NRL’s crackdown warning ahead of Origin I

The NRL’s head of football Graham Annesley has warned fans that the league will not lift its controversial crackdown on illegal contact for the upcoming State of Origin series.

Ahead of Magic Round earlier this month, the NRL announced match officials would begin punishing high contact more severely on field.

Record numbers of sin bins and send-offs followed across the ensuing three weeks of football.

At his weekly briefing on Monday, Annesley said referees would continue to police high contact in the same fashion during the Origin series, which is set to commence on June 9.

“Nothing is changing for the State of Origin. The State of Origin is in many ways our showcase event of the year,” he said.

“No one would like to see the Origin series go through without any incidents more than me, so players have still got a little bit more time to adjust.

“We’ve got a responsibility to our players in what is the most physical, the fastest, the most intense level of our game that can be played.”

The crackdown will continue in the representative arena. (AAP Image/James Gourley)Source:AAP

Annesley also hit back at criticism of the crackdown’s implementation, maintaining that officials have “largely” interpreted the NRL’s directives correctly.

He admitted, however, that achieving true consistency in penalising high contact might never be possible.

“It is largely impossible to arrive at what everybody considers to be a consistent position because the way we all view (high tackles) is inconsistent,” Annesley said.

“Consistency is probably the most used criticism of match officials … it’s a very easy criticism for people to say, ‘They’re inconsistent’.

“I’m not saying those people are wrong because there is a lack of consistency but the lack of consistency is because circumstances are different.

“(Match officials) have got examples and measures to try and inform them about where the various bars are for the various levels of action that might be taken.

“But in any incident there are degrees of seriousness. The point that I’ve been trying to make now for the last month or so is that if players are going to tackle (on the upper body), which they’re entitled to … but if it goes wrong, you’ve got to accept the consequences.”

While the NRL’s Match Review Committee laid 22 charges from round 12’s games, Annesley said he has noticed a change in defensive tactics since the league implemented the crackdown in round 10.

“I thought watching the games through the early part of (round 12), I thought we saw modifications in the way some players approached their tackling,” he said.

“We know that it’s not an overnight process, we know that it’s not going to be perfect in a very short period of time. We also know that no matter how hard we try, there’ll still be the occasional incident that will go wrong.

“(But) I think there has been an adjustment … I hope that continues.”

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