Sunday, 7 August 2011

Gone Soft (2008)

The game today is soft. There I’ve said it, no going back now. Many people will argue that I don’t know what I’m talking about and I’ll be the first to admit that those people are definitely wrong.

There are many aspects of the game which are evident that the game has gone soft, predominantly in the defensive area of the game. Some of the changes to the modernised, softer version of the game happened recently, others happened many years ago. All of the changes however were instrumental in creating the bunch of namby pamby mummy’s boys we see running around before us today.

Scrums: This is the one area which has become the most pathetic aspect of the game nowadays. Today’s scrums are a complete and utter joke. Scrums of the past required power, strength, skill and size. The hooker needed to have the ability to rake the ball back to his side of the scrum. Winning a scrum feed ensured you had a sixty percent chance of winning the scrum. The forwards would push against each other, trying to wear down their opponents in an attempt to gain possession. The ball was fed into the middle of the scrum, usually aimed behind the hookers’ outstretched legs.

Nowadays scrums have been replaced by “Leans”. The hooker is null and void, he has no purpose at all. There is no push from the forwards, there is no attempt to screw the scrum around to win against the feed, hell, the ball doesn’t even enter the “lean”, it’s placed under the leg of the prop closest to the halfback. It has become an abomination and a complete waste of time.

Halfbacks would kick for touch regularly at the end of a set so that the forwards could continue pressuring and tiring the opposition forward pack. Scrums had a tactical purpose, advantage and use.

Now it’s just a reason to have a breather. I get the impression the only reason the scrum is still in the game is purely sentimental. This aspect of the game needs to be corrected immediately. Scrums need to become a contest again. Sure people are going to complain about scrum penalties, but if the technique to scrummaging hadn’t be discarded, then scrum penalties wouldn’t be an issue.

Play The Ball: Another aspect that has a strong element of softness to it, is in the play the ball area. In the past, the marker was allowed to try and rake the ball back to obtain possession. This was always the role best exhibited by the games hookers. Not anymore. No interference in the play the ball. This allows the ball carrier absolutely no need to be concerned about ball security and constant awareness. The play the ball debacle and the introduction of the “Lean” has all but killed off the role that true hookers had. Today’s hookers, with the exception of a bare few, are a loose third half, with their main duty to pass the ball from the play the ball. BORING!

Tackles: One area that has become softest of all is in tackling. Not only has it become softer, but it’s become a complete joke. Every year a new rule is made on tackling which has to correct the laws they made in the previous year. Worse still, today’s illegal tackles now have equally wimpy names which aren’t true representations of the tackles themselves. As it stands at present, a player cannot grab an attacking players arm and try to ground him, as this could be seen as an attempt to make a “chicken wing” tackle. A player cannot come in and hit a player who has not been called held, otherwise, this constitutes as being a “prowler” tackle. This leads me to another point, a referee has to tell both sides when a player is held. SOFT!

In the past a tackle was deemed to be completed when the player wasn’t on their feet anymore.

Interchange: The fact it exists is a sign at how soft today’s players are. The only time the interchange was needed in the past was if a player wasn’t conscious, or if he broke more than two bones. Now there’s four blokes on the bench to come on when the current bunch of weak, unfit players get a bit tired.

The game needs to get back to toughening up, before it is being referred to in the same breath as soccer and netball in regards to physical dominance.

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