Dangerous tackles deserve tough sanctions in my opinion (discussed here) but the discussion surrounding the red carding of Sio Tomkinson of the Highlanders (the video can be found here) is mind boggling. From keyboard warriors to “respected” news outlets all crying foul of what is a reasonable open and shut case.
Sure, it looked ok in real time, yes he ducked into it. Yes, it would have been near impossible to avoid the collision for Sio. Yes, no one likes seeing the contest killed by a Red card. And Yes, in the context of the game, with the Highlanders trailing, it would have been considered a game changing decision.
But of course that part of the discussion is mute because the Highlanders went on to win, in the most unlikely of circumstances.
There are so many arguments against the red card, but do any of them hold up when held against the criteria?
Game management guidelines, which i will grant you are applied liberally at Super Rugby level, assess dangerous tackles against 3 criteria to determine the sanction.
1) Contact point
Where did the tackle start/finish, was contact with the hand, arm or shoulder?
Was the tackling action accidental, reckless or deliberate?
3) Degree of Force
Severity of impact, does the tackler ‘carry on’ through the tackle, e.g. around the neck?
Let’s assess the Tomkinson tackle against these criteria;
1) Contact was made with the shoulder directly to the opponents head, with no attempt to grasp the player. At this stage you are thinking Red card automatically, and looking for any mitigating circumstances that might lower your initial finding.
2) You could argue the action was accidental, but with no attempt to grasp the player and poor technique resulting in a shoulder charge to the head, it is at best reckless. It is hard to argue the player did not make a deliberate attempt to tackle the opponent, his timing and execution was incredibly poor. It is hard to mitigate down from a red card based on this information, although not inexcusable.
3) Brodie Retallick stays down and is assessed by medico’s. The severity of impact was great. As most shoulder charges to the head are. There is certainly no ground to mitigate down based on the degree of force.
As such the sanction of Red Card is not surprising. I would also understand if through ‘Action’ the sanction was downgraded to Yellow Card, if the officials d(r)eemed the tackle was accidental.
All the common objections are not relevant when determining sanctions. The ball carrier ducking into the tackle, might mitigate down based on an ‘accidental’ action, but not enough to rule red card ‘an outrage.’ Sio’s inability to avoid the collision does not absolve him of responsibility for his actions. If the context of the game was relevant to how we determine sanctions, there would be no consistency from one tackle to the next. And the game changing nature of the decision has little to no impact on how ‘correct’ a decision is.
The sanction was appropriate, why is everyone up in arms?
There is a genuine perspective that peoples individual subjective responses to each tackle should dictate the referees sanction. No objective reality, and even if objective reality exists, it should be the ‘complainers’ objective reality. We see our current philosophical and world view frameworks ruining a good game of rugby. Whether we live in a post-modern, post-postmodern, meta-modern, or super-modern age is largely irrelevant because it seems “truth is subjective” these days.
A favourite article of mine, that i come back to from time to time is titled; No you are not entitled to your opinion. In which Patrick Stokes calls out the ‘opinions’ generation and begs them not to be lazy. ‘That’s just my opinion” is so often a cover for lack of intellectual rigour. A defense mechanism designed to protect ideas that should be abandoned. It’s a dangerous ideological framework and is destructive of genuine dialogue, personal progress and understanding.
Called me old fashioned, but I have no interest in protecting someone’s feelings on account of a ridiculous opinion that should be abandoned. Objective reality is not determined by subjective opinions. Our frameworks should reflect the truth, we should not try and dictate truth because of our framework.
The same issue presents itself in apologetics regularly. At our church recently we did a series on common questions asked about Christianity. Such as how can a good God allow so much evil and suffering? Good questions to wrestle with, but impossible to tackle without a framework that allows for objective reality. Current philosophical frameworks augment reality based on one’s mood at any given moment.
If there is a God, who has revealed himself to this world in his son Jesus, appointing him as ‘Lord of All.’ Your opinion on how fair his rule is has no bearing on the objective reality of him being in charge.
I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father, except through me. – John 14:6
If you want access to the Father (God), you’ve got to go through Jesus.
Using the same logic as the red card test you could argue; but I’m a good person. I help little old ladies cross the street. I give to charity. Or even I’ve faithfully attended church for 60 years. When you assess your claim against Jesus’ criteria they all fail short.
You go through Jesus, or you don’t go.
Argue all you like about the validity of his framework and postulate that it would be different if you were the boss. Regardless of how valid you think Jesus’ framework, your opinion has no bearing on it’s reality. Whether or not it’s true is not determined by your opinion.
Red cards are not issued on the consensus in the court of public opinion.
Nor is salvation.
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