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  1. The last game of rugby league I ever watch. Hull vs Leeds, April 2018 I used to thrill over tight defences broken by astute passes, breathtaking footwork, evasion and deception, perfectly executed leg tackles, the balance between attacking calculation and reactive defence. Not any more. Now the game is about wrestling, pushing, battering, impact, playing the referee, winning penalties, the important and game changing action mostly taking place on the floor. Standing up quickly after being tackled is now the most valuable skill in the game. The whole affair is accompanied by ridiculous hyperbole from the commentators, and the incessant nattering of a referee needing to manipulate the rules and attempting to choreograph the game to a preconceived pattern and pace. A referee so incapable of keeping a defence onside, he has to sprint forward at each play the ball to avoid giving a penalty. The game had two good passes - the lead commentator did not appear to have the wit to appreciate them - not enough for 80 minutes of involvement. The game is no longer the greatest game, the most thrilling spectacle in sport. Super League, the most visible part of the sport, has become a tedious, uncomfortable, sometimes ugly, activity. The drama of a close score (that it seems suspiciously orchestrated is my own delusion), occasionally adds a last few minutes of interest to otherwise drabness. What I used to enjoy is not coming back. Most other spectators want it as it is, and the top teams have an enormous vested interest in the status quo. And there’s no point in hanging about for the possible expansion, exciting though the prospect is: it will falter and fail because the sport is simply not as watchable as some think, not enough to capture the spending and attention and commitment of people who have an array of alternatives. None of what this silly old dinosaur thinks matters: the game is better off without me. No big drama, but after a lifetime’s involvement, I think I’ll have a final word. Except I won’t be the last one to give up: there is a significant percentage of fans who are becoming increasingly disillusioned. And I do need replacing. So can someone find a six year old to introduce to the sport, a new fan who will watch, play, teach, preach, coach and spectate for the next 50 years? Bye. For good.
  2. 50 years ago, kids in Rugby League areas developed their tactical awareness, ball-handling and footwork with touch-and-pass, some clocking up the 10,000 hours needed for top class skill levels, in streets, parks, roads, playgrounds, gardens. The good ones with ambition had a framework of youth teams, pub teams and professional junior sides to work through. The very best, the ones with speed and the other qualities required for playing one of the toughest sports, had a chance to become a top-class half-back. Those times are not coming back, but it would be nice to see those organisations - especially Super League clubs - which lead our sport, putting the effort into finding ways to have youngsters playing rugby league for the sheer exhilaration of chucking a ball about, beating an opponent with a side-step or outside swerve or beating the opposition with a perfect cut-out pass, or a dummy scissors. From a wider level of enjoyment and involvement, in 10 years time, we could find some quality half-backs.
  3. There is no great need for creative half-backs in Super League. The most successful mode of playing is to use relentless high speed battering to distend, disrupt and break the defensive line, based on an extremely fast play-the-ball. Most ball handling occurs after the line has been broken, in contrast to the “old” days when a half-back was expected to use his craft to seek out an opening. Now, most teams play 5 props and 2 “hookers” in their 17. I can possibly see a time when another two props at half-back becomes an acceptable situation. Teach someone else to kick, and there’s no need to waste 2 positions on players who have little opportunity to contribute. It won’t change. Teams have a massive vested interest in the present methods, in recruitment, development and coaching. And if you lose, it’s more comforting to blame the opposition for slowing down the play-the-ball, than to admit that they put a higher premium on using ball handling to engineer a break, and on developing and encouraging players with the ability.
  4. “The ref got some pace on the game.” Usually said by the fans, staff, and players of the winning side. It means that their side evaluated and manipulated the referee, creating a tone to the game to suit them more than the opposition. It means the referee allows unearned advantages to the side in possession, ignoring moving off the mark or playing the ball before the ruck is clear (it’s in the rules), or not even playing the ball. It means sides “earning” a penalty by diving forward into the defender, or flopping back to the ground at the slightest contact, or (my favourite) playing the ball into a semi-conscious defender. It means the game is mostly about what happens at the end of a tackle. It means that creative half-backs have no place in the game, the acting half-back scoot being the primary launching pad for a break. It means having an inferior range of skills to the southern hemisphere teams. It means the most enthusiastic involvement of the spectators is screaming for a holding down penalty. It means that the outcome of game is too often determined by penalties given almost at a whim. It means a large proportion of training is about wrestling techniques. It means recruitment and development are driven by a need to have players who fit the manner of play. It means that the game has changed into one of relentless high speed collisions of giants (this, for some, being the main advantage), often monotonous, homogeneous, and occasionally ugly, validated if your team wins, or by the drama of a close score. Standing up quickly after the tackle is now the most valuable “skill” in the game. The relentless search for an ever-faster PTB has many ramifications, not all of them good. I think it is time to revisit the concept.
