Does The No Punching Rule Cause More Trouble?

It may come as a surprising statement, but many fans, pundits and players truly believe that the "no punching rule" has created more problems for the game than it has fixed. This comes off the back of the Curtis Scott red card in the Melbourne vs Manly game, a coming together between Dylan Walker, a notorious wind-up merchant, and Scott resulted in the Melbourne man throwing a punch and seeing red.

The comments are founded on the basis of "no repercussions", to break this down, it simply means that players that use trash talking and wind-up tactics can do so without fear of being on the receiving end of a right hook, Dylan Walker has previously gotten under the skin of oppositions as a way to try and earn his side the upper hand by aggravating his opposition, causing them to do something to get themselves carded, concede a penalty or simply lose focus on the game.

When "The Biff" was still a thing in Rugby League, one of the games most notorious characters was still kicking about in the form of Willy Mason, Mason had a knack for driving opposition players wild, however, Mason was more than willing to back himself in a scrap, both players usually sent for 10 minutes then the game reverting back to it's usual state, so the above argument falls into an anomaly in his case and presents a good argument to disregard that point.

Super League has a similar problem in Jake Connor, a big character who infuriates opposition but has no foreseeable chance of copping some punishment due to the protection of the "no punching rule", Connor therefore allowed to continue his on-field antics with the only worry that he may be on the receiving end of a few rough tackles.

There's two very valid sides to this argument, the first is that "if you are man enough to dish it out, you should be man enough to take your punishment". Essentially stating if you going to wind someone up they should be well within their rights to plant one on you. The second is "It's gamesmanship (within reason) and a part of the game, keep your head and get him back in the game".

It's a challenge to settle in one of these camps because they both have reasonable logic behind them, players shouldn't be allowed to take liberties on the pitch without punishment but also there is no room in the modern game for punching, because once you open the flood gates by allowing the act, punches will be thrown using the excuse "he was winding me up" which creates a dangerous grey area.

My personal view on the matter is that, within reason, a level of gamesmanship is acceptable, nothing racial, nothing personal and nothing extreme. A big part of the game is discipline, if somebody is getting under your skin then get them back in the best possible way, with either a clean big hit or leaving the field with a win, knowing full well that will still be grating on them over the next week, while you've already forgotten every comment they've made.



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