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Hookers at dummy half

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Does anyone know the history of how hookers became to be viewed as the default dummy half? It just seems a bit random to be honest. Any ideas how the hooker position evolved into the how it is viewed today?

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It seemed to filter into the game in the mid 80s. Possibly as a result in the changes to scrums that were introduced about that time which change the hookers previous ball willing role. 

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i remember keith elwell being one of the first hookers to take over the dummy half mantle, his speed of thought and pace made him a great success in the role.

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It seemed to filter into the game in the mid 80s. Possibly as a result in the changes to scrums that were introduced about that time which change the hookers previous ball willing role.

So was it the scrum half who acted as the dummy half before then or were the duties shared around all the positions. It is a bit of a quirk and considering the history of the position you would expect the scrum half to be first to the play of the ball rather than the hooker.

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It's more to do with a hooker being the right size and shape, imho.

Interesting debate, though.

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Good question. When I started watching the game properly (early 80s) it was generally the hookers you'd see at AHB, but other players were there as and when needed. This used to happen much more than you see now, especially when the ball was moved out to the flanks.

 

I sort of assumed that this had always been the case. Given that the PTB came in in 1906 (was it?) it seems natural that someone would be designated AHB. If we assume that halfbacks need to be away from the PTB it'd have to be a forward. Who's the smallest and therefore least useful at driving the ball in? The hooker. Voila?

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Good question. When I started watching the game properly (early 80s) it was generally the hookers you'd see at AHB, but other players were there as and when needed. This used to happen much more than you see now, especially when the ball was moved out to the flanks.

 

I sort of assumed that this had always been the case. Given that the PTB came in in 1906 (was it?) it seems natural that someone would be designated AHB. If we assume that halfbacks need to be away from the PTB it'd have to be a forward. Who's the smallest and therefore least useful at driving the ball in? The hooker. Voila?

You would have imagined that the need for a player who was specialised in passing would have become apparently quite quickly. Considering the historic role of the scrum half it is odd that he didn't stay in the position.

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as i remember it, it wasn't specialised, the nearest player to the play the ball did it. the first time i saw it as a specialsed job was when Max Krilich did it with the touring aussies.

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You would have imagined that the need for a player who was specialised in passing would have become apparently quite quickly. Considering the historic role of the scrum half it is odd that he didn't stay in the position.

 

Yes. But then, given the SH's traditional role of organiser, tactical kicker and all round live wire, it makes sense to keep him at first receiver, no?

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Yes. But then, given the SH's traditional role of organiser, tactical kicker and all round live wire, it makes sense to keep him at first receiver, no?

 

It just seems that all the positions in the backs have been shifted one along with the scrum half at first receiver and the stand off at second receiver. The roles of the players wouldn't really have changed just the name of the position and the number on their backs. 

 

Maybe there was a need for an extra player in the backline. 

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as i remember it, it wasn't specialised, the nearest player to the play the ball did it. the first time i saw it as a specialsed job was when Max Krilich did it with the touring aussies.

 

Interesting. That's around when I started seriously watching RL. For the modern fan it must be hard to believe that clubs would have organised their attacks in such an ad hoc fashion. I imagined that things would've developed a bit at least by the 50s and 60s.

 

On a related note, I read somewhere that ages ago forwards had no specialist roles, no props, second-rowers, etc and scrums were formed however the players happened to arrive at the scrum. Looking at scrums now, perhaps we have come full circle in that respect?

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Interesting. That's around when I started seriously watching RL. For the modern fan it must be hard to believe that clubs would have organised their attacks in such an ad hoc fashion. I imagined that things would've developed a bit at least by the 50s and 60s.

 

On a related note, I read somewhere that ages ago forwards had no specialist roles, no props, second-rowers, etc and scrums were formed however the players happened to arrive at the scrum. Looking at scrums now, perhaps we have come full circle in that respect?

Looking at those old Mitchell and Kenyon films where they had a scrum after every tackle they didn't even have specialist forwards! First eight packed down, another bloke throws the ball in the scrum. The game wasn't as slow as you'd expect.

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So was it the scrum half who acted as the dummy half before then or were the duties shared around all the positions. It is a bit of a quirk and considering the history of the position you would expect the scrum half to be first to the play of the ball rather than the hooker.

Indeed. And this is how it is in union.

 

In RU, it's the scrumhalf who gets the ball from the ruck and usually passes to the stand-off (fly half) at first receiver.

