Felise Kaufusi faces $1500 fine for crusher tackle – the same penalty as Zac Lomax's try celebration

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Please explain, NRL: How can Felise Kaufusi face nothing but a $1,000 fine for a shocking crusher tackle – the same penalty Zac Lomax could cop for a try celebration that hurt nobody, asks SHAYNE BUGDEN

  • Kaufusi won’t be suspended after copping grade-one dangerous contact charge 
  • Lomax won’t be suspended after copping a contrary conduct charge 
  • The Dragons centre put nobody’s health at risk when he jumped on Tyson Frizell
  • Crusher tackles like Kaufusi’s can do horrific damage to a player’s health 

What’s the difference between jumping on an old teammate’s back in a sign of disrespect after your side has scored a try, and putting a player’s health and career at risk with a shocking crusher tackle?

According to the NRL judiciary, nothing.

Zac Lomax, who was slammed for climbing all over his former teammate Tyson Frizell while he celebrated a Dragons try on Sunday, has been hit with a contrary conduct charge that will see him fined $1,000 if he pleads guilty, or $1,500 if he fights it and loses.

Felise Kaufusi, who could have seriously hurt Cronulla winger Ronaldo Mulitalo when he folded him over and crashed down onto his neck on Saturday night, copped a grade-one dangerous contact charge that carries the same fines as Lomax is facing.

Kaufusi folded Ronaldo Mulitalo over and crashed down onto his neck. Extremely dangerous? Definitely. Worthy of nothing more than a fine? Also definitely, according to the NRL

Kaufusi folded Ronaldo Mulitalo over and crashed down onto his neck. Extremely dangerous? Definitely. Worthy of nothing more than a fine? Also definitely, according to the NRL

Zac Lomax jumps on Tyson Frizell's back as he acts the fool while celebrating a try. By the NRL's logic, this foolishness is every bit as bad as trying to turn the ball carrier's neck into a pretzel

Zac Lomax jumps on Tyson Frizell’s back as he acts the fool while celebrating a try. By the NRL’s logic, this foolishness is every bit as bad as trying to turn the ball carrier’s neck into a pretzel 

To make it worse, Kaufusi has a track record of smashing the opposition with forearms, including a shocker on Ryan Matterson last year that left the Eels forward concussed.

Not that any of that matters, as the governing body decided to wipe players’ records clean in a huge change that was announced just before the first game of the season.

All of which begs the question: Is the NRL really serious about protecting players and stamping out foul play?  

After all, this is the code that has spent decades telling anyone who’ll listen how worried it is about mums pulling their kids out of the sport because it’s too rough.

And it’s the same code that is taking its zero-tolerance approach to head-high tackles incredibly seriously, especially in light of possible concussion lawsuits from players down the track.

Crusher tackles like Kaufusi's (pictured) have the potential to cause catastrophic damage. Just ask Ben White, an Ipswich Jets prospect who had his spine broken in a crusher in 2014

Crusher tackles like Kaufusi’s (pictured) have the potential to cause catastrophic damage. Just ask Ben White, an Ipswich Jets prospect who had his spine broken in a crusher in 2014  

A furious Tyson Frizell slings Lomax to the ground after the Dragons star took a piggyback ride on him. Yes, it was disrespectful - but it didn't come close to Kaufusi's shocker

A furious Tyson Frizell slings Lomax to the ground after the Dragons star took a piggyback ride on him. Yes, it was disrespectful – but it didn’t come close to Kaufusi’s shocker

As well as punishing the player for foul play, the idea behind handing down suspensions is to send a message to footballers and fans that smashing someone in the head or using a wrestling technique to put incredible pressure on an opponent’s neck won’t be tolerated.

So what’s the message here? 

Climbing on an opposition player’s back while you act like a mug after a try is exactly as bad as putting on a tackle that could leave a player in a neck brace – or far worse. 

That’s the message.

And there’s at least one person who’d vehemently disagree with it.

His name’s Ben White, and in 2014 two of his vertebrae were fractured in a crusher tackle during a reserve grade game in Queensland’s Intrust Super Cup.

Ben heard three cracks in his spine and his legs went numb for 15 seconds. He recovered but doctors said if his spine had broken inwards rather than outwards, he could’ve been in a wheelchair for life.

His plight led to renewed pressure on the NRL to stamp out the crusher tackle before anybody else was put at risk of a catastrophic, life-changing injury. 

That’s going well, isn’t it?

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