Rugby league is right to clamp down on head shots but mid-season timing is wrong

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Australia's big clampdown on any contact with the head in the NRL is the right move – but at the wrong time.

At their recent Magic Weekend there were 14 sin bins and three red cards across the eight matches as they punished high shots more strictly than ever before.

It’s hugely important that rugby league makes this move. I think as a sport we can be quite blasé about people getting hit around the head or the chin. But there is clear evidence now that blows to the head and concussion can lead to the early onset of dementia.

What I couldn’t understand Down Under was the timing of the move, right in the middle of the season before one of their biggest weekends.

Yellow cards could become more common in Super League
(Image: PA)

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If you’re making changes like this you need to give the coaches and players time to prepare – give them three months to work on their tackling techniques.

If you’re having zero tolerance on all high shots then let them have a pre-season to work on it rather than telling them mid-season it’s coming in the next game.

I hope that in this country we learn that lesson and don’t expect players to change lifetime tackling habits in the space of a week. If we do that I think you’ll see a much better buy-in from everybody including the fans.

Let’s be clear – taking high shots out of rugby league will not detract from how tough it is. It’s about protecting the players and future generations from needless trauma.

Rugby league is keen to minimise contact with players' heads
(Image: PA)

The NRL is also talking about restricting full contact training sessions to one a week and that’s something else I’d fully support. I know from my time playing that although you might not get concussed in training you can get your head rocked plenty.

Research in the NFL has shown that those minor incidents accumulating can add up and create brain trauma.

The fear of past concussions probably weighs on the mind of most former players, but personally I will always say that I understood the price of playing the game and I don’t have any grumbles at all.

But now the science is now in place clearly showing the impact that head knocks can have, we have a responsibility as a sport to change things moving forward and make it as safe as possible for players.

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