 

It's interesting that RL did not evolve this way. Before competitive scrums were abandoned, surely the ball from the scrum came straight to the scrum half.

 

Why did we effectively have two acting half backs? The scrum half at scrums and the hooker at the PTB / ruck.

 

In fact the name "acting half back" implies that the half back (presumably the scrum half) did have this role at one time.

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Indeed. And this is how it is in union.

 

In RU, it's the scrumhalf who gets the ball from the ruck and usually passes to the stand-off (fly half) at first receiver.

 

It's interesting that RL did not evolve this way. Before competitive scrums were abandoned, surely the ball from the scrum came straight to the scrum half.

 

Why did we effectively have two acting half backs? The scrum half at scrums and the hooker at the PTB / ruck.

 

In fact the name "acting half back" implies that the half back (presumably the scrum half) did have this role at one time.

 

 

The half back was the player who received the ball from the scrum and, originally the ptb was decreed to be a two man scrum with the player in possession dropping the ball from chest height and both he and his opponent striking for the ball as it reached the ground. This became very messy and players eventually started placing the ball on the ground, but both attacking and defending players could strike for the ball on the ground until quite recently. Hence the player receiving the ball at the ptb became known as the acting half back.

 

Going back to the days of unlimited tackles the dummy half was penalised if he was tackled in possession, so rather than attempting to run from this position would immediately pass the ball out, usually to an advancing forward who would simply drive the ball in, time and again. Those days weren't quite as attractive as they are sometimes made out. The outcome of this is that generally the best and quickest passer, normally the scrum half, would be at dummy half but, as plkayers weren't as actively mobile in those days, the nearest back could also do the job.

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Interesting, ta BSL, NS & Griff.

 

Would it be then logical to suggest that the concept of hooker as regular AHB didn't come into vogue until at least after the law penalising a tackled AHB was scrapped?? The scoot has been in the game for as long as I can remember.

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The half back was the player who received the ball from the scrum and, originally the ptb was decreed to be a two man scrum with the player in possession dropping the ball from chest height and both he and his opponent striking for the ball as it reached the ground. This became very messy and players eventually started placing the ball on the ground, but both attacking and defending players could strike for the ball on the ground until quite recently. Hence the player receiving the ball at the ptb became known as the acting half back.

 

To be pedantic. Prior to the great schism, teams had two "half backs". The New Zealanders invented two different roles for them; the scrum half who took the ball from the scrum and the stand-off half who stood back from scrum (also known as a flying half back because he took the ball "on the fly").

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To be pedantic. Prior to the great schism, teams had two "half backs". The New Zealanders invented two different roles for them; the scrum half who took the ball from the scrum and the stand-off half who stood back from scrum (also known as a flying half back because he took the ball "on the fly").

Generally people understand when you refer to the half back, in the singular, as the scrum half and the half backs,in the plural, to mean both the scrum half and standoff.

Also sorts of names have been used to describe the same thing. Fly half, stand off half, outside half, out half, five eighth, first five eighth, first five. I suppose such an important position attracted the attention of the those that named the positions. No other position has such variation.

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Good question. When I started watching the game properly (early 80s) it was generally the hookers you'd see at AHB, but other players were there as and when needed. This used to happen much more than you see now, especially when the ball was moved out to the flanks.

 

I sort of assumed that this had always been the case. Given that the PTB came in in 1906 (was it?) it seems natural that someone would be designated AHB. If we assume that halfbacks need to be away from the PTB it'd have to be a forward. Who's the smallest and therefore least useful at driving the ball in? The hooker. Voila?

 

When the acting halfback was penalised by a scrumdown if he was tackled in possession, it was rare for the ahb to run. It was 95% a distribution position and the scrum half was, in the days of contested scrums still the best passer from a static position due to there being many many more scrums than is the case today. It made perfect sense for the scrum half to also be the primary ahb.

 

Once that rule was abolished and you could run from acting half back and be tackled without a scrum being ordered, the scoot became an important part of the game.

 

The hooker was starting to evolve as a bigger, tougher version of a scrum half, flash Flanagan from Hull KR was the prototype. it then made more sense for the hooker to be the ahb as he was bigger and stronger than the scrum half but still with more agility than say a prop. Then hooker could break tackles from AHb and create a whole separate attacking option from that which was formerly the case. If he sometimes got tackled then no big deal.

 

Cunningham from Saints, Newton from Leeds, Ward from Leeds and Elwell from Widnes, not to mention Colin Clarke from Wigan became the standard bearers for this new class of hooker and led to the eclipse of the scrum half at AHB.