  5. Imagine: a new SKY contract brings in an extra £20million a year for 5 years. What, then, are the spending areas for this £100million which will expand the game geographically, encourage more youngsters to play the game, bring more spectators into the grounds, generate much greater numbers of tv viewers to ensure more sponsorship and an even larger contract next time. The bulk of it would go to the SL teams because they believe they earn it by providing the product that SKY wants. Will it be spent for the benefit of the sport? What will they spend it on? Reserve teams? More southern hemisphere players? Community initiatives? Two extra teams in SL? A more thrilling format? To develop the game further, it must become more attractive to watch, more attractive to play, more attractive to be involved in. Or does it simply need to be more visible?How is all this achieved? Then think: can the same be achieved without that extra imagined money?
  6. Happy to try again, and try harder Of those who have sufficient interest in British RL to directly spend money on it, there are 1)those who believe that filling the grounds of the top few clubs and presenting them on tv is the best way to achieve stability, expansion and progress, and 2)those who believe a different approach is needed, difficult though it may be to articulate this different approach. For the sake of attracting entertaining responses, can I attempt a quite ridiculous quantification, and suggest that there are about 60,000 in each “tribe”.
  7. And genuinely meant. If expansion and development (and even survival) means increased income, then that requires: more through the turnstiles for existing teams more teams in new areas and/or increased income from broadcasting and sponsorship. (support from wealthy enthusiasts will be welcome, but is hardly a sound survival strategy) Apologies to the OP if this deflects the intent of the thread at all, but there is a “two tribe” issue here: Those who believe that filling the grounds of the top few clubs and presenting them on tv is the best way to achieve what is required. Those who are frustrated by the ramifications of this strategy, and are looking for something else. Again, seems like a worthwhile debate.
  8. Parksider: Yes I do think we have it all on just to keep the game alive. I think that makes me a whinger. My rambling rant was to counter someone else's rant that the RFL builds its policies around a need to placate a few whingers. I will continue to challenge such nonsense. Much oversimplified, but assuming a more-or-less fixed amount of income in the sport, there seem to be two main points of view – two tribes if you like: Finance Super League as much as possible in the belief that the product (effectively SL matches on SKY) will gain greater attention, a bigger following, encourage more youth participation and, eventually, create more money from broadcasters and from sponsorship. or Spread the money wider, attempting to maintain the bases in traditional areas and supporting and attempting growth in development areas, and perhaps finding ways to extend international RL. This, of course, means less for SL. Seems like a reasonable debate. So can I ask you – and I genuinely appreciate your thoughtful and considered comments - do you think 1. is and will be a successful strategy?
  9. I understand that your basic and very important point is about the money available in the game, but this needs challenging every time it is uttered. Who are these whingers who require placating, who control and manipulate the RFL into jeopardising the future of the sport? Is it half a dozen forumites? Or the fans of lower division teams? Or the owners and directors of a couple of teams who are not as prominent as they once were? A few older players and administrators who are now on the periphery of the game? Are they really going to command and demand the actions and attention of the RFL, having a greater say than that of Leeds and Wigan and St Helens and Warrington? I suggest that the sport in the UK is run totally by the top few teams whose requirement is – and perhaps in some respects not unreasonably – that they have the best fixture list they can, and that they and their selected opponents have sufficient money to continue. The idea of two tribes, of expansionists and traditionalist, is mostly a myth perpetrated by those who wish to redirect the blame. While hard-working folk strive to expand and develop our favourite sport in as many corners of the world as possible, it is Super League which spends the money and decides the direction of change – or lack of it. It is Super League which is surely one of the most selfish,conservative, self-interested and geographically limited sections of sport in the world. It is Super League which has 11 of its 12 teams spread along a narrow corridor. Ask yourself, for instance, why hasn't London – an absolute necessity for any sport with ambition – been adopted and directed and supported directly by the RFL, by whatever means, and spending, necessary. If there is proof that the RFL is independent of the influence of the top few teams, then I apologise, but I will not apologise for challenging the suggestion that a few fans and directors of Leigh, Featherstone, Halifax and such are responsible for forcing the RFL into a particular mode of behaviour. They truly have no say, no influence and no effective input into the decisions made. If anyone want to attribute blame for British Rugby League not being in the position they would like it to be, first work out who it is who is really in charge. It is not the whingers.
