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Knights back-rower Mitchell Barnett.

Serious crusher tackles are set to be referred directly to the judiciary and players found guilty will face longer suspensions as the NRL attempts to eliminate the dangerous practice from the game.

The NRL competition committee made the recommendation at a meeting on Tuesday but no announcement was made until after Cronulla prop Andrew Fifita attempted to have a grade two dangerous contact charge downgraded at the judiciary.

Fifita was unsuccessful and will miss three matches, including Tonga's Oceania Cup clash with New Zealand at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday, but it is unlikely the incident involving Canberra prop Ryan Sutton would have been a case referred to the judiciary without a grading.

Newcastle forward Mitchell Barnett pleaded guilty to a more serious grade three dangerous contact charge and accepted a three-match suspension for his crusher tackle on Melbourne fullback Jahrome Hughes last Saturday.

The recommendation by the NRL competition committee must be ratified by the ARL Commission before being introduced and it is unclear whether that will happen before the next round of Telstra Premiership matches next week.

However, with ARLC chairman Peter Beattie and fellow commissioners Wayne Pearce and Peter V'landys on the competition committee, it would seem almost certain that tougher action will be introduced.

Competition Committee to consider clamping down on crusher tackles

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg, head of football Graham Annesley, Panthers coach Ivan Cleary, Cowboys coach Paul Green, Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga, former premiership-winning coach John Lang, former Australian captain Darren Lockyer and RLPA GM stakeholder relations Clint Newton are also on the competition committee.

Greenberg and Annesley had raised expressed concerns about an increase in crusher tackles and later shots on playmaker and put the issue on the agenda for the competition committee to consider at Tuesday's meeting.

Annesley said at his weekly football briefing on Monday that the NRL was likely to get tougher on crusher tackles.

"We have looked at some concerning trends that are starting to emerge and that is crusher tackles and also late hits, primarily on kickers but also in general play," Annesley said.

"We really think we need to look long and hard at this to ensure we are providing as safe an environment as possible for players. It is a physical game, it is a body contact game and there are certain risks associated with it but we certainly don't need additional risks that can be avoided."

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