FAIR TACKLE: Nigel Plum of the Panthers is tackled during the match against the New Zealand Warriors. There is concern players could miss this year’s grand final if the NRL can’t clarify its confusing shoulder charge rule.
FAIR TACKLE: Nigel Plum of the Panthers is tackled during the match against the New Zealand Warriors. There is concern players could miss this year’s grand final if the NRL can’t clarify its confusing shoulder charge rule. Mark Kolbegetty Images

NRL needs to tackle the confusion, says Belcher

RUGBY LEAGUE: Former Canberra and Australian fullback Garry Belcher fears players could unfairly miss this year's grand final if the NRL can't quickly clarify its controversial and confusing shoulder charge rule.

Players, coaches, referees and fans are all at odds over what constitutes a shoulder charge. At the moment, any collision in which a player gives a hint of using his shoulder is automatically hit with a grade one, 200-point penalty, meaning he misses a minimum one match, depending on loadings and carryover points.

After the NRL initiated a crackdown a fortnight ago, another six players - Aidan Guerra (Roosters), Jordan Rapana (Raiders), Jorge Taufua (Manly), Lachlan Burr (Titans), Luke Keary (Souths) and Issac Luke (Souths) - were charged with the offence from round 23 games at the weekend.

South Sydney has already declared it will fight to clear Luke of his shoulder charge on North Queensland star Johnathan Thurston, while Manly is expected to do the same with Taufua who was cited after his seemingly-innocuous collision with Raiders fullback Jack Wighton in Canberra on Sunday.

Furious Sea Eagles coach Geoff Toovey slammed the NRL after the game, saying he wondered if they, or the match officials, even understood what a shoulder charge was.

Belcher said the biggest concern was that a player could miss the biggest game of the year for merely bracing himself against a bigger attacking player.

"Sometimes players don't have time to get their arms out, so they have to brace themselves for the impact - it is not necessarily a shoulder charge," the 254-game veteran told APN.

"I am totally against shoulder charges, and I think the NRL is trying to do the right thing.

"But any player will tell you there is a difference between a shoulder charge and a player bracing himself for a hit

"For me, Taufua didn't really have much time to do anything but hold his line.

"We don't want guys lining blokes up when they coming from several metres away and smashing them with their shoulders. I'm not uncomfortable with the referees penalising that. I think it just comes back to the judiciary and the gradings.

"Maybe they could introduce a new category and call it a 'shoulder brace' with a lesser penalty for players clearly preparing themselves for the oncoming impact and not using their shoulder to do damage.

"I think we're all just going to have ride through this rough period until the judiciary works out how they grade them and how they differentiate between them."



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