Wakefield Wildcats full-back Richie Mathers calls on RFL to consult players before making big changes

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Wakefield Trinity Wildcats full-back Richie Mathers believes players should be consulted before big changes are made to the game.

The 29-year-old had mixed feelings when the Rugby Football League (RFL) outlawed the controversial shoulder charge before the last round of Super League matches.

However, he was more disappointed that those playing the game are not involved in the decision process when such changes are discussed - something he believes must change.

“It’s ridiculous how we don’t get consulted on these things,” he said.

“We’re going out there and putting our bodies on the line week-in and week-out, whether it’s shoulder charges or different interpretations, and I think we have to have a voice, it’s only fair that we have a voice.

“I can see the governing body are looking after the welfare of the players but at least give us a voice or have a club representative and give us a seat at the table to make these decisions.

“The players need a voice for the good of the game, it shouldn’t be a dictatorship, we all care about the game, we all have different angles of it. To have somebody at a seat and at a meeting, I don’t think it’s too much to ask.”

The former Leeds Rhinos, Gold Coast Titans and Wigan Warriors man believes the RFL should follow the lead of other sports and invite a players’ representative into the decision making process.

““I think we’re the only professional code that doesn’t have a seat on the governing body as a representative and it needs to change,” he commented.

“We need to all help each other in all sorts of ways; marketing, selling the game, shoulder charges. It’s a long process, it’s getting in there and breaking those barriers down, I think it’s a big issue.”

Mathers says that as a rugby league fan he is disappointed to see the shoulder charge banned, but says it is probably the right decision for the protection of a player’s long-term health.

“As a spectator and as a fan of the game I’m disappointed it has gone,” he said.

“I think it’s a good part of our game when it’s right. When it’s wrong it should be punished and punished accordingly. It’s going to take some adapting. It’s a game that certainly the forwards enjoy the physical side of.

“There might be a bit more protection for the players longer term. When we’re all ten or 15 years down the line I know there’s been issues with concussion and things like that. If we’re looking at it from that side of things I think it maybe is the right decision. It’ll take some getting used to, players have done it and players practice it.”

The full-back’s head coach, Richard Agar, certainly is not a fan of the banning of the challenge- and questioned the decision to introduce it with the season having already started.

The Wildcats boss believes heavier penalties should suffice rather than a complete ban.

“I just think that it’s part and parcel of our game,” he said.

“I think there are going to be some real issues on try-saving tackles in the corner when you get full-backs bumping wingers over sidelines and things like that.

“I just think if you get it wrong and people get hurt then we need to make the deterrents big enough and the penalties big.

“I know there’s going to be medical people telling us this can happen and that can happen but you can probably say that about every rugby league tackle. Anytime anybody carries the ball or goes into a tackle there’s a margin for error where if you get it wrong things aren’t quite great for people.

“I’d like to see it stay in there and I’d just like to see it heavily policed and the deterrents for poor tackles and timings made quite severe.

“I’m surprised that we’ve had an off-season debating it and we get to Round 3 and we change the rules.”