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10 Shocking Moments In NRL History

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10 Shocking Moments In NRL History
Written By Danielle Smith


For all the happiness and excitement rugby league brings, it also has its fair share of controversy and low points. We have gone though and picked 10 of the most shocking moments in NRL history.

2004 - Melbourne Storm vs Wests Tigers - Danny Williams King Hit

One of the most disgusting incidents witnessed on a footy field.

During the second half of this match, Storm player Danny Williams was hit with a high tackle from Tigers Mark O'Neill. The tackle went unpunished, so Williams thought he would take matters into his own hands.

He gets to his feet, runs over to O'Neill and punches him right in the jaw, knocking him out.

The players erupt and the referee has no choice but to send Williams off. He is suspended for 18 weeks, the longest ever suspension in NRL history, and never returns to the game.

1999- Bunny Boil Over

The South Sydney Rabbitohs, one of the league's most famous clubs, found themselves out in the cold. In 1999 the decision was made to reduce the number of teams to 14, and the Bunnies didn't make the cut. They were suffering financially, and they didn't meet the criteria set by the NRL, so they were kicked out of the competition.

In the following years, fans of the heritage club held rallies and protests, trying to get their team back in. Celebrities like Andrew Denton and Ray Martin, supporters of the Rabbitohs, came out in force to help their club win their toughest fight yet. South's Chairman at the time George Piggins put his heart and soul into getting his team back in.

After many legal battles, the Bunnies won the war, and were reinstated back into the NRL in 2002.

2002 - State of Origin Game 3 - Gorden Tallis rag-dolls Brett Hodgson over the sideline.

Still one of the most vivid origin images of all time.

Tamana Tahu on the kick return from the Blues try line, passes the ball to Hodgson. He thinks he has stepped around Tallis, but Tallis grabs him by the collar, is 'lassoed' as Ray Warren so famously called it and is dragged 15m to be thrown over the sideline.

The Blues thought it should have been a penalty, but the referee ruled that there was constant momentum.

While many Queenslanders thought it was fantastic, NSW fans were less than impressed.

'The Raging Bull' in a moment that will forever hold its place in the Origin highlights reel.

Gorden Tallis rag-dolls Brett Hodgson. Credit: NRL
Gorden Tallis rag-dolls Brett Hodgson. Credit: NRL

2021 - South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Sydney Rooster - Latrell Mitchell Brain Snap

It's always a heated encounter when these two arch-rivals meet, but this incident took it up a level.

In the 58th minute, Roosters Joey Manu makes a run with the ball, and as he goes to pass, he is hit in the head by a swinging arm in a terrible tackle attempt from Mitchell.

Play goes on for a moment, until the referee calls times off after being notified of what had happened.

Manu, who is being assisted by his trainers, comes straight over to Mitchell to have a go at him. Tempers flare and the referee tries to calm down the situation.

In a matter of moments, the right side of Manu's face has swelled up, with the trainer yelling out 'his cheekbone is broken!'.

Manu leaves the field, eventually being diagnosed with a broken cheekbone and fractured eye socket and is ruled out for the rest of the season. Mitchell is sent to the sin bin and received a six-week suspension.

1995 - State of Origin 2 - The Organised Brawl

With the Maroons winning game one, the Blues were out for revenge. Queensland coach Paul Vautin received a hot tip that NSW were going to be throwing punches as soon as they heard a player yell "Queenslander!" Before the match he asked his troops who wanted to yell it out first, and he recalls that 25 sets of hands went up.

The players had decided to start the fight during the first scrum. Queensland's Wayne Bartrim yelled out 'Queenslander!' while the scrum was being formed - and it was on.

The brawl sprawled out across the field, with punches bring thrown and jerseys being ripped - it looked like a war zone.

"It was just madness, wherever I looked, there was something going on. You'd go toe-to-toe with one bloke and the swap with the next. It was pretty epic," Blues hard man Paul Harragon recalled.

Credit: NRL
Credit: NRL

Even though not a lot of the punches actually connected, it looked spectacular. And the MCG crowd, who hadn't had a lot of experience with Origin before, let out a cheer of appreciation once everything had simmered down.

