Date: December 27 2012
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?
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