In a supreme test for rugby league’s new and controversial shoulder charge laws, three NRL players will fight their bans at the judiciary.
For the first time since the governing body toughened its stance on the no-arms hit, Manly’s Jorge Taufua and the Sydney Roosters’ Aidan Guerra will contest their grade-one charges in a bid to play this weekend.
A third player, South Sydney’s Issac Luke, will also attempt to overturn the charge.
However the Rabbitohs rake will still miss at least one match after taking the early guilty plea for a separate dangerous throw charge.
Six players were cited by the match review committee (MRC) on Monday, bringing the players charged over the past fortnight to nine, instantly igniting rabid debate on whether the NRL has gone overboard in its attempt to stamp out the illegal tackle.
Players have expressed their confusion over rule changes which were made 11 days ago. There is a consensus there are cases where defenders believe they have no option but to brace for contact.
Roosters captain Jake Friend called for common sense to be applied.
“Whilst it might look like (a shoulder charge), it’s simply for impact – you’re bracing yourself,” he said.
“Hopefully some ex-players that have played footy, they’re the ones that can determine the difference rather than people that have never played the game.”
Friend admitted there was a growing fear that the NRL’s crackdown will have a massive impact on the upcoming finals series.
In fact, with Manly’s Willie Mason already sidelined for his innocuous hit, there are already repercussions.
“At this time in the year, it will impact the finals if it keeps going this way,” Friend said.
Canterbury chief executive Raelene Castle conceded there was an air of uncertainty around the new laws, but called for consistency on the governing of the tackle – particularly in the judicial system.
“It’s really difficult when you change a rule mid-season,” she said.
“What is a shoulder charge? What’s protecting yourself?”
The MRC’s Michael Buettner explained that there were indicators to how players were cited for the shoulder charge and urged coaches to enforce the message.
“The key components are the forceful contact, the upper arm tucked into the side of the upper body. It’s irrelevant what the lower arm does,” he said.
“And also at the same time, wrapping with both arms.
“So if they’re not present, then obviously that will be considered a shoulder charge.”
Two other players levelled with shoulder charge bans – Gold Coast’s Lachlan Burr and Canberra’s Jordan Rapana – copped one and two-game suspensions respectively.
Rabbitohs pivot Luke Keary accepted a one-game ban for his shoulder charge.