RFL to amend head contact framework after admitting ‘lack of clarity’ following Nu Brown red card

Aaron Bower
Fa'amanu Brown, Ben Currie

The head-on-head collision between Fa'amanu Brown & Ben Currie in a tackle towards the end of the first half which saw Brown dismissed

The Rugby Football League have acknowledged that the controversial incident surrounding Nu Brown’s red card last Friday has ’caused controversy and confusion’ – and have admitted the decision by the match review panel not to suspend Brown underlines a ‘lack of clarity’ in the procedures.

Brown was sent off after clashing heads with Warrington’s Ben Currie during Hull FC’s defeat at the Halliwell Jones Stadium. It was a decision that prompted outrage and furious debate about the legitimacy of the new framework surrounding head contact and the increase in punishments.

But the RFL have admitted in a statement that they will now amend their framework when it comes to head-on-head contact to insist that it only applies to initial contact. In their words, “once the mechanics of the tackle become more fluid, officials are able to use their knowledge and game-understanding to mitigate the sanction, to reflect the level of culpability of the tackler”. They have also admitted that the officials on Friday, led by Marcus Griffiths, were put in an ‘invidious position’.

“We are in the very early stages of the season at all levels having introduced significant changes as recommended by the sport’s Brain Health Sub-Committee, and in that regard we thank the players and coaches for their response,” the RFL’s Robert Hicks said.

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“Comparing round two of the Super League to the opening round, there has been a significant reduction in the number of charges, reflecting a significant change in player behaviour – with a tiny proportion of over 3,000 tackle events leading to charges for head contact. It has been a similar story through the early rounds of the Challenge Cup and the 1895 Cup.

“However we have acknowledged throughout this process that it would be challenging for all, and that as a governing body we need to be flexible, and sympathetic to those at the sharp end.

“The dismissal of Nu Brown at Warrington on Friday night was an uncomfortable moment for the sport, and it has highlighted a lack of clarity in the wording of the framework as followed by match officials on the night. We recognise this will be of little consolation to the player or his club – and we thank them for their measured response.

“Head to head contact was an area highlighted as especially important by the Brain Health Sub-Committee, given the impact on two players, so it will remain a focus of the framework, and will continue to be sanctioned – specific to initial contact.”

The RFL will meet with all Super League head coaches at a meeting on Wednesday, followed by a meeting of players from each of the 12 clubs late in the day, to explain the system and indeed address the controversy which has erupted thus far in 2024.

Hicks continued: “The meetings with head coaches and senior players this week are another opportunity to update and consult, given the importance of communication through this process.

“Next weekend is a significant one for the Community Game, marking the start of the National Conference League and a number of other competitions, meaning further adaptation for another group of players, coaches and match officials.

“As at the professional level, these changes have been introduced following recommendations from the Brain Health Sub-Committee given developments in medical and scientific knowledge, and with a focus on player welfare – and again as in the professional game, we are grateful to clubs, coaches, players and match officials for their support.”

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