NRL to consider shoulder charge rule

Dragon Matthew Dufty has no case to answer following his shoulder charge in the Penrith match.
Dragon Matthew Dufty has no case to answer following his shoulder charge in the Penrith match.

The NRL will consider scrapping the shoulder charge precedent that cleared Billy Slater to play in the 2018 grand final after St George Illawarra's Matt Dufty was exonerated over a similar incident on the weekend.

NRL head of football Graham Annesley backed the match review committee's call not to cite Dufty despite howls of protest from some commentators and fans following his controversial shoulder charge in the NRL clash with Penrith on Friday.

Dufty prevented what appeared to be a certain Brent Naden four-pointer during the Panthers' 40-18 thumping of the Dragons when he barrelled him into touch with a side-on shoulder bump.

The Dragons fullback was penalised however the referees declined to award a penalty try and nor was he charged by the match review committee.

But Annesley said the MRC was right in its interpretation, saying it was similar to the infamous Slater shoulder charge on Cronulla's Sosaia Feki for which the Melbourne star was charged and found not guilty in the lead up to last year's grand final.

Annesley said the Dufty hit was a "glancing blow" rather than a traditional front-on shoulder charge.

He did however express concern about similar examples and said the rules could be reassessed at the end of the year.

"I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that that type of tackle will necessarily be banned," Annesley said.

"It is a last-ditch attempt to stop a player from scoring a try.

"But I do think when we do start to see a certain pattern emerge that we just do need to review it and have a look at it and whether we're comfortable. And I think we'll do that again this year."

Annesley also pointed out that the match review committee had the option to charge a player with dangerous contact if it doesn't meet the criteria of a shoulder charge.

He also insisted his whistleblowers got it right when Sydney Roosters back-rower Nat Butcher was awarded a controversial try in his side's big win over Newcastle despite the appearance of a knock-on.

After Butcher fielded a short kick-off, the ball bounced off Butcher's hands and towards the Knights in-goal before he scooped it up and scored a run away try.

But Annesley said the ball bounced off Butcher's hands backwards onto his thigh and then forwards.

"If you watch the left arm, it initially hits it back, and then the ball goes from that hands into the right thigh," Annesley said.

"Then bounces off the right thigh back to the opponent's goalline. The ball bouncing off the thigh is not a knock on.

"When I was watching the game live I thought it was a knock-on.

"But when you look at it more closely it was knocked back from the hand. In our view it was a legitimate try."

Australian Associated Press