Queensland went on to win the match and the series, but that all in brawl is the one thing everyone remembers from that Origin.

2009 - Newcastle Knights vs Cronulla Sharks - Cameron Ciraldo's sickening injury

While trying to make a two-man tackle during the game, Ciraldo's leg gets caught under his teammates. Play is halted as he screams in agony on the ground, with his foot facing the wrong way.

The injury was described as 'one of the most sickening injuries on a football field', with Ciraldo's ankle rotating around 90 degrees.

He was taken from the field, and it was later revealed he had broken his fibula in four places and dislocated his ankle.

2011 - Melbourne Storm vs Manly Sea Eagles - Battle of Brookvale

With the teams having played each other in the 2007 and 2008 grand finals, with one win a piece, this was forming into one of league's great rivalries. One which was about to explode.

In the 25th minute, a stray elbow from the Storm's Ryan Hinchcliffe on Manly's Darcy Lussick in a tackle set the wheels in motion. Lussick retaliated by slapping Hinchcliffe in the back of the head.

That's when players came from everywhere and started swinging with two of the biggest instigators, Adam Blair and Glenn Stewart, sent to the sin-bin.

Stewart was marched first, and there was enough time for the pair to walk to the sheds separately. But Stewart walked slow, and they met again near the sideline.

Blair allegedly taunted 'Let's get it on' - and they did.

Players came sprinting from the other end of the field. Some came running from the benches. The Manly calvary arrived first, with Stewart's brother Brett leading the charge. The Storm back-up was not far behind them, and the all-in brawl erupted.

Officials and journalists on the sideline tried to escape the fight. It was absolute chaos.

The sin bins for Blair and Stewart were upgraded to send offs, and they were both gone for the rest of the match.

In the end 10 players were charged, with Blair earning a three-week suspension and Stewart a five-week suspension.

And the Manly vs Melbourne rivalry was forever cemented in the history books.

2001 - Wests Tigers vs North Queensland Cowboys - Hopoate the Proctologist

Still one of the weirdest things to ever happen on a football field.

For some reason, that still makes absolutely no sense to anyone, John Hopoate thought it would be funny to... umm... insert his fingers into opposition players bottom during tackles.

He did this not once, not twice, but three ridiculous times during the game.

He was suspended for 12 matches and ended up parting ways with the Tigers.

John Hopoate. Credit: Fox Sports.
John Hopoate. Credit: Fox Sports.

Hopoate was suspended for a total of 45 weeks during his NRL career. Then in In 2018, while playing in the local A Grade competition for the Narraweena Hawks, he was banned from playing rugby league for 10 years, after punching Forrestville players during the game.

So, you know, he's a role model.

2014 - Newcastle Knights vs Melbourne Storm - The Spear Tackle

In the blink of a moment, your whole world can come crashing down.

This is what exactly happened to Knights player Alex McKinnon.

McKinnon was running the ball up and met by three Storm defenders. He was picked up and spear tackled into the ground, landing awkwardly on his head.

Lying on the floor unable to move, McKinnon knew something was very wrong.

He was stretchered off the field and was taken straight to hospital for testing.

The results were devastating. He had suffered damage to his C4 and C5 vertebrae and was left a quadriplegic.

The Storm's Jordan McLean was suspended for seven weeks.

While it has been a long and hard road, McKinnon reached the point of forgiveness. He accepted a role as a recruitment officer at the Newcastle Knights, married the love of his life and has welcomed three beautiful daughters into the world.

2003 - Australian Kangaroos vs Great Britain Lions - Fastest Send-Off Ever

It's always a tough encounter when these two nations clash, and this hit hard right from the get-go.

Australia's Craig Gower catches the ball from the kickoff and passes it to teammate Robbie Kearns. He takes the hit up and is met by Lions hard man Craig Morley - and his swinging right arm.

Kearns is hit flush across the jaw and drops to the ground. The referee has no option but to send Morley off for the rest of the game.

He was sent off after only 12 seconds of the game. He spent more time tying his shoelaces in the dressing sheds than actually playing.

Featured Image Credit: NRL

Topics: nrl, Australia

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