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Phil Gould's Comments About Karl Lawton's Sending Off Made Me See Red, It Was Disgraceful

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Phil Gould's Comments About Karl Lawton's Sending Off Made Me See Red, It Was Disgraceful

OPINION

I cannot believe this is still a topic for discussion.

I'm going to say it louder for the people up the back: "Intent or the level of injury should not be a factor when penalising an illegal act on the sports field".

We all know accidents happen, and that not every bad action is premeditated. But they still come with consequences. And sometimes people get very lucky, and no one gets hurt because of their poor decision or unfortunate action, but that does not excuse what happened and therefore null and void the punishment.

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During Friday night's match between Souths and Manly, Karl Lawton put a tackle on Bunnies captain Cam Murray that went horribly wrong. Lawton managed to pick up Murray and get him past the horizontal, with Murray landing on his head. The action rightly resulted in Lawton getting sent off, and thankfully for everyone involved Murray was unharmed.

I didn't think anyone would disagree with the punishment. How wrong I was. And not just anyone - members from the Channel 9 commentary team.

Right after the tackle, Phil Gould let us know what he thought.

"Really good charge, good hit... no one's hurt, everyone's ok. Just settle down," he said in the Channel Nine commentary box.

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Just settle down? Lawton had just made a spear tackle - an illegal tackle that the game is doing its best to scrub out - and we should all just settle down?

Then, once Lawton had been sent off, Gould expressed his disgust in what he thinks the game is turning into.

"To be sent off for that, when there is absolutely no injury to the other player, that's extraordinary," he added.

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"If that's your product I give up".

Yes Gus. That is our product. It's the product that we want parents around the country to happily sign their children up for. It's the product that we want all current players to continue playing for as long as they can. It's the product that we want everyone to come and play and then not go home in an ambulance.

Sideline commentator Brad Fittler agreed with his colleague.

"I'm with Gus here, I don't think it deserved a send-off. Although that could have been an awful lot worse," Fittler said.

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Although that could have been an awful lot worse.

So, just to clarify Freddy, you acknowledge that the exact motion that Lawton carried out really could have hurt Murray. But what you mean is, as long as Murray didn't end up like Alex McKinnon, the Newcastle Knights player who was spear tackled during a match in 2014 and is now a quadriplegic, it's play on? That if players continue to get up and shake off an action that could have ended their careers, you are quite happy for it to remain in the game?

Cameron Smith said after the post-match review that he would have been happy with Lawton receiving a sin binning rather than a send-off. He also added "he's put in dangerous position, no doubt about that, and people talk about that there is risk and potential for injury. But if you look at the majority of tackles that are made in our sport there is potential for injury all the time."

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What is going on?! So, Smith doesn't deny that Murray was put in a dangerous position, but because a few weeks ago Melbourne Storm player Christian Welsh ruptured his Achilles through no fault of his or any other player, it should be grouped in the same category as the possibility of having your neck broken from being on the wrong end of an illegal tackle. Just part and parcel of the game?

And of course, there is risk for potential injury. Rugby League is a physical contact sport. But when all necessary precautions are taken and a player suffers an injury from bad luck, that's exactly what it is. A ruptured ACL because a player changed direction, a concussion because a tackler went too low and collected an opponent's hip, an injured shoulder from performing a textbook LEGAL tackle - all bad luck.

But an injury due to another player committing an illegal offence? That's not something we should shrug our shoulders at and say, "sorry mate, you knew the risks!"

And the fact that such influential people who are not only involved with the game but are given a platform to express their thoughts honestly don't see the difference is terrifying. Us fans at home listen to what they say. Kids getting ready to run out on a Saturday morning and play like their heroes listen to what they say.

Our game is tough. Our game is hard. Enforcing rules to ensure player safety does not make the game soft. Getting rid of actions such as the shoulder charge, contact with the head, and spear tackles shows we are evolving, and understanding not only what the game needs to do to survive, but grow.

Prevention is always better than cure. Stamping out an act that could potentially hurt others is much better than apologising for ending a career. And it doesn't matter that it was accidental, or it was so out of character for the defender, or 'look the player is up and walking around, he's fine'... that's not the point.

Can someone please let the commentators know that?

Featured Image Credit: Ch9/NRL.com

Topics: Analysis, Rugby League, nrl, Australia

Danielle Smith
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