Debate raged for three days over the merit of rugby league's "cranium crackdown'' then suddenly the world fell silent and it all seemed to make sense.

The distressing sight of the Melbourne Storm's fabulous flying machine Ryan Papenhuyzen lying prone for several minutes after a sickening high shot from Tyrell Fuimaono became Exhibit A for league chiefs in their bid to protect the head in tackles.

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You could almost hear league bosses saying "this is why you crack down on the smaller ones - because they lead to major moments like this.''

Call it a cliche but it is incidents like that that stop parents from encouraging their children to play the game.

Criticism of league's head shot crackdown is, however, not without merit.

It's certainly true the new crackdowns were introduced with indecent haste.

Can you imagine tennis or cricket tweaking their rules like that on a reactive whim?

As the sin bin count reached double figures the world seemed to be turning mad.

But that does not mean rugby league got it wrong.

There were subtle signs at Suncorp the reality of league's safety conscious new world was sinking in.

Fuimaono was sent off after Dragons captain Ben Hunt accompanied him for a brief chat with referee Peter Gough.

When the verdict was given Hunt didn't say a word or even raise an eyebrow. He simply spun on his heel as jogged back to his teammates.

You could tell he expected the send-off even though they are traditionally so rare.

Rugby league had changed. And the Dragons had failed to change with it.


League fans may have had trouble accepting Suncorp had become "sin bin central'' but rival codes had a message … get used to it.

A rugby union writing mate said how there were occasions in recent season when a game of union would resemble a "13 plays 13'' game of league because two players from each side were either red or yellow carded after head related offences.


A couple of seasons ago Reds coach Brad Thorn shook his own head at the softness of some rugby sin bins but he swiftly adapted to the new world as league clubs must now do as well.

I also received an email from an AFL football writer who said bluntly: "The AFL went through this years ago. The head is sacrosanct. The massive law suits in the NFL for concussion help explain why.''


Ten years after his controversial departure from the Broncos it makes so much sense for the club to try and bring Dane Gagai back to Queensland.

The Broncos have been downplaying their efforts to recruit Gagai but if you want the man to chase down field after Adam Reynolds clearing kicks, his Rabbitohs teammate Gagai is the perfect choice.

At age 30 he would not come at a hefty price either.


Kevin Walters was shattered after the Broncos 50-6 loss to Manly but he deserves credit for not snatching at easy excuses.

All of Suncorp Stadium was talking about the mass reports in the Broncos-Manly game.

Many coaches would have blown up at the crackdown and used it as a decoy for a poor effort.


Broncos press conference: NRL: Kevin Walters faces the media after his side's disappointing loss to Manly.


But Walters is big on accountability and kept the focus squarely on his players with lines like his team "started soft and got softer,'' pointing out his team had been warned about the crackdown and the referee wasn't to blame for ticking over the scoreboard.


The form of the Broncos is the rather large elephant sitting squarely in the corner of the room in discussions over whether Queensland needs another NRL team.

There's been endless chat over economics and junior nurseries but if the Broncos cannot get moving before the end of next year there is a strong chance that the new side's recruiting could set them back years.


Originally published as Horror KO that should end cranium crackdown debate