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St Helens' Tony Puletua: Shoulder charges are part of our sport
TONY Puletua has insisted outlawing the shoulder charge would diminish the physical intensity of rugby league after he was banned following his sending off against Catalan.
The Samoan forward was shown the red card in Perpignan for a challenge that floored the Dragons’ Gregory Mounis.
Puletua was subsequently charged by the RFL’s disciplinary committee with reckless striking with the shoulder and will serve a one-match ban after entering an early guilty plea.
Saints bosses believe the tackle was legal. However, the club did not risk challenging the ruling because they feared Puletua’s suspension could have been extended to two matches, ruling the powerhouse out of pivotal fixture with Warrington a week on Monday.
Speaking on Wednesday, Puletua admitted to being disappointed by the suspension, which rules him out of this Sunday’s fixture against Huddersfield.
He said: “At the time it (the shoulder charge) happened I didn’t think anything of it until the ref asked the video ref to have a look at it.
“Then when he said I’d come into contact with his head I was a bit confused (because)I didn’t think I had done.
“I’ve seen the footage now and it looked as though I got quite low in the tackle anyway, so that is why I didn’t think I’d come into contact with his head.
“In the 16 or 17 years I’ve been playing I’ve never gone out there with the intention to hurt someone illegally and I feel the same now.
“I’m all for player welfare and safety and I know their players have family – just like us.”
The shoulder charge has become of big talking point in rugby league of late, with Puletua’s dismissal and a challenge by South Sydney’s Greg Inglis on St George Illawarra’s Dean Young, in Australia’s NRL at the weekend, bringing the issue into even sharper focus.
Mike Rush, the Saints coach, was at pains to stress the two tackles were very different technically, with Puletua having got low and planted his feet before tackling Mounis, whereas Inglis (who has been banned for three matches) was travelling forwards and left the floor for his hit on Young.
Nevertheless, the media debate has centred on whether rugby league chiefs should look to enforce a blanket ban on that form of tackle.
Opinion is split between those believe the big hit helps make rugby league the toughest and most gladiatorial collision sport there is and others, who argue the potential for the point of contact to rise above the shoulder heightens the risk of serious head injury.
For his part the softly spoken Puletua, who talked with composure on Wednesday,believes that outlawing that form of tackle would take away something from the sport.
He added: “The shoulder charge is part of our game. The reason why they are trying to take it out is because of the injuries it may cause.
“But if you are going to do that you might as well take out all the physicality of the game because any kind of contact will cause any injury.
“I think it’s part of our game and it should stay.
“(A tackle like that) is one of those spur of the moment things. We were under a lot of pressure. In my mind I was trying to force an error and it just happened that way.
“He (Mounis) had taken a few carries before that and dummied and gone himself. I felt he was going to do it again so I went in for a big contact and it just happened that way.
“This game is the most physical in the world that is one of the reasons for it. If we take that out of the game it will probably be similar to one of the other games, which I won’t name.”
Rush, meanwhile, said: "We had a lot of conversation in house and with various people within the game about TP’s tackle and we probably made the decision to put in an early guilty plea ‘under duress', if that is the right technical term.
"We didn't want to make the plea but it was probably the best option to make sure Tony was available for the next game, rather than going contesting it and coming away with a two game ban and feeling like we'd made the wrong decision.
"Tony Puletua is my player and I am going to protect him. At this moment in time it is not illegal to make a shoulder charge and I believe he makes good contact with his shoulder.
“I believe there is a little of Mounis falling or starting to fall as Tony gets near. But at the end of the day, they deem from the first contact or follow through, that contact is made with the head and therefore it is a sending off.
"I'm not pro or anti shoulder charging. But I think we probably need to discuss it in the off season and some clearly defined laws need to be put in place so everyone can understand what you can and can’t do.”