Huddersfield Giants star Tui Lolohea makes no secret of the fact he’s not a fan of the game’s new tackle laws, and hopes they don’t get as far as the professional game.
As confirmed at the beginning of last month, the legal tackle height is to be lowered to below the armpit as the Rugby Football League aim to make the sport safer for players and reduce the risk of concussion.
The change – one of 44 made following recommendations from the Brain Health and Clinical Advisory Group – will only come into force in the professional game come the 2025 season.
Throughout 2024, the legal tackle height will be lowered in the community game as well as in age-grade rugby league at professional level, meaning that academy and reserve-grade will be the first to show us how the sport may look in this new era.
‘Hopefully they trial it and it fails!’: Huddersfield Giants star Tui Lolohea reacts to RFL’s new tackle laws
Before the RFL ratified these changes on a permanent basis, trials took place in academy games towards the back end of the season just gone.
On the opening night of the trial in a game between the youngsters of Leeds Rhinos and Bradford Bulls, 57 penalties were awarded.
It’s that statistic that’s concerning for Lolohea, who told Love Rugby League: “I probably shouldn’t speak about it too much, but I just think that our sport is a physical sport, and it always will be.
“I’ve seen that the new (legal tackle) height got brought in last season at academy level, and I remember seeing the stat of how many penalties got given in that game.
“All I can say is that I hope it doesn’t ruin the game, like that suggests. Obviously you’ve got the next generation coming through and they’ll have to learn to play that way.
“Hopefully they trial it and it fails! I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Lolohea voices concern over impact of changing legal tackle height
Tonga international Lolohea is far from alone in his concerns over the changing of the tackle height law, with countless supporters and players already admitting they’re worried about where it may take the game.
The 28-year-old, like many, has played the game since he can remember, and says he’s just worried about the entertainment value decreasing because of the change.
Speaking at Huddersfield‘s media day last month, he continued: “It’s a weird one, a tricky one, and it will be a big talking point.
“It probably already is, but I think when it actually happens and people see it in action, we might lose fans of the game. We’re going to have to wait and see.
“We grew up with the rules that we’re playing now, and even younger than that when there were shoulder charges. It was a bit more brutal back then.
“We’ll just have to find out how it goes.”
RFL chief discusses impact of law changes so far, including tweak to original plan
The new legal tackle height is the headline act of 44 changes made to the game’s rules by the RFL this off-season following recommendations from the sport’s Brain Health and Clinical Advisory Group.
Lolohea is far from on his own in his hopes of a u-turn prior to the 2025 season when the new tackle height is set to enter the professional game.
A tweak has already been necessary to the RFL’s original plan at youth level, as their Director of Development Marc Lovering announced today.
He told their website: “A key principle when the original recommendation was considered was that young players should not be ‘taken back” from a familiarisation with tackling under the Safe Play Code to playing mandated touch or tag.
“Following substantial feedback on the impact the recommendation as originally approved would have on a significant number of players and squads it was considered appropriate to modify the timeline and introduce mandated touch or tag from the under-6 age group only in 2024.
“These changes are so significant for the sport of rugby league that we want to do all we can to make them understandable and acceptable to players, officials and, crucially, parents.
“The feedback from the community game on the need for change has been positive. However, given the potential numbers of young players who would be unable to play alongside the same team-mates and potentially threaten some teams’ ability to continue, the RFL agreed to review this particular recommendation.
“Subsequently, we therefore recommended a modification to allow this year’s under-7s cohort to continue playing limited contact Rugby League under the Safe Play Code, with mandated touch and tag introduced for under-6s only – who must play within their own age group not in the under-7s.”