Rugby League is an odd sport. At one glance, it can look like one of the toughest games on the face of the Earth. And then at another, one of the softest.
There are a few things wrong with the way the game has changed over the past 20 or so years, with new rules being brought into the game, and old rules being discarded. The result has been to neuter the game.
For those that have never seen the movie 'This Sporting Life', they should sit down and watch it. Not only is it one of the better sporting movies ever, earning its two leads Academy Award nominations, but it is about the greatest game of all and was set during the tough era of play, the 1960s.
Throughout the movie, you see players taking high shots every tackle. They don't get penalised. They don't get a warning. They just get their teeth knocked out... in vivid detail.
So, in saying that, here are five ways to bring back the edge to Rugby League:
1—Ease up on the puss.
The game is a hard game. Whereas other sports over-indulge their players with protective shoulder pads, helmets, crotch guards, thigh pads, masks and things of the same nature, Rugby League has always had the distinction of players having little-to-no padding whatsoever.
Most players these days wear mouth guards, and that is it. Thin shoulder pads for some players, and the occasional donning of head-gear. Fans of other sports' look at League players and marvel at their stupidity in regards to this lack of protection.
From what? It is a contact sport.
If you are too pussy to be tackled or cop a hit across the face in the heat of battle... don't bother playing a contact sport.
The problem is that League is getting to be like this, with new rules and regulations limiting the impact of the big tough footballers of years past. For instance, the one holding back the big hits on the kicking player. This rule is stupid. Especially considering they give it out on only some occasions when the hits are the same regardless. Stop being a pussy (I'm looking at you Thurston!) and suck it up, and take the hit.
Besides, try getting someone that weighs 90+ kilograms to stop on the spot and not continue their momentum into the kicking player.
Allow the players a little more leeway when it comes to making big hits, and big tackles.
An arm across the shoulders that bounces up into a players neck isn't a head high tackle. It is a lack of grip. A player copping a head high when they are already slipping, or their head is at knee level of the tackling player. That isn't a head high in my books, it is a lack of traction.
Spear tackles can stay out. Whilst they may look like a good tackle in some regards, if done without intent, they just cause way too much damage. But ease up on the whole lifting thing. Unless it gets too dangerous looking, don't penalise them for making a good tackle.
And who cares if players start punching each other because of a disagreement. Let them sort it out on the field, they'll get over it, and most likely laugh about it after the game.
Well...unless you get knocked the f*** out, like Steve Price did in Origin III.
2—Fix the scrum.
The scrum is a joke.
This is one area that I will say that Rugby Union shits over League...and in saying that, I must admit that I really hate Rugby Union.
Ever since Alfie Langer came into the game and began to put the ball between the second rowers legs, and the referee allowed him to get away with it, the scrum has gone downhill to the point that it shouldn't even be in the game.
There isn't any pushing, no ball in the centre, no raking (at least, not any proper raking). It is the worst part about Rugby League by a large margin.
Even in the Rugby League games made by Sidhe a few years ago, they sucked. It was the same as a proper game, which I should commend Sidhe on getting right... but why on earth have it like that? Why not allow the player to fight for the ball?
If they are going to continue to have a scrum, they really need to fix it. Make the half-back put the damn ball into the centre, allow the hookers to hook at the ball, and allow the forwards to do a large part of their job and push in the scrum!
Does it make the game any worse? So why not let them do it? Imagine putting a bunch of players from today against a team from even the early 1990's. They wouldn't stand a chance in the scrum. The hooker alone wouldn't have any skin or meat left on their shins because they don't even realise that that is their freaking job.
If they don't want to fix the scrum. Get rid of it altogether, because as it is right now, it is entirely and utterly pointless.
Just give the team in possession of the ball, a tap, and allow the defense to have a five metre advantage instead of going back ten.
And then have someone steal the DeLorean, go back in time and punch Alfie Langer in the face before the first time he tried to put the ball between the second rower's legs.
3—Teach players how to tackle.
What the hell is it with players these days? Do they not teach them at junior clubs any more how to tackle?
I remember one of the first things I was ever taught was to tackle around the god damn legs! If a player doesn't have legs, he can't run!
Sure, they like players wrapping up the ball so they can't offload, but having a 3-on-1 tackle where the three defensive players are all around their upper body is ridiculous.
