NRL world calls for kick-offs to stay after brutal scenes between Manly and Penrith

The NRL is reportedly considering doing away with the long-standing tradition.

Those advocating for a change to NRL kick-offs to prevent violent collisions can thank one man for pushing back their cause. Manly prop Nathan Brown's relentless charges into the teeth of the Penrith defence was a massive talking point after the Sea Eagles ambushed the premiers at 4 Pines Park last Saturday night.

He threw self-preservation out the window to set the tone for his team, rattling the Panthers' defence in a series of "back fence" runs from kick-offs and hit ups early in the tackle count. One such assault from a kick off left Penrith forward Liam Henry stunned and staggering and eventually out of the game on the back of a failed HIA.

Liam Henry and Nathan Brown in the NRL.
One of Nathan Brown's charges knocked Liam Henry out of the NRL game between Manly and Penrith. Image: Getty/Fox League

It was tough, courageous, inspiring stuff from Brown. And his teammates – and the big home crowd – thrived on the energy he brought to the game.

"You talk about players who have the ability to change momentum and I mentioned Nathan Brown when he came onto the field," Fox League commentator Corey Parker said during the call. "Great leg speed, loves the contact (and) he went under (James) Fisher-Harris (in his first hit up). He's been terrific."

Brown's show of fearlessness came in a week when the future of rugby league kick-offs was debated. With an emphasis on player welfare and duty of care around head knocks, it was the argued the game may have to follow the NFL model and modify re-starts to minimise collisions caused by players running 30-40m flat out into a sea of defenders.

Nathan Brown, pictured here in action for Manly.
Nathan Brown was at his ferocious best for Manly against the Panthers.

NRL world debates future of kick-offs amid welfare concerns

Roosters coach Trent Robinson admitted he was wrestling with the issue. "There are certain points in games that set the tone for how a game is going to be played, and not many one-off plays can do that," he said.

"Kick-offs have in our past, so I’m reluctant to lose the brutality that can come from a kick-off and the statement that can be made. Because of the brutality is why we’re discussing it. There are injuries that come out of that, and that’s why the NFL changed it. I’m a bit on the fence on what we should do there. We don't want to take out of our game the statement plays."


Former Souths and Manly hardman Mark Carroll's ferocious confrontations with Newcastle enforcer Paul Harragon are part of rugby league folklore. Writing for The Nightly website, Spudd said: "It’s the moment that has every fan in the stadium roaring and commentators frothing.

"It’s a way of making a statement. A show of intent – and it’s the same when you’re the defending team. I’m all for player welfare - I've had my share of head knocks and know the damage they can cause - but in trying to make the game safe you can't change the fabric of the game. Rugby league is built on hard hits."