NRL 2022: Tackle Round 24, confusing HIA rule could decide final and needs to be fixed

Move over Wayne Bennett and Ivan Cleary, there’s a new manager ready to spice up the NRL Finals. All the likes and dislikes of round 24 in The Tackle.

Fatima Kdouh reveals her likes and dislikes from round 24 of the NRL season in The Tackle.

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DO NOT LIKE

A CONFUSING RULE COULD DETERMINE A FINAL

EIS and concussions are once again in the spotlight, and rightly so. There can be no room for loopholes or opportunistic coaches when it comes to concussion regulations.

Coen Hess faces a one-match ban with a first plea for a high shot over South Sydney’s Campbell Graham. Hess was thrown when his shoulder made contact with Graham’s head.

Graham admitted he was ‘dizzy’ but somehow the center left the field and returned within minutes after being traded under foul play and not HIA rules .

More than ever, we are also seeing examples of coaches eliminating players on the pitch before they are removed after a few tackles later, effectively breaking the momentum twice for teams in attacking position.

On Sunday, Titans fullback Jayden Campbell was sent off for an HIA even though Newcastle’s Adam Clune’s high shot went unpenalized. More confusion ensued.

HOW MANY MORE DOG STRIKES CAN NELSON DO?

All eyes will be on Nelson Asofa-Solomona when Melbourne take on Parramatta this week, but for all the wrong reasons.

We’re all going to watch and count how many more dogshots Asofa-Solomona will be allowed to get away with.

Asofa-Solomona got away with a $3,000 fine for trying to attack Joseph Suaalii’s face with his forearm, while the Roosters winger was helpless on the ground.

It’s a disgracefully weak punishment from the MRC, which is supposed to protect players from dangerous head contact.

What is the MRC, or even the NRL for that matter, waiting for before finally acting?

A catastrophic injury?

Asofa-Solomona is in form.

Earlier this month, the Storm striker completely escaped punishment when he dropped his elbow into Wayde Egan’s face, leaving him with his teeth knocked out.

Remarkably, MRC manager Luke Patten deemed the contact ‘minor’ and that ‘clean separation’ in the tackle meant there was no header.

The same can be said for Cameron Munster, who threw a similar shot, using his forearm to attack Sam Walker’s head.

The MRC must act now to eradicate such dirty play from the game. Warning letters and fines are simply not enough.

NO VICTOR TO RADLEY BRAVERY

Seeing Victor Radley convulsing on the ground after a tackle gone wrong on Friday night was hard to watch.

We constantly hear cries as the game softens.

There’s nothing sweet about a game that can leave a man in his physical prime in such a vulnerable state when something as simple as a tackle goes wrong.

Thankfully, he’s been in good spirits since the nasty concussion. It looks likely he will be rested for Friday’s huge clash against South Sydney, saving Radley from himself.

Radley has a gear, Kamikaze, and Trent Robinson can’t afford to lose it on the eve of the series finale.

JWH V NAS: LET THE BIG BOYS PLAY

Referee Adam Gee had seen enough as Roosters enforcer Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Melbourne big man Nelson Asofa-Solomona decided to lock the horns.

But the rest of us certainly hadn’t.

“Listen to me, if he comes back, or if we get another scrum, the guys will be sitting, no more, line in the sand,” Gee bellowed at the respective skippers.

Yes, there were concerns, yes the tension was high and threatening to boil over. But that only added to the drama of the battle between two of the competition’s heavyweights.

And of course Waerea-Hargreaves couldn’t help but pay extra attention to Asofa-Solomona the next time the Storm striker fielded him from a restart.

It was barely an overflow, but Gee was left with no choice but to send Waerea-Hargreaves to the trash. The worst indiscretions have gone unpunished this season.

Let the big boys play.

MEDIOCRITY A DISEASE THE BRONCOS CANNOT CURE

To accept Brisbane’s demise in 2022 as anything other than a failed season is to accept mediocrity.

The problem with mediocrity is that it festers, makes itself at home and becomes the new norm, like missing the Finals, which the Broncos are on course to do for the third straight year.

Too many people want to give the Broncos credit for producing an “improved” season after finishing 14th last year and falling as low as last in 2020.

But close enough, can’t be good enough.

The Wests Tigers are a cautionary tale for any party that wants to ride mediocrity.

Somehow Brisbane now find themselves outside the top eight, having lost four of their five matches, having climbed to fourth in the table just five weeks ago.

With everything to play for against Parramatta, the Broncos crumbled and opened the door for Canberra to knock them out of the Finals, which they did after stealing eighth place with a 48-6 win over Manly.