Only a few players seem to be able to truly tackle around the legs anymore, and they are most of the old players in the competition. They take the players down, before they can get a pass away. They get them before they can even attempt to palm them off, because they went low.
How many times do you see a player like Daine Laurie barge through the defense, knocking players down left and right? Send someone for his legs...stop him moving, and stop his momentum.
Hell, do a Ric Flair chop block on him. That'd stop him. And it'd be legal.
4—Stop running like pansies, stop running into the ruck, don't play flat, don't be a fancy douche-bag.
These four all make one point. How players run.
How many times do you see a fullback take a kick on the full, and then slowly make their way to the defensive line and then try to bolt in between them, in the end only making roughly 8-10 metres all up?
Don't pussy-foot about and then only run when they get to you. If you were running at full pace at them, at least you might break a tackle instead of being put down easily. It happens with all players.
Or what about them running sideways trying to get around the entire defensive line? What the hell? Run forward and take the tackle. Allow someone else to do your job, you hack.
How many times do you see a prop or second rower run straight back into the markers or the congested ruck area from the play the ball? It happens roughly 9 out of 10 times.
A lot of the time, they step back into it after running away from it!
I don't get that idea one bit. Why do that? Run into a point on the field where there are less players in the one area, and you might break the line, or at least give your support play a better chance to get through.
How many times do you see a forward pass? How many times do you see a back line play where each successive player is flat footed, standing still when they receive the ball? Do they not learn to run onto the ball anymore?
I remember watching a Souths game a few weeks ago, where Colin Best actually got the ball after running onto it from a back line play. Guess what happened? He got a try.
Teams these days don't seem to realise the impact that a good backline play can truly have. Perhaps it is because all of these ball playing centres that abound in the game these days, where they hog the ball and try to do a fancy play.
Which leads onto the next running point I must bring up.
How many times do you see a player run along, and then do an incredibly stupid looking sidestep where they jump about four feet into the air, and then only do the step once they've landed? Karmichael Hunt in his early years, and Benji Marshall are major users of this type of step.
How players get fooled by these steps, or don't realise their intentions to step the opposite way, I will never know. If I saw a player jump into the air with a stupid look on their face, I would drive my shoulder into them as hard as I could. Hey, it is legal.
I would do my absolute best to hurt them, as much as I could. It looks stupid, and to be beaten by one of these runs, makes the players look stupid.
You know what player could step really well? Brad Fittler. You know how he did it? He stepped off one leg and went in a different direction. He didn't need to do something spectacular looking to make it look good...doing it great made it look good.
5—The video referee needs to rule on forward passes.
I don't know how many times this whole 'no ruling on forward passes' thing has made me want to burn something. Why on earth not?
The NRL's whole stance on why the video referee cannot rule on forward passes is because the referee should have picked it up as the play happened...
Isn't the whole point of the video referee, the whole reason it exists, is to give what is supposed to be the fairest judgement on the game as much as possible. If the referee misses a knock-on, they check on that. It happened as the play happened. If he misses a foot on the sideline (which the touch judge also misses because they don't do their f***ing job), they check on that.
So why not allow the referee to check to see if a player had passed it forward? Especially when they miss incredibly forward passes all the time.
When a player is on a line and passes it to a player who receives it past the line... it is forward. No doubt about it. I don't care if the passing player has ran it, or it was the motion of his body to be trying to pass it backwards... it went forward.
Allow the referee to check it to make sure it wasn't a forward, in case he missed it. Generally when the crowd collectively screams 'forward', it is for a reason, let him use that to check to see if it was.
What annoys me most about the whole 'no ruling on forward passes' thing, is that if the referee asks to check, say, a grounding, or an obstruction, and it is found to be fine... but then you see in the replay that there was a massively overlooked forward pass, they can't do shit.
So there we are, five easy ways to fix the game of Rugby League.
Granted, the game is still better than a lot of other sports (*cough*AFL*cough*), but these are just some of the small gripes I have about the game that need to get fixed.
Whilst these aren't neccessarily the only things that are wrong, and some can't really get changed, like the way players run, at least I have released the gooey contents of my mind, and said what needed to be said.
I'm sure many people would agree with what I've written. But what else could get fixed? Suggestions?