In response to a recent post, I took the liberty of replying to the question “what do I think of Rugby League..?”
I’m afraid I’m the same as Matt; I’m Rugby through and through. Consequently I see Rugby League as little more than touch-footy with tackles.
I know, I know; there’s a lot to the game than what I may see through my one biased eye. There’s the angle running, the creating and running into gaps, and there’s always the player achieving as an individual aspect, but that really exists in all codes of football, in Rugby in particular.
There would be no division between the backs and the forwards in Rugby if there wasn’t the individual effort of the Backline players. The Forwards; the Pigs, the engine room, – whatever you want to call it. The lads up front; eight men (or women, let’s be fair) should be ideally working together as one unit, and totally depending on one another. Then there’s each forward going ahead alone, such as in a pick & drive, or in open play movements, performing like a back. Only usually much slower and with a lot less panache. Hey – I might be a Prop, but I’m also a realist.
(We all secretly fancy ourselves as Five-Eighths anyway).
Then of course there’s the modern tradition of the backline players burrowing in and hunkering down to win back the ball at the breakdown, just like a good forward should.
In touching on the ever expanding homogenized aspect of Professional Rugby, it must be said it pales in comparison to the nature of League. More and more as every season passes in Australia, The Mungos look like they fell out of the same cloning machine. Even little guys like Brett “Noddy” Kimmorley (BTW – I say take back that nick-name Mr. Lynagh) have taken on this stumpy, fun-park-mirror-look through intensive weight training, focusing on the explosive crouch-to-erect strength needed in the game (I’m talking about the ground-humping-under the tackle stuff here folks).
The whole concept of the game of Rugby League; one-by-one smashing it up over and over and over – then to the halfback/dummy half, then – kick – bores me to tears. Meanwhile the opposition are trotting back onside, and trying to bash seven shades of the proverbial out of one man. It just seems unnecessary and un-sporting. Perhaps I am naive, but it continues to stick in my craw. It feels like a cowardly way to play a sport to me.
A grade one tackle..? What the #&*% is that? A grade two low act shoulder-charge work of cowardice, more accurately. By proxy it’s a way of encouraging the biff; sure it’s policed – it’s frowned upon by scorning it, but in doing so it serves to highlight it and therefore celebrates it in a perverse round-about fashion. Too much philosophy on my part? Perhaps. But I truly believe that if it was to be policed properly, no tribunal with a Macquarie St Lawyer, no bullsh1t, just slammed unforgivingly, it would all end. All those unfortunate accidents where players fall into tackles would occasionally occur, and could be dealt with. These guys are COACHED to do these things; pure and simple.
It has resulted in the premature loss of arguably the games greatest player, Andrew “Joey” Johns. What a waste. I see my old Neighbors the Sea Eagles absolutely trounced his old team the other night. One dickhead’s low act has cost an entire sport a helluva lot.
And what’s the deal with those scrums…? Jeeezzz…
Here’s a little recipe for you, sports-fans:
Pre-heat Coatsie, a Rugby front rower, to 100 degrees of boredom by placing him in front of a Rugby League game.
Take 12 blokes, all pretty much the same size and shape
Stick them in the back of a cement truck, do a couple of revolutions and dump them on the pitch.
Add ball to second row, and dish up to public.
Serves millions every weekend. Opiate to the masses.
I’d wager it’d look even tidier than most of the scrums you will see in a League match.
I Grew up going to school quite literally across the road from Brookvale Oval, home of the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles, and found out pretty early if there’s a way in Sydney for people to make a value judgment about who you are or what your outlook on the world is, without even really knowing you (i.e. assuming you are a wealthy, privileged, judgmental elitist snob, – a pure case of reverse discrimination), – it’s by announcing you barrack for the ‘Silvertails’.
That was enough to turn me off the game.
This is not to say I disrespect League or those who follow it as parochially as I do Rugby. But fancy hating someone because they come from the Northern Beaches of Sydney, a predominately middle class area, with a small proportion of wealth around the beaches and areas where there’s a sea-view?
Mind-you, it also has a lot to do with a few cheating arseholes that ran the Manly Warringah club for many years, and the sapping of talent which occurred in the mid to latter-half of last century…
There is a larger pool of talent in Rugby League than Rugby in Australia, and this makes for some interesting spectacles. Also, at the risk of contradicting myself, there’s a lot to be admired in the durability of these blokes who get smashed over and over again and keep on going. I just can’t help feeling that if the game never developed in New South Wales and Queensland and for that matter if AFL never evolved from Rugby and Gallic football in the Southern States, then Australia would dominate World Rugby in the fashion we have seen with the New Zealanders for decades now (much to every Aussie fan’s chagrin).
So, there you go ‘rest-of-the-world’; you have two other localized codes to thank for failing to unleash the “Ultimate Wallabies”. Imagine Ron Barassi and Rex Mossop packing down in the second row together..? Don’t laugh; it could have happened. James Hird at break-away, David Gillespie at Hooker. With Joey-Johns at Fly-Half, we’d be fielding three world-class teams in the fashion of The All Blacks and The Junior All Blacks, with the Second XV’s No. 8 Wayne Carey trying to shag all forty-five of their wives and girlfriends.
