TRAVELS: Column II

By STEVE MASCORD

SO, where were you and what were you doing?

These are questions normally associated with major world events like the shooting of JFK or September 11 and I am referring to another milestone we’ll never forget.

The RFL trialling wacky rule changes on Boxing Day.

Chances are, you were finalising your Christmas shopping, greeting visiting relatives or making mince pies when news reached you that Red Hall was attempting to out-NRL the NRL by fiddling with our game over the festive season.

There is even a chance you were pissed at the time and woke up on Christmas morning thinking you’d imagined the whole thing.

For the Leeds-Wakefield and Dewsbury-Batley games, the attacking team can pack five players into the scrum, giving them an extra man to attack.

Also, the tackle count will not start again from a charge-down and if the ball is kicked dead from a team’s own half, the opposition will resume play with a 40-metre tap rather than one at the quarter-way line.

In the view of this columnist, all of these rules have merit – but why wait so long to announce them? Surely the four clubs involved would have loved to use the novelty of the trials to help sell tickets.

The media goes into stasis at this time of the year – not even the Press Association had reported the trials when I looked – so the whole thing looks disorganised and last minute.

Let’s look at the changes one-by-one.

Obviously, the aim of the first is to encourage more attack from the scrum – something of a lost art. But it also shows that the scrum itself is like the human tailbone – a remnant of ancient times which has withered away.

Imagine telling players of 30 years ago that you could have five against six in a scrum and the team with five players would still win because no-one was really allowed to push!

Personally, I’d like to see the team with six actually have a go at shoving their short-staffed opponents off the ball.  We’ve made the scrum look stupid (it was a charade but a comfortable, friendly one) – now we’re rubbing it’s nose in its own stupidity!

By failing to restart the tackle count from a chargedown, there will be more incentive to attempt them. Do chargedowns make rugby league more exciting? I’m not sure they do and I’m not sure coaches will instruct their players to harass the kicker any more than they already do.

I like the third rule the best. Kicking the ball dead to keep it away from dangerous opponents and give yourselves a breather is a blight on rugby league.

Throughout its evolution, our game has prided itself on removing stoppages and making it harder and harder for its participants.

By giving the defending team more of a territorial advantage when the ball is kicked dead, it should be an effective deterrent to this negative ploy.

.

SALFORD’s woes raise an interesting philosophical debate.

read on

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