ackerman tragically lost his life to a shoulder charge.
“Whether it was the direct contact to the head or the effects of the blow, to me it doesn’t matter.
“If someone has lost their life to a tackle such as a shoulder charge, we shouldn’t even be looking at it.”
Smith’s stance was very different to that of Gallen who on Tuesday said he’d like to see the shoulder charge brought back.
Gallen was commenting after Sydney Roosters prop Kane Evans’ much-replayed shoulder charge which flattened giant Canterbury forward Sam Kasiano last Friday which earned him a warning but no sanction from the match video review panel.
Gallen hoped what he described as “clean” shoulder charges like Evans’ would be re-introduced, but dangerous ones such as those that struck a player in the head should be punished severely as a deterrent.
“I just think they should bring it back, to be honest with you,” Gallen told Sky Sports Radio.
“I just think, if you’re going to shoulder charge someone and it’s going to go wrong and you hit someone in the head, they’re going to have to mark it really, really hard and give you weeks on the sideline.
“If it comes off like the one on the weekend, well, you know, play on.”
But Smith said it should be stamped out of the game altogether and wanted the NRL to clarify its position after Evans escaped a charge from the match review committee.
“One thing I would like to see is a bit of clarification on whether it’s still in the game or not because Kane Evans put one on on the weekend.
“Everyone knows it’s a shoulder charge but it wasn’t charged … so it’s either in the game or it’s not.
“If you want to put it on, you’re going to get charged no matter whether there’s an injury or whiplash to someone’s head. It’s got to be stamped out of the game altogether.”
A NRL spokesman said on Monday because there was no head or neck contact and no whiplash effect on Kasiano, the on-field penalty and warning was enough punishment.