RUGBY league let down Alex McKinnon and every other player it has a duty of care to this week by deeming Josh Reynolds' lifting tackle on a terrified Brent Tate in Origin I was not worth the Bulldogs and NSW five-eighth missing even one game of football.

Sixty-seven days after young Newcastle Knights forward McKinnon was lifted and driven into the ground in a tackle his spine could not cope with, crushing two vertebrae and leaving him paralysed, rugby league is under attack from all quarters over its soft approach after promising to crack down on any lifting tackle.

Three players, Reynolds being the latest, have since appeared before the NRL's judiciary on lifting charges. All three have walked out the door having their gradings and suspensions lowered.

Now that's the kind of hardline stand that is going to put fear into players, right?

I spoke to Tate an hour after Wednesday night's game and I can tell you having known him since he was a kid at Brisbane, he was still visibly distressed and still quite shaken by the ugly tackle.

I saw the fear still in his eyes and heard the emotion in his voice as he implored the game's powerbrokers to respect McKinnon by doing all they possibly could to ensure no other family had to sit by a player's bedside again.

The decision, 24 hours later, to downgrade Reynolds's dangerous throw charge, regardless of which NRL club he plays for or the colour of his Origin jumper, was not only bewildering but potentially damaging to the image of the game and its future potential to attract young players whose parents will once again be wondering if they should choose a different sport.

I can understand the arguments that tackles can easily go wrong these days because players are so much bigger and stronger.

But players still have ownership of how they tackle and the affect those tackles can have. It should become second nature that if they do begin to lift an opponent, they immediately release them - or they just stop doing it.

A hefty penalty and consistency by those charged with running the game - and ultimately with protecting those who risk injury playing it - was all Tate, who had battled neck injuries to keep playing, was asking for.

I would think he would be feeling badly let down.



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