Will NRL become a Chest Fest?

As the NRL continues it’s clampdown on striking, recently slapping Canberra Raiders hardman Michael Weyman with a 5 week ban for punching Daniel Conn and giving Weyman a further week for his defensive elbow during a tackle – does this lead the game into dangerous territory?

Certainly stamping out foul play is important as the NRL looks to impress junior players and their parents as they decide which sport kids will play – ensuring Rugby League has a strong local breeding ground it critically important.

However, has the NRL gone too far and made the game soft?

In each game we see probably 1 tackle in 10 penalised for something illegal, in many cases the contact being very minor and the player on the receiving end generally not in any danger of injury.

While those changes are bearable, the real concern is around the outlawing of striking. Each striking charge needs to be assessed on it’s own merit. There is no doubt a ‘king-hit’ or brutal one-way attack should be totally outlawed, there is no place for this in the game. However on occasion where two players are engaged in a heated exchange, a quick spurt of striking shouldn’t see the players outed for weeks on end. The absolute real risk here is the NRL could become a carbon copy of the AFL. After totally outlawing striking, the game of Australian Rules (AFL) has the embarrassing situation where arguing players are reduced to ‘chesting’ each other in one of the funiest and most embarrassing of Australian sporting situations.

On the current path, the NRL could seriously end up in the same situation. It would be a very sad day for Rugby League and many could possibly walk away as spectators all together.

The answer is to examine each striking case on its merit. We firstly need to clear up what a ‘king-hit’ is. There is much confusion over what a ‘king-hit’ actually means, if you look it up in the dictionary you will get the following varying explanations from various dictionary brands;

a. A hit from behind

b. A hit without warning

c. A knock-out punch

Very much an Australian term, the real meaning of king-hit is to hit someone from behind. While many say a king-hit is a punch delivered when the other person is not ready, this cannot be the case – in many fights or striking situations there is always one party not ready for contact. Striking first does not constitute a king-hit.

In the case of Michael Weyman and Daniel Conn, this was certainly not a king-hit. Weyman attacked Conn once he had risen to his feet and while Conn may not have expected a full frontal attack – he was looking at Weyman directly.

Even in the Brett White case, while he did hit Ben Ross while the Sharks prop had his arms pinned – this too is not a king-hit. Certainly considered an unfair blow, as the player was unable to defend himself – but too many confuse the king-hit term.

The NRL need to tread very carefully as they get tough with strikers. Sure, keep the game clean and outlaw the king-hit. A classic case of a king-hit was when former Melbourne Storm forward Danny Williams brutally attacked Wests Tigers forward Mark O’Neill while the Tiger was looking completely in the other direction.

So go ahead and stamp the king-hitters out of the game, but please don’t send the NRL down the path of the AFL, where we see a bunch of grown men throw their chests at each other in a seriously embarrassing situation.

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