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Too much rule tinkering will confuse league fans

Date

Steve Mascord

DISCORD

There are signs from all sorts of places that rugby league is about to enter a period of intense self-examination and on-field change.

By the time many of you will have read this, two Boxing Day games in England will have trialled three experimental alterations to the laws of the game.

At the Leeds-Wakefield and Batley-Dewsbury friendlies, the attacking team was permitted to pack five players into the scrum, giving it one extra attacking player.

Charge-downs did not result in a restarted tackle count – which meant that if the defending side successfully charged down a kick on the final tackle, they get the ball regardless of who gains possession.

Also, when an attacking team kicks the ball dead, the defending side get the ball on the 40m line, rather than the 22 – a disincentive to the negative ploy of booting it out to take the steam out of a dangerous opposition back three.

In next year's All Stars game at Suncorp Stadium, there is also expected to be a raft of experimental rules – although they haven't been finalised yet.

And on Christmas Day, the Northern Territory News carried a story about rugby union and rugby league players training together, with a view to a hybrid game being played in Darwin.

People in areas where rugby league is not a dominant sport are constantly exasperated about this tinkering with the rules.

No sooner have they explained to new converts what the game is, than it changes.

However, league has always changed rules to attract more spectators and maximise profits. Remember, in 1895 the Northern Union looked exactly like rugby union.

Our lack of stuffy hierarchy and our modest geographical footprint allowed us to bring in new things without having to get approval from too many people. There has always been a healthy lack of reverence for sanctity of the rule book in rugby league.

If rugby union is an old world country, rugby league is an adventurous, spirited new world nation.

But things are starting to get a little out of hand. Our only two fulltime professional competitions are growing apart at a rate of knots because of “local” rules and rule interpretations. There are increasing pressures that even internationals are not played under international rules!

It's one thing to have a sport that itself represents a rebellion against the old order. It's another to have the rebels fighting amongst themselves.

We need to acknowledge that the NRL and Super League are our shopfronts – and if you fiddle with the shopfront too much, confused customers may not come in.

By all means, retain our sense of innovation. But let's not introduce major changes without the permission of an international governing body and due consideration for how it affects all levels of the game.

That means using some of next year's World Cup funds to actually give the RLIF an address and a staff member or two.

Then set out protocols for rule changes – and stick to them.

COMMENTS time and I'll give myself a New Years uppercut for using Greg Inglis as an example of whether you can deliberately have your child born in NSW or Queensland in order to qualify him for that state.

As Loose Apples points out, his son would qualify under the parent rule anyway. But I still believe the question is relevant: apparently it's common for parents to have their children born in Yorkshire so they can play for the county cricket side.

Elvis says Origin is never going to be perfect, no matter what the formula. But I think the point is that Origin is doing to other countries what NSW once did to Queensland. Players move to Australia for money, and are then being turned against their place of origin in rep teams – just like Queenslanders in the Sydney comp during the seventies. So something needed to be done to make sure those players continued to represent other countries – and this is a step in the right direction.

Neamo made similar comments. See my response above. I think it's important that players who come to Australia for the sole purpose of being professional rugby league players do not represent Australia. And the same can be said of the states – if you go to NSW or Queensland just to play NRL, you should not represent that state. The 13 age limit goes some way toward enshrining this.

Mike says players should just choose their state on a form and stick to it. A) players already fill out these forms. B) To suggest you should just play for the state you like is ridiculous, in my view. What if you have never been there? You sound like one of the fictional characters from Richard Hinds' recent column. There has to be some criteria for selection aside from whether you like a team's colours or the cut of their shorts. But if you satisfy the selection criteria of NSW AND New Zealand, why can't you play for both?

@therealsteavis

Here's the podcast and forum.

