Rugby League greats Andrew Johns and Brad Fittler have called for the controversial third man in tackle to be eliminated from the sport after labelling it an "awful" part of the game. The dangerous tackling trend has resulted in a number of serious injuries over recent seasons, with Penrith young gun Taylan May the latest to see his season wiped out because of it.
May suffering a season-ending ACL injury after being hurt in a three-man tackle during the first half of the Panthers' loss to St Helens in the World Club Challenge on Saturday night. The winger was being held upright by two St Helens players before Agnatius Paasi came in around the legs and twisted May's lower body.
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News emerged on Monday that the Penrith winger had suffered an ACL tear in his knee and will miss the entire 2023 season. Incredibly, Paasi was not penalised at the time and was given an all-clear over the incident after a review from the NRL and Rugby Football League match review committees.
Fans were left fuming that the tackle wasn't penalised, as the act of attacking a player's legs during a three-man tackle - commonly referred to as a 'cannonball' - has been outlawed from the game. Because Paasi had made the initial contact around May's hip before sliding down, and didn't drop onto his legs like a 'hip-drop', the tackle was actually legal.
Discussing the incident on WWOS’ Freddy and the Eighth, Johns and Fittler were left seething over the incident. Both NRL legends suggested that rugby league officials needed to do more to stamp it out of the sport.
“Once again, get that tackle out of the game,” Johns said. “You don’t need that third person coming into the tackle. If two players, and not even two players, two big boppers, have got a hold of the player, you should not have a third player coming in at the knees.”
Fittler added: “It’s got to go, seriously. That’s awful.”
Scans reveal worse than expected news for Taylan May, with a ruptured ACL ruling him out for the season. Contact mechanism obviously causing significant enough medial collapse of the knee. Will undergo reconstruction surgery & associated 9 month recovery time. pic.twitter.com/VkYM1aIYNy
— NRL PHYSIO (@nrlphysio) February 20, 2023
Taylan May ruled out of season in blow for Panthers
May was already set to miss the first two games of the 2023 season due to a suspension stemming from an off-field incident. However he will now be sidelined for the entire year in a huge blow to the back-to-back premiers.
The Panthers flyer was a revelation after being called into first grade early in 2022, scoring 16 tries and forming a lethal combination on the left edge with fellow youngster Izack Tago. Brian To'o now looks likely to shift to the left, allowing Fijian international Sunia Turuva to play on the right wing.
Johns has long called for the third man tackle to be eradicated from the game, with the league great left fuming over an incident last season that saw Jackson Hastings' season ended for the Tigers, after a similar tackle from Broncos star Patrick Carrigan. Carrigan was the third man into the tackle and dropped his weight onto Hastings' ankle as they fell to the ground.
Carrigan avoided being sin-binned at the time nut was later handed a four-game suspension. Johns argued then that that the third man in tackle had to be stamped out of the game, warning that serious injuries such as the one May has suffered, would inevitably follow if it was not.
“When there’s a two-man tackle and there’s no momentum, we have to eradicate the third person coming in,” he told Channel Nine at the time. “I can’t blame him for reacting like this. If there’s two men in the tackle and they can’t get the player down, then one has to change his technique and go down.
“That third man should not be allowed to come in. It’s dangerous. They’re worried about the third man destroying their knees and ankles.”
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