As it is we have a classy world-beating national team, with an enourmous culture of camaraderie and honor, and a level of professionalism and skill to be envied globally in Rugby circles. Two world-cups and one drop-goal fiasco by a one trick pony the English Rugby Union have patently kept in cotton wool for the last four years. No-one else can lay such a claim.
The State Of Origin is the greatest game of League you will see anywhere in the world, and that’s a typically an over-hyped crock, as is the style of Channel Nine and the ARL’s culture of appealing to the lowest common denominator. It is a long time since I have seen an Origin game which really had me on the edge of my seat.
Part of the turn-off is perennial arse-clown Ray “Rabbits” Warren’s OTT emotive call. I see the network is grooming Andrew Voss, another 12-Watt light bulb intellect whose parent’s never told him to shut the fµck up at the age of three to be Warren’s replacement when Rabbs’ retires or more likely carks it over the microphone, and they ceremoniously lower his corpse into the final warren in a little cage full of newspaper and carrot stubs.
I watched Sunday’s ARC game between Ballymore and the East Coast Aces, sadly commentated by ABC sports stalwart Peter “Wilko” Wilkins. Wilkins is a one-eyed Rugby League fan, as evidenced by the steamed response he gave to Justin Harrison’s sh1t-stirring remark that “It’s not as if League is a complicated game” on the ABC’s defunct sports panel show The Fat a few years back. The banter turned a little sour as Wilko called Harrison a “Plank”, the famous sledge made by flash in the pan Pom winger Austin Healey, (or was it Vauxhall Cresta..? He was about as reliable and as slow as one). Now doing ad’s for a bald cure I see.
At any rate, I could talk about that little turd all day, but the display in commentary was like fingernails down a black-board. We might all lay sh1t on Gordon Bray for being a bit pedantic and precious, but you sure miss him when he’s not commentating. Wilko was digging deep into his biggest Ray Warren impersonation since the 2000 Olympics. What was a messy affair for twenty minutes (to be expected-two teams who had never played together before), became an exciting contest, ruined by his clueless gibber. It was actually giving me a headache, he didn’t seem to draw breath.
For me, watching the Mungo’s is all about having a chuckle to Roy and HG’s irreverent commentary of the State of Origin and the Grand Final on ABC’s Triple-j. Even that’s sadly lost its edge. Gone are the days of dickhead Qld physio-front-rower Martin Bella playing the ball backward (towards the NSW tryline) and the hilarity which ensued. Even the excitement of a warm grand final afternoon is a long forgotten memory as the greedy bastards at Nine call the shots and the game is played in the evening to milk as many Nielsen Rating points as they can in order to beat Better homes and Gardens.
Don’t even get me started on the domestic Wallaby tests. Sigh. I watch those old tapes with Eales, Horan, Little, Kearns, The Link, Campo, Nick & Noddy, et-al running around with half a tear in my eye. A big piece of the atmosphere has been snaffled for me. Good on the Poms for continuing the tradition of afternoon tests at Twickenham.
I appreciate League’s tribal culture, but I believe most punters are dazzled by Rugby League’s simple to understand structure, which by comparison makes the complexities of Rugby a virtual ‘astrophysics to a cave man’. There is a vast percentage of the fan base that has never played either game, or only take a passing interest. Consequently they never consider such issues. A close mate of mine is a big Leaguey’, and despite his leanings has described it better than I’ve ever heard it before: it’s a better product. As cynical as I may sound, I think with the right kind of publicity you could hype up a trained giant-squirrel-boxing match, and punters would watch it like eye-candy, just to talk about it in the tea-room the next day.
And the blue-collar idealism associated with the sport does more for this parochialism than any other aspect or influence. People don’t want to be connected to Rugby as it is associated with GPS schools, stockbrokers and Lawyers (I mean you Messer Poidevin and Farr-Jones), when the reality is in Australia it’s played by plenty of Plumbers, Brickies, Chippies, Factory Workers, and loads of Polynesian blokes who drive trucks and lay concrete. Reverse discrimination at work again. The big laugh is there’s more cash in League, the tools in the media focusing on guys like Tiquri and Giteau who are isolated examples of huge contracts.
As Matt has pointed out, no one gives a rats-arse about League outside of Australasia and Northern England, another blue collar part of the world. The Rugby League World Cup is a joke, with Lebanese players coming from Bankstown and Lakemba in Sydney. What’s the deal with that..? All Jingoism aside, there’s the answer, no one else gives a tinkers cuss because the game is either mistaken for Rugby, or Rugby is so well received there’s no spare room for it. The suffocating nature of Soccer/Football only allows for a little room for Rugby to grow on its own.
So why do these games exist..?
Unfortunately we don’t live in the utopist heaven-on-earth that Fundamentalist Christians, Marxist-Leninist-Socialists and Trekkies believe we will one day live in. When we do, we will all be independently wealthy, we will live to be as old as the individual wishes to be, you’ll always look the way you want, beer will flow from mountain streams and supermodels will live next door, hanging by the pool in skimpy swimsuits, and all have a crush on you, and Rugby will be the only game played. (Oh, and a bit of Cricket when it’s hot wouldn’t hurt either). And the supermodels will mow your lawn for you, in bathers. All sweaty…
Sorry, got a little carried away there.
The real gift these other sports give to Rugby..?
They keep every clown-shoe dickhead out of my game.