Will controversial tackle be lifted from our game?

ALEX McKinnon may never play rugby league again. His mum and dad, and his girlfriend probably hope he doesn't.

And I hoped, after watching the two NRL games on Friday night, the ginger-haired Newcastle forward, injured in a tackle six nights ago, may leave an ever-lasting legacy.

In neither clash did I see a single incident where a player placed his hands between the legs of an opponent and tried to lift him, so I deduced that a strong message had been sent.

But sadly, that was not the case later in the weekend. At least two players are likely to be charged with lifting tackles, which makes me wonder if some ever learn.

Like the majority, my reaction to the tackle that has left McKinnon with serious spinal injuries is that it was an accident. Although Storm forward Jordan McLean was guilty of placing one hand between McKinnon's legs and lifting him, the combined force of the other two tacklers meant that McLean had lost his control. By tucking his head in to break the fall, McKinnon may also have contributed to the injury.

McLean will appear before the NRL judiciary this week charged with a dangerous throw, and hopefully the book is not thrown at him. He might not have suffered the physical injury McKinnon did, but emotionally he is doing it tough.

But big Norm Provan, one of the most recognisable legends of the game, and someone who doesn't mix fact with fiction, is not as forgiving. He says McLean should be banned for the remainder of the season, and so should any other player down the track who lifts in a tackle and places his opponent in a similarly dangerous position.

Norm's reasoning is simple - if the hands are not between the legs, lifting does not occur.

And he says in view of the McKinnon incident and those others this weekend - a strong message needs to be sent to all rugby league players, irrespective of age and the level at which they play.

Like many from his era, Provan is an advocate of the scything, around-the-legs tackle. He recalls the most hurtful legal tackle he received during a 289 top-level career was from a Manly halfback half his size. The little No.7 whipped his legs from underneath him and the Dragons great says he fell like a collapsing skyscraper.

His take on the lifting tackle is that apart from being dangerous, it is absolutely unnecessary. There are, he says, more effective and legitimate defensive methods. And, he adds, coaches are just as culpable as the guilty players.

The gravity of the injury suffered by McKinnon has provoked an assortment of publicity, and the provocative thoughts of the greatly-respected Provan are certain to create even more.


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