Highly-charged: Leeds Rhinos boss Richard Agar calls for consultation with coaches over illegal tackles
Leeds Rhinos might have to learn how to tackle without making contact, coach Richard Agar reckons.
Injury-hit Rhinos will also be without goal-kicking forward Rhyse Martin when Huddersfield Giants visit Emerald Headingley tonight.
He was the latest Rhinos player to pick up a suspension when the RFL’s match review panel accused him of grade B dangerous contact in last Friday’s win at Leigh Centurions.
It was the 12th charge against a Rhinos player this year, adding to the pressure on a squad already missing a host of senior players and Agar joked: “We are trying to work on some drills in training where we tackle people without touching them.
“It seems to be the new trend in the game at the moment that sometimes if you touch anybody and they haven’t got the ball, you get a suspension.”
Agar stressed he is not pointing a finger at the disciplinary process and wouldn’t want players to get away with foul play just because clubs are struggling with injuries.
But he called for coaches and others in the game to be consulted on what types of tackle should merit a ban.
The Leeds boss admitted: “Rhyse has got a little bit of previous for being fractionally late.
“I have said this numerous times, Paul Cullen [of the match review panel] is doing his job and if they are the laws, they’re the laws.
“I understand why these laws were brought in, to stop late hits on ball players in the back which were causing whiplash and so on, but we are seeing guys rubbed out for one and two games and it is very hard.
“If a ball-player, or anybody, is running at you at speed with the ball in his hands and he passes the ball less than a quarter of a second away from you, it is a difficult one.
“You do get your eyes fixed and committed to the tackle.”
Agar said the current crisis with injuries and Covid, alongside mounting fixture congestion, should not lead to more lenient punishment.
“You are on dangerous territory if you say we are going to allow foul play because of Covid and the impact on squads,” he warned.
“Are we going to sweep under the carpet a couple of indiscretions that would warrant, in a normal time, suspension?
“I don’t think you can do that, but the question we have asked on some of these is ‘what do you want us to do’?
“You can’t disappear, you are getting set for a tackle.
“The phrase ‘you have time to pull out’, as a coach sometimes I totally disagree with - you haven’t got time to pull out and collisions at times are inevitable.
“It is a really tough one.”
The Leeds boss added: “I think there is a lot of experience among the coaches and in Super League and it would be interesting to canvas those guys’ opinions on what is realistic in some of these tackles.
“It is disappointing. Luke Gale got a two-game ban the other week [reduced on appeal to one] for touching the referee.
“I am not being funny, but just watch the incident.
“Are we genuinely rubbing star players out of games for incidents like that?”
Tonight’s game is crucial for Rhinos in their battle to qualify for the play-offs.
Rhinos hold the sixth and final place, but have the same win percentage as seventh-placed Hull and are narrowly ahead of Castleford Tigers, who are eighth.
Leeds’ last three meetings with Huddersfield have all been decided by the odd point and Agar is expecting another battle.
“They complete very high and defensively they don’t miss many tackles,” he observed of Giants.
“They are very methodical in how they come out of their own half.
“Will Pryce - Leon Pryce’s son - has been exceptional for them and it’s refreshing to see.
“For the sport, I think he is one we should all start to get excited about.
“They have got some players who can cause your defensive line problems and they are a very well-organised team.”
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