North Queensland’s Makenzie Weale failed in an NRLW judiciary appeal to challenge the grading of a hip-drop tackle that Jamie Soward says is the worst he’s ever seen, with the Dragons coach calling on the game to better educate players to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Weale was sent to the sin bin for a shocking tackle on young Dragons forward Alexis Tauaneai, who is set to miss the rest of the season with a suspected MCL injury.
Soward thought it should have been a straight send off and a four-match ban, but the Cowboys took the case to the judiciary in a bid to have the grade three dangerous contact charge reduced from two matches.
But their appeal failed, with Weale now scrubbed out for three games that will see her miss the rest of NQ’s season.
“That’s probably the worst hip drop I’ve seen in men’s or women’s (rugby league),” Soward said after his side’s thumping 48-16 win.
“I’m not being disrespectful and it’s not a personal attack, but I was really disappointed with that as coach.”
Hip-drop tackles have been a scourge on the women’s game this season, with Sarah Togatuki and Annessa Biddle both suspended for the illegal act a week before Weale’s tackle.
Tauaneai has been one of the breakout players in Soward’s young squad, with the teenage forward in tears following the nasty contact that has ended her season.
“We got an email warning everyone about hip-drop tackles. We spoke to our players and made sure they were across it, but then in that game, she gets attacked from the legs,” Soward said.
“She’s 18 and she said to me ‘I was really scared because I could feel it happening’. She’s been the best forward in the comp, so that’s shocking to hear.
“She wanted to play the second half, but I’m very cautious with those young girls. I’ve got a responsibility to look after them.
“We’re suspecting an MCL injury at worst.
“We’ve potentially only got two games left and she’s looking at an eight-week injury. She won’t play again for another seven months under the current rules with no competitions.”
It’s why Soward thinks the punishment should have been more severe and in the range of Kennedy Cherrington’s four-match ban for a spear tackle that is the longest in NRLW history.
“She got 10 in the bin, but we lost a player for the rest of the game,” he said.
“She’s been suspended for two weeks, but we’ve lost a player for eight weeks. If it’s a men’s game and someone gets a grade three, then they’d probably get longer.”
Soward stressed that this was nothing personal against Weale and said the game had to do more to educate its players on the dangers of the tackle and how to avoid putting ball carriers in vulnerable positions.
“The girls don’t have enough time to practise everything when it comes to education in the off-season,” he said.
“We need examples of hip drops from the women’s game. We don’t need videos of men’s tackles.
“We got a video of tackles by Tyrell Fuimaono and Tariq Sims, but the girls need to see other girls doing it.
“We need to have an assigned referee spend one session a week telling us what they’re looking for because I’ve been playing rugby league since I was four and have 35 years of knowledge, but some of these girls are amazing athletes who have never played the game before.
“Some of them are learning how to tackle, so when they get fatigued they default to what they’ve heard from their coaches who tell them to get them to the ground. That’s when stuff like this happens.”