Broncos 'needed to do more' after fatal shoulder charge

A coroner has found the Brisbane Broncos should have done more to teach Francis Molo how to avoid shoulder charging opponents after causing the death of James Ackerman in a 2015 Queensland Cup match.

 

Ackerman was shoulder charged in the opening four minutes by Molo at Bishop Park, and died two days later in hospital, but the Broncos contracted player went on to twice repeat the illegal tackle on his return from suspension.

Coroner John Lock said Molo made no attempt to apply a "legitimate" tackle on the 25-year-old prop and the force of the shoulder charge, which did not hit the head or neck, was such that it caused death.

He found the force of the contact was to the chest and upper body of Ackerman but the impact caused forceful movement to the head of the Sunshine Coast prop and ruptured an artery in his neck.

Ackerman playing for Redcliffe in 2012. Image: Getty

Molo, who was playing for Broncos feeder club Norths Devils, received a nine-week suspension for the grade five - the highest charge - illegal tackle.

On returning to the playing field, he was twice suspended for shoulder charges in 2016, which had been banned by the Queensland Rugby League the season before.

Mr Lock said the Brisbane Broncos, in hindsight, were too concerned with Molo's welfare after Ackerman's death than addressing his tackling technique.

Molo was suspended twice more after the tragedy. Image: Getty

He said the leading NRL club had the resources to do so and should have invested more in improving Molo's technique given the subsequent incidents that could have also caused serious injuries.

"Given the tragic outcome, and then the following incidents involving shoulder charges, there should have been some thought, given the issue ... to discuss it more with Francis at an appropriate time," he told the Brisbane Coroners Court.

Mr Lock also said police investigations into the death should have been more transparent but backed the decision not to lay criminal charges.

He said after viewing the video, Molo was not going to "wrap" his arms around Ackerman, a father of two, in a legal tackle.

"He did not place himself in a position to wrap his arms," said Mr Lock.

Ackerman's wife Saraa and mother Sonya were in court to hear the coroner's findings.

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