Rugby League, especially in the National Rugby League (NRL), is a physically demanding sport where effective tackling is crucial. Tackling is not only about stopping the opponent, but also about preventing them from gaining ground and potentially scoring. Perfecting your tackle technique is essential to becoming a valuable asset to your team. You’ll find the best defensive teams in the NRL are the teams that have the shortest NRL odds to win each round and even the Grand Final – the perfect example is the Penrith Panthers.
In this article, we will explore the fundamentals of NRL tackle technique and provide some drills to help you refine your skills.
Fundamental Tackle Technique
Body Positioning: Your body position is the foundation of a successful tackle. When approaching your opponent, ensure you get low, bending at the knees and hips, with your chest up and your back straight. Your head should be on the same side as your lead shoulder, keeping your eyes on the ball carrier’s hips, not their feet or upper body.
Footwork: Use quick and controlled footwork to close the gap between you and your opponent. Step forward with the leg that corresponds to your lead shoulder, maintaining a balanced stance. Make sure your feet are shoulder-width apart, providing stability and power.
Leading with the Shoulder: The shoulder is the primary point of contact in a rugby league tackle. As you make contact, drive your lead shoulder into the opponent’s midsection, aiming to wrap your arms around their legs. Keep your head to the side to avoid injury.
Arm Placement: Your arms should wrap securely around the opponent’s legs, just above the knee. The goal is to pin the ball carrier’s legs together, preventing them from making further progress. Ensure that your fingers are pointing up and your grip is tight.
Lifting and Driving: Once you have made contact and secured the ball carrier’s legs, use your leg drive and core strength to lift and drive them backward. A successful tackle requires a combination of strength and technique. Keep your legs pumping and use your body weight to your advantage.
Maintain Control: Throughout the tackle, it’s essential to maintain control and avoid high tackles or dangerous play. Always tackle below the shoulders and stay within the rules of the game.
Drills to Improve Your Tackle Technique
Bag Tackling Drill:
- Set up a tackle bag or pad.
- Practice your footwork and approach to the bag.
- Execute proper shoulder contact, wrapping your arms around the bag.
- Lift and drive the bag backward.
- Focus on technique and power, repeating the drill multiple times.
- Pair up with a teammate of similar size and strength.
- Take turns being the ball carrier and the tackler.
- The ball carrier runs at the tackler, who uses the fundamentals of tackle technique.
- Rotate roles to work on both offensive and defensive skills.
Live Tackling Drills:
- Create game-like scenarios by simulating match situations.
- Use cones to mark a playing area.
- Practice tackling while maintaining proper body positioning and technique.
- Incorporate agility and footwork to mimic real game situations.
- Have a coach or teammate call out a specific tackling target (e.g., left leg, right leg, hips).
- React to the call and execute the tackle with precision.
- This drill improves your ability to adjust your tackle in real-time.
- Use pads or tackle bags to practice controlled contact.
- Focus on maintaining proper form, even at high speed.
- Develop your ability to adjust your tackle without losing technique.
- Record your practice sessions and games.
- Review the footage to assess your tackle technique.
- Identify areas for improvement and work on them during training sessions.
In conclusion, perfecting your NRL tackle technique is essential for success in rugby league. The fundamentals of body positioning, footwork, and controlled contact are the building blocks of effective tackling. By incorporating these principles into your game and regularly practicing tackle drills, you can become a reliable and formidable defender on the rugby league field. Remember that safety and sportsmanship are paramount, so always tackle within the rules of the game and prioritise the well-being of both yourself and your opponents.