  10. Didn’t watch the game, didn’t see the incident, But I’m confused, as I always am, about the playing onside, which I thought was a RU rule. Not being adversarial here, genuinely puzzled: where in the rules does it say the kicker can play a team-mate onside? From the rl laws When off side 1. A player is off side except when he is in his own ingoal if the ball touches, is touched, held or kicked, by one of his own team behind him. Out of Play 2. An off side player shall not take any part in the game or attempt in any way to influence the course of the game. He shall not encroach within ten metres of an opponent who is waiting for the ball and shall immediately retire ten metres from any opponent who first secures possession of the ball. Placed onside 3. An off side player is placed onside if: (A) an opponent moves ten metres or more with the ball. ( an opponent touches the ball without retaining it. © one of his own team in possession of the ball runs in front of him. (D) one of his own team kicks or knocks the ball forward and takes up a position in front of him in the field of play. (E) he retires behind the point where the ball was last touched by one of his own team. And from the notes: “Down town” Any player who is in front of the kicker in general play is not permitted to advance beyond the point of the previous play-the- ball until the ball has gone past the off side players. This rule delays the movement of the off side players downfield in an attempt to encircle the ball receiver as he collects the ball.
  11. We have there a major part of the issue: a belief long held, perhaps not by you, but by many, that the income from the TV contract belongs to Super League, not to Rugby League.
  12. Correct. The Championship can be seen as an annoying drain on resources, an embarrassment and a distraction to the main purpose of British RL which is Super League. (Although it's interesting that the lower clubs and Championship 1 are viewed with affection, perhaps because they don't offer a challenge to the cosy cartel of Super League). The truth is, the game would fail without these clubs. They keep the sport alive in significant areas where kids have an historic affinity for the game, they offer an alternative pathway to players on the fringe of the top level: players who would likely leave the sport if full-time income was not available to them. They exist in areas with a framework for development - school, local junior sides, top level amateur and local professional. They are not just important to the sport: they are essential. The reason they don't get the fan numbers hoped for is that those in control of the sport have, for two decades, relentlessly chosen to promote Super League, rather than Rugby League.
  13. You're fortunate and I envy you. Along with tens of thousands of others, you enjoy the modern high speed, high impact game, with large, strong and fit athletes, with gaps hard to find, and breaks hard earned. Plenty of folk find it thrilling and compelling. I miss a different game with, I believe, a greater display of footwork and ball handling craft, and a very different ethos. My loss, and I fully understand I'm in a small minority. Of course there were faults in the game two, three, four decades ago, but a lot of people still enjoyed it, and miss it.
  14. The sport now is clearly very different from the 60s and 70s. There are some who prefer the previous version and some who prefer the modern game. Some of those with a perspective, interest and involvement on both eras are probably worth listening to. Kids in the days of Millward played hundreds of hours of touch and pass every year. By the time the most able ones were ready for more serious competition, they had thousand of hours of reading the evolving situations, were used to reacting in fractions of a second to the need to fill a gap, exploit or negate a weakness. It was muscle memory to us. The forensic analyses by TV experts were what we did, in an instant, for fun. Most of us didn't progress: the few who did carried this ability with them. The modern game, in contrast, relies heavily on relentless high speed battering of the defensive line to create weaknesses, only then to be exploited. The ability to create a space by footwork or ball handling has a much reduced part in the modern game. I think we know that the older version is not coming back: please allow us to lament its passing.
  15. Most of the referee's calls are straightforward to interpret: “Play the ball!” means “there have been at least three offences there, but if I stop the game now, I'll spoil my reputation for letting the game flow.” “Hold!” means “you are all in front of me, technically offside, but if I give penalties I'll not get the big games.” “Wait!” means “you've set off before the ball has been played, and I'm having to step forward with you to avoid giving penalties.” “Wait! Wait! Wait!” means you've set off particularly early and I'm having to sprint to keep up with you , in order to avoid giving a penalty. “Go!” means “you've already gone.” “Move!”, often with a name attached - “Move, Liam!” - generally uttered before the tackle is complete, is an interesting one. It creates the illusion that the referee is in total control, so that when penalties are given - judiciously or sporadically, depending on your point of view - and absolutely crucial to the outcome of the game, they can be received with approval and acclaim. But what is the purpose of “Movement!”? It's a noun, not a verb, so not an instruction, or a suggestion, or a request, or a plea. Semantically, what is the point of “Movement!”? Do I have to apologise for an apparently negative and non-celebratory point of view? It's rare now to experience the thrill of a touring team. I've looked forward to it for a long time, and we may not see too many more. It's an enormous disappointment to me that a potentially exciting and entertaining side like the Kiwis were suffocated in attack by a persistently offside defence, sanctioned and encouraged by the referee. And if the game needs to be orchestrated and choreographed – and it does: it no longer works if the rules are applied – at least take the microphone off the referee and spare the television spectators the increasingly unavoidable parallels with WWF.
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