The send-off debacle shows NRL struggling for identity care

IN March last year Martin Taupau took down Jack Bird in a shot that was late and high and textbook assault.

The last Bird remembered was running towards the defence with strong ambition. He dropped the ball and turned to retrieve it and while he took more steps towards Taupua, who was cocked and loaded, Taupau swung and landed.

Taupau stayed on the field while Jack Bird’s head ached for three days. It did not matter, the judiciary would make right what the referee did not.

The following day Taupau was hit with a sentence so frighteningly light, just one week, it seemed like a conspiracy.

Three months later match review chairman Michael Buettner admitted to the coaches at their regular conference that the panel got their grading wrong.

More, the coaches were in such fine spirits they agreed that the Taupau tackle should be deemed send-off worthy and for once there seemed to be universal agreement among them.

The game needs clarity. It needs to determine what it is and what it looks like. What it stands for and what it accepts.

Instead the game has again been caught trying to be all things to all people.

Tough and combative but family friendly. Sia Soliola hits Billy Slater late and high on Saturday night and stays on the field while the Melbourne medical staff have a serious discussion about whether Slater needs to go to hospital.

Soliola’s tackle on Slater was one of the worst in some time.

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