The NRL’s 18th man rule has already come under fire with two incidents showing the gaps in the new rule.
Following a high tackle in the match between the Panthers and the Raiders that saw Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad ruled out of the game in the 21st minute, it showed that there would be a high bar for an 18th man to make it onto the field.
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Concussions have wreaked havoc this season with club left with next to no one on the bench in crazy scenes that saw the rule brought into the competition.
The Raiders were left with one fit player on the bench in their loss to the Warriors on Saturday while the Sharks played the entire second half with just 13 men in their 28-4 defeat to Parramatta.
Images of empty chairs on both teams’ benches exposed the alarming rate of injuries and particularly concussions, which some pundits are speculating may be related to new rules introduced this season that have sped the game up even further.
Currently, there have to be three players fail HIA tests for the 18th man to be triggered, or be the victim of foul play that sees the offender sin binned or sent off.
The three failed HIAs has been incredibly rare in the NRL.
The latest came in the Titans’ 42-16 thrashing of the Newcastle Knights.
It was just six minutes into the match when Titans winger Phillip Sami ran into the shoulder of Knights forward Tyson Frizell.
Running the ball back after a kick, Sami took on the NSW forward who crept up a bit high with his hit but far from being a sin bin offence.
Sami had wobbly legs immediately and was done for the day.
He had to be held up by his teammates and immediately, Fox League commentators thought Sami was KO’ed.
“Sami in a bit of trouble here, oh no, that’s the end of Phillip Sami, at least for 15 minutes,” Dan Ginnane said.
“Frizell came up out of the line trying to inspire his teammates,” Steve Roach said. “That might have been a little bit of the shoulder on the chin there, it wasn’t a swinging arm or anything.”
Ginnane put it in context: “This is important because an 18th man could be brought in for foul play. No problem there?”
Roach added: “I don’t think I saw anything foul in that. I know you’re not allowed to hit the head with any part of the body but I think that was a nice clean flush tackle.”
But Klein put Frizell on report surprising the commentators
It does pose the question of how do the NRL ensure the rule can be consistently used on the run when an incident may not be deemed bad enough for a sin bin or send off but ultimately ends up ruling out a player through injury.
There was almost another example as the game went on with the Knights’ Sauaso Sue running the first hit up of the second half straight into the Titans’ Jaimin Jolliffe and was left with his head split open.
While he stayed on the field, referee Ashley Klein quickly sent him for a HIA after his head was wrapped up.
“A delayed response here with the doctor having a look at the vision and taking a few minutes to decide that this needed assessment. It’s a flaw in the system but they’ll get him off and check,” commentator Dan Ginnane said.
While there was nothing illegal in the shot, when the discussion is about protecting players, perhaps the 18th man, or a new plan, needs to come into effect.
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