Time to accept tackle deserved to be banned

IT'S a pity Sonny Bill Williams wasn't among the mourners who attended the recent funeral service for Sunshine Coast Falcons forward James Ackerman.

Being there that day was one of the saddest and most disturbing occasions of my long career covering rugby league. And those with whom I have spoken since, who also attended, felt just as emotionally drained, and downcast.

Of course, SBW wasn't among the mourners at Sunshine Coast Stadium just on a month ago to pay his respects to the 25-year-old Ackerman, his family and his mates. SBW now lives in New Zealand, did not know James Ackerman and no-one expected he would be there.

But had he attended, in no way would he have made the comments he expressed on Twitter last Friday night following the shoulder charge incident in the Roosters-Bulldogs match.

His 'bring back the shoulder charge' and 'that made my night' remarks may have echoed the sentiments of many, but that doesn't mean they weren't irresponsible and, worse still, insensitive.

Yes, the Kane Evans' shoulder charge which flattened big Sam Kasiano was spectacular. But then so is a road smash, and no-one wants to be involved in one of them.

Just this past week the shoulder charge came under the microscope once again when young Broncos forward Francis Molo was handed an eight-week suspension for the tackle which took the life of Ackerman.

For weeks the tackle had been the elephant in the room. Only those attending the game and - I assume - the QRL judiciary, had seen the tackle, yet rumours it was a shoulder charge were rife.

That Ackerman's dad, Michael, made contact with Molo in the days following the death of his son indicates the family did not believe the tackle was in anyway untoward.

Not only does that say much about the quality of the family, but it may also express the thought they believed the shoulder charge was part and parcel of rugby league.

But it is no longer part of the fabric of the game.

The tackle has been outlawed because it is dangerous.

And it's time Sonny Bill Williams and his ilk accept that and stop drooling over what is now an archaic form of tackle that so recently killed a young man.

The reaction of Phil Gould, a commentator and rugby league judge for whom I have enormous respect, is also very disappointing.

On Friday night he left no doubt in our minds that he vehemently disagrees with the shoulder charge being banned. But as an influential leader he needs to put his thoughts on the bench, and leave them there.

It's time we all moved on.

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