June 20, 2007

Horse 771 - Thugby League II

All the way back in Horse 60 (21st Nov 2003) I wrote this:
The idea is to give the ball to the big blokes to run it at the other big blokes for three tackles, chuck it to the slightly smaller blokes to chuck it around for two, then boot it. Not much to it. No doubt the purists of the game would argue there's more involved (goal kicking for instance) but gee whiz, it must be a struggle for a coach to come up with a different game plan every week.
Yet again, someone has noticed something.

Whilst watching Australia go down in a Rugby test 22-19 against a South African side who have only just discovered a wonderboy with a golden boot, the Prawny Bard couldn't help but remark at the level of strategy that was being employed and that it made Rubgy League look rather stupid in the process.

Although I've written on this before, I do happen to think that Rugby League is the lesser (by quite some) of the two for two prime reasons and both of them are consequences of the rules.

1. Possession not rewarded.In Rugby League you get 6 goes to move the ball; that's it. Even if you move the ball forward 99m you get no reward whatsoever for holding the ball.

In American Football you only get 4 goes, but the catch is that if you move forward 10 yards, you reset those 4 goes. The incentive is there to actually do something with the ball. Like Rugby League it is a stop-start affair; played with reference to the line of scrimmage but even so, within the confines of those 4 plays you can still gain a just reward for maintaining possession. Only when you get to the end of the field are you then forced to think about compulsorily scoring to maintain possession.

In Rugby there isn't a tackle count. If you can successfully hold the ball for 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 or even 13 tackles then good luck to you. It seems rather a bit silly in Rugby League that all that the defensive side is required to do, is simply soak up six tackles and magically without any fight at all, the ball will be given to them. In Rugby, they forcibly have to steal the ball or force the attacking side into a mistake.

Therein lies the crux of this issue. In all ball games where you have to put the ball into a goal (that even includes snooker and hurling) the only way you can actually score points is if you happen to be in posession of the ball. Rugby League as far as I know is unique in that you must surrender control without being forced or unforced into making a mistake. Through no fault of your own other than by arbitrary rule, you must give the ball away.

Ironically in the days of unlimited tackles, the great St George side who won 11 straight premierships (and probably why the rule was invented) would not hold possession themselves but surrender the ball to the other side, and their defensive forwards would continually batter the opposition until they basically were useless and then proceed to rally points away. The game of Rugby League was noticiably better to watch and thanks to ABC2, you can still see the awesome power of that St George side hammer away with the kinds of force that makes today's State of Origin fixtures look like feeding time at your local nursery.

2. Scoring options are silly.If you compare American football, Rugby and Rugby League you get this (and I'll compare like with like):

Touchdown 7
Goal 3

Touchdown 7
Goal 3

Rugby League:
Touchdown 6
Goal 1
Penalty Goal 2

The NFL and the IRB have both come to the same conclusion. Although scoring a goal can be done from further away than a touchdown, the act of scoring a goal is still inherently difficult. To only award a single point in Rugby League virtually means that scoring a goal is only ever used as a tie-breaker rather than a viable scoring option.

In both American Football and Rugby, teams will try to go for a try/touchdown simply because it's worth more points. If you're going to go to all that effort, then scoring a goal requires 2 and bit attempts downfield to accumulate the same reward as crossing the line but the game changes a bit in the rain and snow. In adverse weather, points are more valuable, so actually going for the risk can be worth the effort and as we saw on yhe weekend, to have a kicker who is capable is an asset.

Since the principle method of scoring is Rugby League is so highly rewarded, then to do anything else is scarcely worth the effort; thus the kicking skills of Rugby League are not prized and instead of tactical kicking being employed to garner advantage or score points, then kicking only serves as a method of resetting the field position when the opposition run at you for their 6 goes.

I do of course have issues with the fact that by wildly changing jersey designs every year it makes the crowd look disgenious; other issues such as the fans culture and the fact that a Rugby League crowd doesn't sing or cheer unless directed to and so the whole atmosphere is akin to Tranquility Base at times, so I won't go into them here.

In summary, I still don't like the game but unlike the majority of people who rail against football and go no further than calling it the game of sheilas, wogs and poofters, I can actually articulate my main problems on technical grounds... which I fear your average Rugby League fan may not understand anyway.

No comments: