Rugby League ‘spear tackle’ found not to be an intentional act to cause injury in recent appeal

In 2016, Mr Dickson sustained serious injuries after receiving a spear tackle, or dangerous throw by an opponent, Mr Fletcher. The tackle happened to be filmed, and the film was later used as evidence.

Mr Dickson pursed a claim against Mr Fletcher for damages in tort, alleging that the injuries sustained were due to the negligence of Mr Fletcher, and further, that the North Lakes Rugby League Sport and Recreation Club Inc, was vicariously liable. 

The question for the court, however, as whether or not the spear tackle by Mr Fletcher was an intentional act causing injury, in which would thereby exclude the operation of the Civil Liability Act 2002 (NSW), as per s 3B(1)(a), which provides ‘the civil liability of a person in respect of an intentional act done with intent to cause injury or death’ will be excluded from the Act.

The primary judge handed down the decision that the tackle did not amount to an intentional act causing injury, and therefore found in favour of the respondents and ordered Mr Dickson to pay their costs of the proceedings. Mr Dickson then appealed this decision, with the appeal focused on the same question, as to the application, and perhaps interpretation of s 3B(1)(a).

The appeal was ultimately dismissed, and once again Mr Dickson was ordered to pay the costs of the respondents. Their honours decision focused on interpretation and application of the section, providing a strict view of the meaning of ‘intent to injure’. As per White JA at [19]:

The intent to cause injury (or death) referred to in s 3B(1)(a) is an actual subjective intent: recklessness is insufficient.’

The decision of Dickson v Northern Lakes Rugby League Sport & Recreation Club Inc [2020] NSWCA 294 can be read here.

Scott Eveleigh

McAuley Hawach Lawyers

11 Fennell Street, Parramatta NSW 2124

Telephone: (02) 9633 1826

Facsimile: (02) 9687 8114 (02) 9687 8114



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