Game can’t afford to shoulder ‘injury’ bans

PANTHERS back-rower Clint Newton has seen enormous change in the NRL since making his first-grade debut for Newcastle back in 2000.

With players now bigger, stronger and faster, the latest development has been to improve the competition's duty of care to players by banning the shoulder charge.

The 32-year-old said he felt sorry for North Queensland's Ray Thompson who broke his jaw last month after being hit by the shoulder of Newcastle's Kade Snowden - the Knights prop was subsequently banned for seven weeks.

But Newton, also the Rugby League Players' Association president, said he hoped the games rule makers did not become so reactionary to the banned tackle that suspensions were based on a player's injuries.

"I come from a different era, so it's sad to see the shoulder charge get banned. But I can understand why - it can cause real damage in today's game," Newton said.

"I felt for Ray Thompson, he was in tremendous form, but the match review committee needs to be careful with its gradings for these tackles - if it bases its gradings on how injured a player gets, it can really open a can of worms.

"I think we all just need to sit back and take a deep breath about the shoulder charge - I don't think it's as big an issue as some people are making it out to be."

Despite those concerns, Newton said he felt the ARL Commission was heading in the right direction in most areas, particularly player payments.

It emerged last week that Jim Doyle, recently appointed as NRL chief operating officer, was in the process of revolutionising the salary cap structure.

Proposals include scrapping the controversial second-tier cap, and implementing transfer windows, transfer fees and player loans.

"I'm dealing with Jim on a regular basis, and he and (NRL CEO) Dave Smith have been fantastic with their communication and dialogue," Newton said.

The former Storm premiership player will play his final game for Penrith against the Sea Eagles at Brookvale Oval on Sunday, but said he hoped to be able to make an announcement on his future this week.

"Some clubs have shown good interest in me and I'm really honoured about that - I still feel in good shape and I'll play a mentoring role next season," Newton said.

"I'll leave the Panthers in good shape. I feel like I did what I had to do in my time here. Ivan Cleary has done a tremendous job rebuilding the team after we lost three representative players last season."