Rule by rule, we’re killing rugby league
I am an avid and passionate fan of rugby league and greatly anticipate the coming Test matches, the World Cup and the next season. But I’m not alone when I say that something has gone wrong with our game.
I have been a dedicated fan for over a decade, and while that may not seem that long to some, it is just under half my life and this is the first time I’ve felt disappointed by it.
Many have blamed the so called refereeing crisis, saying the officials need to be re-taught the rules but the problem goes deeper than this.
There is confusion amongst officials over the most basic of calls. One video referee allows a try while another disallows one in the same circumstances. A perfect example of this being the much talked about shepherding incidents, where the ball-player runs behind his own teammates.
It is rugby league 101 not to allow players to do this and yet referees have awarded tries that come of it. Benefit of the doubt comes to mind as well. Freddie Fittler among others say it is ruining the game. This one rule is the biggest source of inconsistency and confusion in the game. Why does it exist?
The burden of proof lies upon the prosecution in criminal proceedings, so why in rugby league are we placing the burden of evidence on the defence?
If anything the rule should be reversed. Considering the sheer amount of camera coverage in our modern game, if the defence is able to wrap up the ball entirely and create reasonable doubt, give it to them.
Unfortunately this is not likely to happen.
While I have criticised some referee decisions I do not blame them. I blame the people writing the rule book. The people who allowed shepherding to slip through the cracks in the referee training program. The people who believe getting a ball past the try-line is worthy of benefit of the doubt. The same people who have decided that in a full contact sport, the shoulder charge is too dangerous and must be banned.
To those who defend this decision by saying it is to protect the players, where does it end. Several players have commented that the difference between rugby league and rugby union is becoming less and less noticeable, so when will it end?
Will we force tackles to be made one-on-one? Will we introduce Kevlar and flak jackets like the NFL? We are already on the way to establishing rules for blockers when running the ball and we are on the verge of just giving points away for getting the ball into the try zone, let alone for grounding it.
A wise man once said you cannot legislate away stupidity and yet that is what is happening here. The game is updated so new techniques don’t compromise it and yet the game is being compromised.
Law by law, inch by inch, we are losing league. League is a contact sport, people will always get hurt. It’s time we stop treating the players like boys and start treating them like the professional athletes they are and trust that they know what they are doing.
It is time we let the game stand on its own merits and not the hand-me-down rules of another code. To those that write the rules: stop trying to fix what isn’t broken and keep our game just that. Our game.
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