 

There now seems to be a mini revival of scrum halves returning to the ahb role, Burrow, Robinson being recent examples.

 

These are my own observations for what they are worth and I am certainly open to correction on these points.

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I was thinking more along the lines of, around 1980, the forwards being made up of big props taking the drives and taller, faster second rowers, running wider. The hooker was generally a small bloke and didn't really fit into either of these roles so he got the job of being ahb.

Interesting that the hooker didn't start to take this role on until 1980 - I wasn't into the tictacs of the game much before that and I hadn't noticed that.

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The half back was the player who received the ball from the scrum and, originally the ptb was decreed to be a two man scrum with the player in possession dropping the ball from chest height and both he and his opponent striking for the ball as it reached the ground. This became very messy and players eventually started placing the ball on the ground, but both attacking and defending players could strike for the ball on the ground until quite recently. Hence the player receiving the ball at the ptb became known as the acting half back.

 

Going back to the days of unlimited tackles the dummy half was penalised if he was tackled in possession, so rather than attempting to run from this position would immediately pass the ball out, usually to an advancing forward who would simply drive the ball in, time and again. Those days weren't quite as attractive as they are sometimes made out. The outcome of this is that generally the best and quickest passer, normally the scrum half, would be at dummy half but, as plkayers weren't as actively mobile in those days, the nearest back could also do the job.

 

The rule about the AHB being caught in possession came about because Workington in the CCF v Fev spent the last twenty minutes of the game, driving the ball in, taking the tackle  and playing the ball over and over again.

IMO modern day Union "recycling" looks a lot like this. They drive the ball in, take the tackle, set up the ruck and do it again, but the defence instead of trying to win the ball spead across the field in a RL style defensive line.

When I played generally it was the no 7 who went to AHB to release forwards on the burst to charge the defensive line, on many occasions they burst the defensive line and a score resulted.

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I guess that the development of the use of players as pivots has moved this on also, with teams having players on either side of the pitch who orchestrate attacking moves. So a side's attacking moves, or plays, can revolve around other players in the team other than the scrum half and stand off.

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More questions:

 

When was the rule changed so that the AHB tackled in possession no longer resulted in a scrum?

 

It's interesting to hear about the SH being the primary AHB before then. So under unlimited tackles generally first receiver would be the next big forward driving it in?

 

Regardless of his AHB duties (or absence thereof) the hooker it seems has always been a more diminutive forward, albeit generally a good tackler. Their contribution must have been limited to just working the scrums, and with his side in possession didn't do much?

 

How does that fit when we describe the great hookers of the past? Joe Egan was great, because of his ball winning ability in the scrum and not about the loose? What about a later figure like Stevo? Or had the AHB law been rescinded by then?

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I guess that the development of the use of players as pivots has moved this on also, with teams having players on either side of the pitch who orchestrate attacking moves. So a side's attacking moves, or plays, can revolve around other players in the team other than the scrum half and stand off.

 

Hard to believe that didn't happen until recently. The old days of a ball handling loose forward, and working the blind side. Surely not a recent invention?

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More questions:

 

When was the rule changed so that the AHB tackled in possession no longer resulted in a scrum?

 

It's interesting to hear about the SH being the primary AHB before then. So under unlimited tackles generally first receiver would be the next big forward driving it in?

 

Regardless of his AHB duties (or absence thereof) the hooker it seems has always been a more diminutive forward, albeit generally a good tackler. Their contribution must have been limited to just working the scrums, and with his side in possession didn't do much?

 

How does that fit when we describe the great hookers of the past? Joe Egan was great, because of his ball winning ability in the scrum and not about the loose? What about a later figure like Stevo? Or had the AHB law been rescinded by then?

From Wikipedia so be wary: the rule was brought in in New South Wales in 1961 to discourage runs from dummy half and rescinded two years later. There - on the page 'laws of rugby league' - is a list of many of the rule changes since 1895. The majority of the ones listed come from Australia - presumably law changes largely followed each other internationally.

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From Wikipedia so be wary: the rule was brought in in New South Wales in 1961 to discourage runs from dummy half and rescinded two years later. There - on the page 'laws of rugby league' - is a list of many of the rule changes since 1895. The majority of the ones listed come from Australia - presumably law changes largely followed each other internationally.

 

 

Ah. If that's right, then there was only a very limited period of time when the law was in place (two years in Australia). So the scoot lived freely both long before and after those dates. That changes things. There was a lot more scope for AHBs then.

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