Matty Johns lashes out over 'insidious' NRL act that can 'finish a career'

The Newcastle Knights great has backed the NRL's crackdown on hip-drop tackles.

Matty Johns, pictured here alongside Jacob Preston.
Matty Johns has backed the NRL's crackdown on hip-drop tackles. Image: Getty

Matty Johns has thrown his weight behind the NRL's crackdown on hip-drop tackles, saying the 'insidious' act has the potential to end careers. Bulldogs forward Jacob Preston became the latest player sin-binned for an alleged hip-drop tackle on Friday, which left Rabbitohs winger Izack Thompson injured.

Debate has erupted in the NRL world about what constitutes a hip-drop tackle, with former Bulldogs captain James Graham blasting the 'ridiculous' crackdown. And the NRL went some way to supporting Graham's anger when Preston wasn't charged.

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The NRL conceded Preston's tackle wasn't actually a hip-drop and the Canterbury rookie avoided being charged. On Saturday afternoon, the match review committee deemed Preston had no case to answer, with the contact judged not enough to even attract a fine.

"The MRC did not identify the important key indicators of a hip-drop in this incident," committee chairman Luke Patten said. "The defender will generally have a grip of the opposition player, using that grip to lift or maintain their body weight to then drop or swing their hips in an unnatural way. (Instead), the MRC believed that Preston was attempting a one-on-one steal and fell away from the ball, accidentally landing on the ankle/foot of player Thompson."

But according to Johns, the NRL is right to crack down on the tackling technique, which he believes has been coached into the game. “I’ll say it, I reckon there has, it has come from somewhere, I cannot come at the fact that all of this has just come out of nowhere,” Johns said on Sunday night. “There has been, there was a period in the game where players were doing it deliberately.”

Johns said he believed Preston “wasn’t in control” and there should be a duty of care from the tackling player to the opponent. “Jacob Preston’s there, he had his feet off the ground, he wasn’t in control but there’s others that I think they have got the ability to not be in that position and do it,” Johns said.

“I’ll say this... they’ve identified a tackle that basically is foul play and was being used, which began to bring an opponent to the ground but then we’ve seen players end up with injuries that could be career-threatening. I’ll give you an example, what we are going through with the game there is a lot of criticism... but what they are doing is they are in the midst of trying to get rid of a tackle that is insidious. It can finish a career.”

Dale Finucane, pictured here being sin-binned for a hip-drop tackle.
Dale Finucane copped a three-game suspension for a hip-drop tackle. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Phil Gould not happy about hip-drop crackdown

After Dale Finucane, Marata Niukore and Jayden Okunbor were all suspended for hip-drop tackles in round five, Bulldogs football manager Phil Gould lashed out. "That's the problem with our game - when we get one little incident about a thing, they group in a whole other group of tackles that don't resemble that whatsoever," Gould said.

"The three hip-drop charges on the weekend are farcical. They're not hip-drop tackles in the traditional sense. We as footballers can see that. But they'll group them in it and you won't beat them at the judiciary.

"No way they're going to let all three off, so all three will be found guilty ... You're wasting your time going down there and trying to plead your case. They're not hip-drop tackles. We can see it as footballers, coaches can see it. It's frustrating."

But South Sydney coach Jason Demetriou also backed the NRL's crackdown, while denying suggestions that players have been trained to tackle that way. “The game is doing a great job trying to do what they can,” Demetriou said. “It is up to the clubs to show some onus because it is going to affect your team somewhere.

“You are going to lose a high-quality player to a hip-drop, which is a tackle that can be avoided in my opinion. We don’t practice it. There is no way that would happen at training, I can’t stress that point enough, it does not happen at training. Coaches and teammates would not let that happen, so I don’t know why we are accepting that it is OK on the field.”

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