REMORSEFUL England star Brett Ferres hopes his five-game ban will act as a deterrent to others and help rid rugby league of all forms of dangerous “spear” tackles.
The Huddersfield Giants second-row misses tonight’s televised fixture at Hull FC as he begins the lengthy suspension for his controversial upending of St Helens’ Jonny Lomax.
In his first interview since the incident, which saw Ferres red-carded in the 65th minute of Sunday’s 17-16 Tetley’s Challenge Cup fourth round defeat, the West Yorkshire club’s vice-captain admits fearing for his opponent’s safety.
Thankfully, Lomax escaped uninjured but, after Newcastle Knights’ Alex McKinnon broke his neck and was told he may never walk again following a similar challenge only last month, the issue is firmly in the spotlight.
Ferres, who pleaded guilty to the grade E offence at Tuesday’s disciplinary and was fined £300, told The Yorkshire Post: “Straight away as I got hold of Jonny in the tackle it felt uneven. He got to the side of me and I tried to wrestle him to the floor but he went light.
“I felt myself going backwards, him going up and knew he was in a bad position but it’s all in such a short space of time – a split second – and you can’t really do anything about it.
“It is really ugly and a dangerous tackle but there was no intent or malice in it and as soon as I was on the floor I was straight over to Jonny to see if he was okay.
“He gave me the thumbs up and said he was fine. After the game, I wasn’t going to go in there (Saints dressing room) but when I got home I got in touch with the Saints physio who I know from England to make sure he was fine. That was my priority.
“Jonny went for scans and everything came back fine which, obviously, I was really glad about as the worst thing on my mind was thinking I might have hurt him.
“With what happened in the NRL recently it is very bad timing. It’s a really touchy subject at the moment, but I really hope now that we can get it out of our game.
“They (the RFL) have gone with quite a high ban but hopefully other incidents will be met with the same consistency of suspensions and it will help drive out such tackles.
“Obviously, what happened to Alex (McKinnon) is devastating and it’s awful to see. Things can happen like that in sport.
“But I hope all this helps getting it stamped out.”
Ferres, who turns 28 next week, tried explaining how the awkward tackle evolved.
“The aim of the game is trying to get people down,” said the 2013 World Cup star, who has played previously with Castleford Tigers and Wakefield Trinity.
“If I let go of Jonny, he runs down and scores a try. But I was just trying to bide some time.
“Nowadays, you like to get two or three people in the tackle and I was holding him up until that happened.
“But that help didn’t come and I’ve gone the wrong way about it. Gravity takes hold. I had no control of what his legs were doing as they shot up in the air.
“I didn’t intentionally go out to ‘spear’ him into the ground but when I’ve watched it back it is ugly and no one wants to be in that position or tackled that way.
“I watched it a few times while I was waiting for the disciplinary and it was a tough few days but I’ve accepted my punishment.”
Ferres is now sidelined until the televised game against another of his former clubs Bradford Bulls on Sunday May 18.
They visit St Helens the following Friday when he intends to speak to Lomax face-to-face.
Ferres has also apologised to his team-mates, club staff and Huddersfield fans. They were 16-8 ahead when he was dismissed but ended up losing to a last-minute drop goal. He admitted: “I thought we had it all sewn up and we’d survived from what I’d done.
“I’d really hindered the side and know if I’d stayed on we’d have won. Unfortunately, it’s not the way it works.
“Now it’s a massive game for us at Hull and we’re coming in on the back of a real short turnaround.”
Furthermore, League Leaders Shield winners Huddersfield – who thrashed Hull 76-18 in last year’s play-offs – have won just twice in eight games and are also without ex-Kiwi David Faiumu, who has returned to New Zealand on compassionate grounds.
Injured England centre Leroy Cudjoe could be back for the Easter programme, though, and, similarly, second-row Larne Patrick.