The past week the name John Asiata has been uttered more times than ever before with the Leigh Leopards skipper being at the centre of a tackling technique controversy following his side’s Challenge Cup semi-final with St Helens.
Asiata was seen to dive in low to tackle some of Saints’ big men, as you would be taught to do, however the results of those tackles saw four players injured with both Alex Walmsley and Agnatius Paasi suffering season-ending injuries.
Paul Wellens confirmed that news in a press conference where he claimed the RFL had failed to protect players from the “out of control” Asiata, before even suggesting that Matt Peet might be fearful for his players’ safety in yesterday’s match.
“They say that within the RFL sentencing guidelines, there is nothing in which they could secure a charge. That’s their take on it. I would tend to disagree,” Wellens told SaintsTV.
“We talk about player welfare and the duty of care to its players, those players have been failed this weekend.
“It’s been an accident waiting to happen and this is why in my opinion the RFL are culpable, and the Match Review Panel are culpable.”
Referencing Leigh’s clash with Wigan, Wellens said: “I look at Leigh playing Wigan on the weekend, if I’m sat there as Matty Peet, I’m thinking, what the heck lies in store for my players on the weekend because basically as a game we’ve told him he can do that. How we can sit here comfortable with that?”
Those comments in particular meant that all eyes were on Asiata and any possible repeats of the tackling technique we’d seen a week prior and with the game broadcast on Channel 4 for all to see there was plenty of eagle-eyed viewers.
At one stage Asiata chopped down Tyler Dupree with what seemed a perfectly good tackle but one fan took to Twitter to outline it as potentially ‘reckless’.
That prompted a response from one man who will know the rules better than most as former official Richard Silverwood rubbished the claims.
Jesus. It's on the hip. Just ban tackling. Let's go gold shorts and tags.
— Richard Silverwood (@SilversRef) July 30, 2023
Silverwood went as far as to joke that tackling should be banned and tag rugby should be adopted instead.
It seems that whatever this tackling technique is that it’s not going away soon, with the RFL having confirmed that any law changes can’t take place until the end of the season when matters will be discussed.
The RFL did however say they’d look at the technique in a statement released on Wednesday.
“We assure all clubs that we will consult, consider and decide whether this type of tackle or technique is acceptable in our sport.
“As with any change to the laws of the game or to on-field regulations, we will undertake a thorough review with all stakeholders, including coaches and the laws committee, but any changes cannot happen in-season.”