And the excuses start flowing.

The squad is young, inexperienced and running out of gas… so much so that coach Kevin Walters has decided to rest his most valuable outfielder Selwyn Cobbo for the club’s most important game of the season against Parramatta.

The loss of captain Pat Carrigan to suspension was too much to bear.

But that’s surely nothing more than cold comfort to the Broncos faithful.

Now the only way back for Brisbane is to beat a Dragons side with a number of ex-Broncos players like Josh Maguire, Ben Hunt and former coach Anthony Griffin, all of whom would like nothing more than be the ones to put Brisbane’s season to the sword.

You get the feeling the Dragons are about to add insult to injury.

FROM BAD TO WORST FOR THE TIGERS

Incoming coach Tim Sheens has his work cut out for him this pre-season, starting with a crash course in NRL rules.

Inexplicably, Junior Pauga played to a short drop inside the 10 yards and conceded a penalty with the game on the line at 22-16. It was the turning point that allowed the Dragons to roll 100 yards and score a try to even the scores.

This was made worse by giving a penalty in the last minute to Zac Lomax to seal the victory with a clutch goal from the touchline.

It was five minutes of madness that almost delivered the club’s first wooden spoon.

LOVE

THE NRL PROOF WILL NEVER LOSE ITS HUMAN SIDE

The out-of-contract stars do a good job of reminding us that the NRL is a business these days.

But some days it’s much more than that, as was the case for Canberra favorite Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, who will return home to New Zealand next season.

Nicoll-Klokstad collapsed in a heap of emotion after realizing he had just scored his final try and netted one last goal in what was his final game for the Raiders – despite being in reserve.

It was a moving reminder that behind the players who evolve into artists and brands in our billion-dollar sport, there is still a very human side to our once working-class game.

KEARY CONFIDENCE RETURNS AFTER HEAD BLOWS

It’s no coincidence that the Roosters hit their straps at the same time as five-eighth Luke Keary also returned to his best form.

No team has won the title outside of the top four in nearly 30 years, but coach Trent Robinson is certainly planning a September ambush meticulously, with Keary as general.

It wasn’t too long ago that Keary was fending off retirement questions after suffering another worrying concussion in June.

Keary’s concussion hiccup even hinted the premiership winner was stifling the development of powerful center Joey Manu, who looks destined to move into the halves.

ENTRANCE OF RONALDO’S SUPERHERO

To the rugby league world, Ronaldo Mulitalo is one of the good guys, to his teammates he’s a lookalike of the Incredibles character Frozone.

So Mulitalo channeled Frozone ahead of Cronulla’s clash against Canterbury, wearing the superhero’s signature sunglasses at the Pointsbet Stadium on Saturday.

Mulitalo may not be able to freeze water like his superhero lookalike, but he’s had 15 tries so far this season, where his career-best form just landed him a contract extension.

ORIGINS OF THE NRL’S NEW COACHING FIRE

There was no love lost between Cowboys coach Todd Payten and South Sydney’s Jason Demetriou on Saturday night.

Demetriou accused Payten of complaining too much after the Cowboys boss questioned the use of HIA rules at crucial points of the night, including late in the game when North Queensland tried to regain the United’s lead. south.

The twist in the tail is that the pair have a history together, having been on the coaching staff of the late Paul Green when the Cowboys won their first title in 2015.

But you would never have guessed after last Saturday night’s press conferences.

And we might not have to wait long for the comeback fight. With the Cowboys already guaranteed a top-four berth and the Rabbitohs set to play a playoff final in week one of the playoffs, it’s entirely possible these teams will face off again in September.

Demetriou has been at odds with Queensland clubs this week, his latest spat coming just days after incoming Dolphins assistant Kristian Woolf was caught in the crossfire over the Latrell Mitchell contract saga.

As the race to sign Mitchell for 2024 heats up, Demetriou has tried to downplay the Dolphins’ trump card of reuniting the superstar fullback to play under Wayne Bennett.

“Leaving to play for Wayne for a year before Kristian takes over in 2024, I’m not sure that’s a real carrot for anyone,” Demetriou said.

Coincidentally, Woolf was also in North Queensland in 2015 as coach of Hostplus Cup side Townsville Blackhawks.

If Bennett’s ongoing battle with Ivan Cleary has taught us anything, it’s that conflicted coaches make for exciting viewing.

Originally published as NRL 2022: Tackle Round 24, confusing HIA rule could decide final and needs to be fixed

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