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World adopts rugby league safety initiative born in New Zealand

World adopts rugby league safety initiative born in New Zealand
May 14, 2013

A player safety initiative, originally introduced in New Zealand as a result of a collaboration between the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) and the New Zealand NZ Rugby League (NZRL), has now been implemented on the world stage.

The Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) recently moved to ban the shoulder charge from all international competitions worldwide which ACC Programme Manager Sport, Joe Harawira, believes is a major step towards improving player safety internationally, and one that reinforces the huge amount of work done to improve player safety here in New Zealand.

Harawira explains "in the early 1990's, ACC began working with NZRL on ways to reduce injuries during rugby league matches, without compromising the physical nature of the game which makes it so appealing to spectators and players alike."

NZRL General Manager Community Development, Dain Guttenbeil, says outcomes of the collaboration with ACC included "introducing compulsory use of mouthguards; a minimum age for 'open-age/open-weight' participation, and banning the shoulder charge in all domestic competition."

He adds "it's satisfying to see that action taken in New Zealand to make rugby league safer has now been replicated on the world stage."

Harawira echoes this sentiment, saying it proves that "New Zealand can play a leading role in sports injury prevention."

Efforts to improve player safety in New Zealand continue to evolve, with NZRL recently launching 'the Fundamentals', which targets not only play on the field, but also health and safety in the wider league community, addressing issues including unsafe drinking and domestic violence.

A positive sign of the ongoing focus on health and safety and injury prevention is a recent drop in ACC claims for more serious injuries resulting from rugby league, with these claims falling by around 4% in 2011/12.

Harawira concludes "this was against a backdrop of increasing numbers of people playing league, so it's a sign that safety-wise things are heading in the right direction."

The Australian Rugby League Commission has also outlawed the shoulder charge from all competitions from 2013.

Definition: A shoulder charge is when a defender, without attempting to tackle, grab or hold the ball carrier (or any opposing player) using their arms or hands, makes direct physical contact using their shoulder or the upper arm (tucked into their side).


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