Why Billy Slater decision is a joke
THE judiciary verdict is in and Billy Slater will play in the NRL Grand Final and complete a much-deserved fairytale to his incredible career. The man is a legend and has earned a fond farewell.
But the NRL has dropped the ball and sadly Slater's legacy will be tarred by the next injury caused by a shoulder charge - and the circus that will erupt every time this situation is revisited.
It's been a confused mess of opinions since Slater's hit on Sosaia Feki last Friday night, with some arguing he should be able to have his grand final farewell and others arguing the letter of the law.
The shoulder charge was banned in 2013 but the importance of the new law was underlined in the 2015 season when James Ackerman tragically lost his life after being hit during a game.
It was imperative the NRL and the rugby league community down, all the way down to grassroots level, banned the tackle.
But in recent seasons, four players out of six - now five out of seven - have beaten the shoulder charge at the judiciary since the rules were rewritten at the start of last year.
If the NRL wanted to get rid of the shoulder charge, there was no better time than to throw the book at Billy Slater. While it would have been sad for Billy, it would have been the right call for rugby league. By letting him play, the league has opened a can of worms with repercussions for years to come.
The shoulder charge is now legal, as long as it's from the side and as long as you front the judiciary arguing you meant to make a tackle.
Unless all players in the league aren't equal and Slater got special treatment - which would be another horrible precedent to set.
The anger is about consistency. It's about making the rules actually stick and ultimately, it's about the safety of players. And no player should be bigger than the game.
If what Slater did is acceptable, the NRL needs to change the rules to remove any opportunities for dispute. The shoulder charge rule is too important - and the fear is we will now see an increase of illegal tackles and an increase in risk for the stars of the game.
Players will also argue they're unsure about what they can and can't do. This will lead some to push the boundaries and furious outcry the next time someone is suspended.
So good on you Billy, you deserve a grand send off for a great career and clearly worked hard to beat the wrap.
But what happens next will reflect an unfortunate legacy for one of the game's greats.