Change bench & we’ll fix big mess
OUR game is a mess. Forget about the disproportionate pay deal that was agreed to off the field and where the games money will be spent, it is on the field which I am extremely worried about because the spectacle is not as good as it could be.
And the simplest way to help fix it is by reducing the interchange, which was discussed at the competition committee meeting last week. It has to be done for the survival and future success of the game.
I say this purely because the interchange impacts far more than just players playing more minutes. Of course it affects the way coaches approach a game, particularly in the latter parts of a match.
But most importantly, it will affect body shapes and sizes, which will have a ripple effect on grassroots and ensure the survival of the game.
If you bring the interchange down from eight — and eventually I hope it will get to once you’re replaced you stay off — it will do lots of things.
It will open up the game, change body shapes, help participation and bring the little guy back into the game and ultimately take a lot of pressure off referees because the ruck won’t be a mess with wrestle and the third man in.
This will present more opportunities against a defensive line and reduce the emphasis of structured play like decoys and constantly playing on the outside of teams.
Take Newcastle’s Brock Lamb on Friday night. He has played just 31 games and had Viliame Kikau running at him to start the game. Then he could have easily had James Fisher-Harris, switching from the middle, or a fresh James Tamou or Sione Katoa. It’s not fair.
It’s fine to say back in the day the little guys like Alfie Langer or Ricky Stuart had big men running at them too, but they knew if they wore them down physically for the first 20 minutes they would get them in the last 20 minutes of each half when they were vulnerable to speed and footwork. That was the challenge of the game.
More importantly, they were footballers. But the majority of players we are seeing today are robots based on the way the coach wants to play, which is generally based on percentages.
Gone are the days of natural footballers who would dictate to the coach the way they should play. This is because instinct, to a certain degree, has been coached out of the game because we now breed athletes, not footballers.
I am not saying we don’t have great plays and some natural instinct at times. My point is it’s the minority when it should be the majority.
We have seen the poor refs in the past six years, in particular, come under fire. But ultimately they have been, and still are, the whipping boys for the lack of vision and adaptability to the evolution of the game from head office.
The more rules there are to enforce, the increased likelihood of human error.
Fatigue would allow the referees to concentrate on fundamental rules like forward passes, knock-ons and off-side, not worrying about a million things in the ruck.
The ultimate say should go down to the fans. Are you happy with the way the game is being played? I’m not!