State of Origin could be “ruined” by the multitude of charges stemming from the NRL’s crackdown on high tackles, according to Andrew Johns.
NSW and Queensland will name their squads following this weekend’s games, with Round 12 the final chance for players to push their Origin claims. But with a record 29 charges handed out last weekend, there seems to be some uncertainty hanging over the NRL’s marquee event.
“Every player at the moment would be in pencil you couldn’t put anyone’s name in pen,” the Newcastle legend said on Wide World of Sports’ Immortal Behaviour.
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The Blues were dealt a huge blow this week with Roosters pair Victor Radley and Angus Crichton rubbed out of the Origin opener due to suspensions. Raiders star Josh Papali’i will miss Game One for Queensland after an early guilty plea for a high shot on Bulldogs rookie Tui Katoa.
The NRL’s strict new crackdown on high contact has divided rugby league, with powerbrokers pushing it through hastily after being spooked by participation numbers and the threat of legal action regarding head knocks in the future.
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo vowed there would be no relaxing of the rule changes for the game’s showpiece three-game series. Johns says that could have a disastrous impact on the outcome of the series as players get caught out amid the adjustment period to the new edict.
“I just hope Origin doesn’t come down to the last 15 minutes in Game Three with NSW and Queensland at one-game each. It’s 12-10 and someone’s tired and puts a lazy arm out and the contest is ruined (by a sin bin),” Johns said.
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“I’m all for the crackdown but I don’t know the difference between the velocity of the hit which results in a fine, grade one, then grade two. I’m not on my own there.”
Both coaches will keep a keen eye on all matches this weekend and will need to have several back-up options with selections, considering the likelihood of charges following the trend.
Roosters star James Tedesco expressed concern over the rule changes this week, revealing that players feel uneasy about the sudden crackdown.
Tedesco was on the receiving end of foul play in recent weeks, most notably from Parramatta’s Marata Niukore, who received a two-match ban for high contact on the star during the Roosters’ loss to the Eels in round nine.
While he understands the reasons behind the move he said players are anxious.
“A lot of players are nervous, they don’t want to make any contact,” Tedesco said on Tuesday.
“A lot of the time it’s accidental and there’s no malice in it, but you just can’t do it, you can’t make contact with the head because it’s getting punished very severely at the moment.
“There’s more awareness of being more controlled. I don’t think it’s about changing techniques; it’s about being aware.”
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