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NRL refs to crackdown on high hits

NRL referees have been told to treat high-contact like punching and sin-bin any player who makes direct contact with an opponent's head.

In an extension of the game's heavy crackdown on high shots, players will spend time off the field for any forceful or direct contact with the head or neck.

Send-offs have also been encouraged for particularly forceful contact despite just seven players being marched in the last seven-and-a-half years.

Discretion will remain with the referees, but ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys confirmed they have been told to enforce the edict.

The decision comes after a rapid rise in high tackles this year.

Players charged for contact with the head or neck was up 700 per cent over the opening six rounds compared to the 2017 season.

A total of 14 players were also charged last week, the most on record at the NRL dating back to 1999.

"We will not tolerate any hit above the shoulder, the head or the neck region,'' V'landys told 2GB on Friday.

"Any foul play will be penalised heavily, we're going to get all that out of the game.

"We did that many years ago with punching by using the sin-bin.

"You don't see punching any more, you don't see spear tackles anymore, you don't see many shoulder charges any more.

"And we're just as determined to get rid of any knock around the head."

The NRL took a similar approach with punching in 2013, making it an automatic sin-bin after Paul Gallen's strike on Nate Myles in State of Origin.

The league had told clubs last week there was going to be a crackdown on high shots, encouraging referees to use the sin-bin.

However that direction fell flat, with just one player sin-binned for high contact despite the record number of charges.

But V'landys said the message was now clear and would be enforced.

"It's never been allowed to hit anyone in the head. Never in the game's history," he said.

"All we need to do now is really enforce it and we will.

"If it's intentional around the head, we want them to be sin-binned or sent off.

"We don't want players out for weeks on end because of foul play, even accidental play - you do not hit around the head or neck.

"That's not going to be tolerated."