South Sydney’s Dean Widders and the Dragons Jason Ryles both fronted the NRL Judiciary tonight; caught up in the NRL campaign to outlaw any ‘grapple’ or ‘compression’ to a tackled players head or neck. Dean Widders getting cleared of any wrong doing, but Jason Ryles was outed for two week.
Dubbed the ‘crusher’ tackle, Widders was accused of recklessly compacting the neck of the tackled player in an effort to slow the play the ball down. The NRL is mindful of the neck or spinal injury and rightly is targeting some dubious tactics by coaches. However with the Widders tackle, while the neck of the tackled player Jamie Lyon did get compressed – their was simply no intent from Widders and Lyon virtually ended up in that position as a result of the two assisting tacklers and general motion.
The Jason Ryles case was heard extremely quickly, it took the panel less than 5 minutes to find Ryles guilt of the grapple tackle and out him for 2 weeks. The Dragons argued that Ryles had been latched on to the tackler at the high position and simply rode the player to the ground. Ryles has now played his final game for 2007 and ends the year on a sour note.
It it totally understandable that the NRL are keen to outlaw tacklers targeting the head and spine. To have a player ‘break his neck’ or suffer serious injury during a televised NRL game would not only destroy the life of a footballer by also crucify the code of NRL Rugby League – the shockwaves would be felt at every level of the game. Parents pulling kids out of under 6’s Rugby League through to clubs requiring 24/7 legal assistance to ward off and civil suits.
We also don’t want to turn Rugby League into ‘tip’ football, and the Judiciary tonight was correct in exonerating Dean Widders – as his tackle would have set a precedent that would have made things almost impossible for enjoyable Rugby League into the future. At least now with the spotlight on grapples and crushers – players will be weary of attempting it and referees will spot most of them and penalise as they should.