You have skipped the navigation, tab for page content
NRL boss makes no apology for focus on high tackles

NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said he makes no apologies for the crackdown on high contact that he believes will ensure the game's long-term relevancy.

There has been a drastic spike in sin-bins for dangerous contact in Magic Round while the match review committee has come down hard by charging 14 players across Friday and Saturday.

With three matches still to be played on Sunday, the number of charges has already equalled the total from round nine which had the most charges that head of football Graham Annesley could remember.

Abdo told The Sunday Footy Show that a focus had been placed on protecting players and eliminating high shots from the start of the season and that clubs had been continually warned.

"In sport, you can either administer or you can lead. The [ARL] Commission are clearly taking a leadership position here and our job is to make sure we implement on that," Abdo said.

"This is a moment in time. Any time that you introduce change, there are always people that are resistant to it. It's human nature.

"But we're doing this for the right reason. We're doing this so the game will be relevant into the long term. We're doing this to protect the safety of our players, who are unbelievable athletes playing an incredibly physical game.

Papalii sent off for high contact on Tuipulotu Katoa

"Anyone who thinks the game is losing the core of its fabric hasn't been to a game live, hasn't experienced Magic Round. This is an intense, physical game, and we are talking about taking the responsible leadership position of eliminating the damage that can be done from dangerous head-high shots.

"I make no apologies for that and I absolutely believe that the decision the Commission have made and the way we are implementing this is right.

"But I'll also say, what do we know about our coaches and our teams? They're professional, they evolve, there's a learning curve, and they'll adapt. The teams that adapt quicker than others will have a competitive advantage."

However, Abdo conceded a balance needed to be found so momentum isn't quelled by the Bunker stepping in to award penalties retroactively for foul play committed a few tackles earlier.

"Perhaps if you reflect back over the last 24-48 hours, maybe there are a few calls that were more minor in nature as opposed to significant in nature," he said.

"I think we'll get that right over time … I acknowledge that that's something we have to keep looking it and keep refining."

Frustrated Walters refuses to blame crackdown for loss

Abdo also announced on Sunday that Magic Round would be returning to Brisbane in 2022 after bumper ticket sales for all three days of this year's edition at Suncorp Stadium.

The crackdown has garnered support from some of the game's most astute minds.

Roosters coach Trent Robinson, speaking after his team's win over the Cowboys on Saturday night, said the message was starting to be received by players.

"We need to tackle lower," Robinson said.

"We can't just loosely have head highs and say, 'I got it wrong, I didn't mean it'. Well, of course they don't mean it.

"But we need to get better at not hitting other players in the head. It's going to happen, so it's been a bit over the top this weekend, but it's also made a point to say to Sitili [Tupouniua, who was sin-binned] 'don't hit him in the head'.

"Everyone else got it. There were only two head-highs in the game and they both got sent to the bin. Whereas in a normal game, how many would we have – five, maybe?

"So, it worked on our two teams tonight in the game that we were involved in and it protected the players."

Bennett backs rule changes, wants Bunker involvement tweaked

Veteran Rabbitohs mentor Wayne Bennett has long been advocating for a harsher stance on high contact in line with the AFL and rugby union's policies.

"When are we going to get the message in our game – when we get liable cases against us in 10 years, case after case because the game did nothing about reducing the number of head knocks?" Bennett said on Friday night.

"Is that what we're going to do? We're going to drive more parents away and not letting their kids play because in our game it's OK to knock somebody out with a head high? Or attack their head? It's a poor excuse. We've got to come to the reality of the situation.

"The game's got to be strong enough to stay at it and you'll see a change of behaviour. Why is it acceptable in our code to hit blokes in the head when I've just talked about two other codes that won't accept it? Are we right and they're all wrong? I don't think so.

"I've been on this for a long time on the head stuff. I'm totally supportive of that, but I'm not supportive of the game going on for a minute after it then we come back and we all stop the whole game and go through the video then we put somebody on report then we give a penalty."

Canterbury coach Trent Barrett said it was unrealistic to expect defenders to never make contact with the head of a ball carrier.

"It's a contact sport and it's pretty hard not to touch anyone's head or neck when you're tackling someone with or without the ball. It's going to happen; it's impossible not to," Barrett said.

"There's no thuggery in the game any more. There's no swinging arms or elbows. It's not like it was in the '80s."

Stuart wants consistency with new rules moving forward

Meanwhile, Sea Eagles captain Daly Cherry-Evans said after beating the Broncos on Friday that players needed to quickly adapt to the times.

"Obviously it seems like they're going to identify things and go down hard on it. If they stay consistent with it that's OK," Cherry-Evans said.

"But if they don't then it's only going to create more trouble for the refs which we don't want. They're serious about it so we need to take it seriously.

"We have to be so aware of what's happening. They're cracking down and want that stuff cleaned up so we will make sure we err on the side of caution. We don't want to be down men in an important game."