Referee backs ban on lifting tackles

The Rabbitohs' Sam Burgess is lifted in a tackle by St George Illawarra's Jack de Belin last Saturday night. Picture: GETTY IMAGES
The Rabbitohs' Sam Burgess is lifted in a tackle by St George Illawarra's Jack de Belin last Saturday night. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Former leading whistleblower Tony De Las Heras believes NRL referees would be able to properly police a blanket ban on lifting tackles, which could be in effect as early as next season.

De Las Heras, who now works in the development of junior referees for the NSW Rugby League Referees Association, has lent his support to the change after a spate of dangerous lifting tackles in the past month.

The NRL competition committee is likely to ponder the crackdown, akin to the banning of the shoulder charge, when it meets at the end of the season.

Newcastle's Alex McKinnon fractured both the C4 and C5 vertebrae in his neck as a result of a lifting tackle against Melbourne, in which Storm player Jordan McLean assisted two other teammates already grappling with the forward. McLean was suspended for seven weeks.

And De Las Heras has indicated there would be grounds to eradicate the lifting tackle altogether from rugby league, following on from a ban on the third man in a tackle, which targets below the knees of a stationary player.

"I don't think you should be able to lift at all," De Las Heras said. "The NRL has, this year, brought in a rule outlawing the third man and it's a great thing if they're stationary.

"There's still a place for the old-fashioned classic one-on-one tackle, but as the attacking player you're on a hiding to nothing [if you're stationary and there's more than one defender in the tackle].

"It wouldn't be hard to police [the lifting tackle] at all.

"You've got the pocket referee behind play anyway ... get the pocket referee to say 'Don't lift'. But the major responsibility will fall onto the coaches and players."

St George Illawarra forward Jack de Belin faces a week on the sideline for his lifting tackle on Sam Burgess in the second half of the Dragons' NRL loss to South Sydney on Saturday night.

He will cop a week with an early guilty plea for the grade-one dangerous throw.

Teammate Jason Nightingale was also slugged with a grade-one careless high tackle charge for his shot on Apisai Koroisau, but will be free to take on Melbourne on Monday night with an early guilty plea.

Nightingale's fellow international winger Brett Morris escaped sanction for an innocuous shoulder charge which was also placed on report.

The Dragons' rap sheet stemmed from a controversial beating at the hands of the Bunnies, fuelled by an 8-1 penalty count at one stage in favour of South Sydney.

Normally mild-mannered skipper Ben Creagh engaged in a running battle all night with officials and later lamented new laws which prevent captains from talking to referees outside of stoppages.

De Las Heras said there needed to be some leeway in the rules to allow captains to understand why their side was being penalised.

"The thing is in years gone by the captain coming and talking to the referee was only a ploy to allow the defensive line to get set - even if it might have been for the most simple call in the world," he said.

"If there's a contentious decision you should actually tell the captain what's going on.

"The Dragons were getting smashed in the penalties. If there's a succession of penalties he [the referee] has got to call time off."


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