9 comments

  • The one rule change needed is a correct feed of the scrum as in rugby union .
    Scrums as they are currently fed in to the back of the scrum are a pointless waste of time as it is almost impossible for the team that doesn't feed the scrum to win the scrum . I am almost to the stage of no longer watching league 48 years because of my frustration with this . I would like a valid reason why the referee doesn't make players feed the ball into the centre of the scrum . http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scrum_(rugby)

    Commenter
    RottenRonnie
    Location
    Torrensville S.A
    Date and time
    December 27, 2012, 2:14PM
    • You don't want the constant stoppages and resets the rah rahs pretend to love do you Ronnie? I used to be marginally embarrassed by league scrums, but now am happy to have them as a tactical formation which creates specific attacking opportunities and defensive challenges.

      Commenter
      Gman
      Location
      South Coast
      Date and time
      December 27, 2012, 5:21PM
    • @Gman 'I used to be marginally embarrassed by league scrums, but now am happy to have them as a tactical formation which creates specific attacking opportunities and defensive challenges.'

      You're kidding me right? A tactical formation? Are you saying it's tactical because anybody in the team can pack into the scrum?

      Nobody likes the scrum resets in Rugby. In fact they are a blight on the game but at least the scrum in Rugby is still a genuine contest for the ball.

      Commenter
      CRZ38L
      Date and time
      December 27, 2012, 7:59PM
  • The changes noted sound like positive steps forward. I hate negative play and i don't like seeing poor play rewarded. Kickers are protected species and if you are good enough to get enough pressure and a hand on the kick on the fifth the attacking side does not deserve to get 6 more. I hope we adopt these changes if it all go smoothly in super league.

    Commenter
    ray man
    Location
    blue mountains
    Date and time
    December 27, 2012, 4:35PM
    • By the way I think the charge down change sounds good. It will create more incentive to attempt them, which in turn will create more space for 5th tackle non-kicking options.

      Commenter
      Gman
      Location
      South Coast
      Date and time
      December 27, 2012, 5:24PM
      • What about scrums in the NRL. Having 6 bodies, any bodies, contest a non-contestable scrum is embarrasing. I feel the reason they do this is to give the forwards a rest. Get rid of the scrum in NRL or make it a competition for the ball.
        @ RottenRonnie, I watch every game of S15 rugby and the tests, but I don't see feeds into the second row like I do in NRL. Discuss!

        Commenter
        unionfan
        Location
        Northern NSW
        Date and time
        December 27, 2012, 11:09PM
        • The charge down rule is a good one in my opinion, if a defender can get to the ball before its kicked then its good defence (or a poor kick) and should be rewarded. One drawback having been to the Leeds - Wakefield game, was that Wakefield did charge down a Leeds kick, but the ball went in to touch so Leeds got the scrum, seemed a little unfair but I guess you have to draw the line somewhere!

          Completely agree with the rule changing though, any changes should be agreed upon by an international ruling body, and any changes should apply to the game as a whole. You shouldnt have NRL rules, Super League rules, and international rules as it is now. Three different sets of rules is ridiculous!

          Commenter
          anleyd
          Location
          Leeds
          Date and time
          December 27, 2012, 11:28PM
          • I can handle the scrums, my gripe is that I am tired of seeing the same milking of penalties, theatrical dives to illustrate a usually invisible second effort by a tackler, players staying down after innocuous tackles, the dropping of balls which somehow become a strip etc. Some may call it gamesmanship, I call it cheating and when it's incontestable on the screen, why aren't players punished as they are in soccer? That would stop some of the over acting!

            Commenter
            Dave
            Location
            Gold Coast
            Date and time
            December 28, 2012, 9:11AM
            • On the State of Origin question. would a simple idea like the winner of the State of Origin series (e.g. Queensland) be given the right to challenge New Zealand in a one-off challenge at the end of the season in Auckland or Brisbane. Then staged the Test Match the following week. Get a sponsor and put up some decent money for a winner takes all challenge. This would give the Kiwi's something to look forward to and a small taste of the SOO atmosphere. Especially if the loser gets zip like NSW have been getting for the last seven years.
              Also can Inglis be retrospectively be made a NSW player (as per the new rules).
              Thanks

              Commenter
              Sandbunny
              Location
              NSW central Coast
              Date and time
              December 28, 2012, 3:00PM
              Comments are now closed

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