NRL head of football Graham Annesley insists the NRL's late-hit mandate is already working to protect ball carriers as he flatly rejected claims it has made the game soft.
Canterbury coach Dean Pay claimed the NRL's referees were being over-coached last weekend, following the sin-bin of lock Chris Smith for a marginally late hit.
Pay claimed the enforced crackdown had stopped referees from getting a feel for the game, with Wests Tigers forward Luke Garner also challenging a dangerous contact charge from the same game.
Bulldogs fullback Dallin Watene-Zelezniak then doubled down on Pay's comments on Sunday, arguing on Triple M that things had got a "a bit soft".
But Annesley rebuked those arguments, arguing that the directive was one that had to be made for the safety of players.
"The one criticism that I don't think anyone has any credibility in claiming about our game is that it is soft," Annesley said.
"We've taken strong action in the past to eliminate parts of the game we don't want in our game.
"We don't see punching any more. We don't tend to see head high tackles except in accidents. We thankfully only see rare occasions of dangerous throws.
"And they were all taken out of the game to a large extent because of tough policies and decisions."
Pay was the latest to question the sin-binning of players over foul play, after Canberra coach Ricky Stuart made similar queries last month.
Penrith five-eighth James Maloney also claimed last month referees had become "trigger happy", penalising players for late hits.
It comes after Penrith forward Viliame Kikau was controversially suspended for a shoulder charge last month which correlated with a late hit.
The general consensus - as argued by Brad Fittler and Darren Lockyer on Sunday - is the rule must exist but that Smith sin-bin may have been a step too far.
But regardless, Annesley said the crackdown was working.
"I've seen any number of occasions since that directive was given where you can see they make a conscious decision not to go on with either a kicker or passer and they pull out or pull away.
"Prior to that direction they may have gone on with those tackles."