FLASHBACK: February 1994

Martin Bella playing for the Australian Rugby League under-18 side against Great Britain in a youth international at Lang Park.

Martin Bella playing for the Australian Rugby League under-18 side against Great Britain in a youth international at Lang Park.

CANTERBURY prop, Martin Bella blasted Broncos’ halfback, Allan Langer’s tackling style, and had a shot at the administrative skills of Brisbane’s CEO, John Ribot at the same time.
Bella faced knee surgery after a Langer ‘over-the-leg’ tackle in a Tooheys’ Challenge pre-season match at Brisbane’s ANZ Stadium.
“It’s not a bloody tackle at all,” Bella said of Langer’s style.
“There is no doubt when ‘Alf’ makes the tackle the leg goes out first. The hands are just there to prevent a penalty.”
Referee, Eddie Ward penalised Langer for the tackle under the new international rule which stipulated hands first contact, a rule brought in essentially because of the controversy surrounding the way the Ipswich product brought down bigger rivals.
Australian Rugby League chairman, Ken Arthurson said Langer should be allowed a period of grace, because he had been tackling that way for 20 years, and Ribot accused the NSWRL of a witch hunt, while also telling Bella to get on with playing football.
Bella, a teammate of Langer’s at State and Test level, said he was very annoyed at Ribot’s comment.
“It shows the difference in the quality of the administrators,” Bella said. “Bullfrog (Canterbury CEO, Peter Moore) will take a player aside and tell him to change things. There is no witch hunt. But it (Langer’s technique) has to change.”
Around the same time, North Sydney hooker, Mario Fenech was pleading with referees for protection after he was hit high by Manly’s David ‘cement’ Gillespie.
Gillespie copped a three week ban, with Manly CEO, Frank Stanton arguing that Fenech’s running style meant he ducked into tackles.
“I have been running the same way for 12 or 13 years,” Fenech said. “‘Alf’ has been tackling his way, within the rules, all his life and now he has been told to change.”

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