Is the NRL-AFL hybrid game just a beautiful dream?

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    Watching last year’s Ireland versus Australia International Rules match on the Gold Coast I, like so many others, couldn’t help but wonder if this would be the last time we would see the mutant round-ball spectacle played.

    I personally enjoy the game, and have an appreciation for Gaelic football. I watch it every year for the spectacle.

    But even I am over it. And I know I’m not alone.

    The hybrid game’s demise has been covered ad nauseum. Reasons include its lack of relevance, the participation of under-strength Australian teams and a tendency for matches to deteriorate into brawls.

    For mine, the lack of relevance is the true killer.

    It’s obvious why we play Ireland every year. It’s a celebration of our respective unique indigenous sporting codes, affirming our strong relationships and cross-cultural relations nurtured through cross-code players such as Tadhg Kennelly, Marty Clarke and Dublin product Jim Stynes.

    Furthermore, it’s a rare opportunity for players of both codes to represent their country at an international level.

    But even these reasons are starting to wear thin. Celebrating indigenous codes is all well and good, but the resulting game doesn’t truly represent either, making the event redundant.

    Besides, the cross-code travel is strictly one way. And the Gaelic Athletic Association know it.

    This leaves us with our boys playing at a national level. But if that was really so important to the AFL, why not give the AIS team leave to play in the International Cup (played in Melbourne every year) and televise the final on free-to-air TV?

    There, Australia would take on the world at our own game.

    Sure, stars and top-flight players can’t play. But that rule would appear to be in effect in the Australia versus Ireland games anyway.

    If we truly want to play a relevant hybrid code-celebrating exhibition game, we shouldn’t play it against the GAA. We should play it against the NRL.

    Can you imagine the code-war fanatics in the lead up to this clash?

    Can you imagine the cross-code banter? The David Gallop and Andrew Demetriou press conferences?

    Imagine the posturing of code fanatics on either side in the lead-up, and the coverage. One can only imagine the TV ratings!

    The game would reach right into the heart of both codes and dominate the sporting landscape. Even if the NRL and AFL split the costs and profits, the takings would be gigantic.

    But how would such a game work?

    A hybrid League-Aussie Rules game would be a tricky beast to create and referee, the two games being so fundamentally different.

    So for now, we can take the biggest elements of each game, and see how they fit.

    For league, passing backwards is all important, so that stays. Aussie Rules is far more complex, but one aspect – that is probably the most crucial and at the core of the modern game – is kicking long and marking.

    Two teams, arranged in league-style lines, attempt to move the ball across a rectangle field. They can only pass backwards by hand, but can move the ball by foot forwards.

    I know, I just described both codes of rugby, but the next element here is crucial.

    Three players from each side are allowed to be offside at any time. These players are then able to receive the ball from a kick. Should the ball travel 10 metres untouched, a mark and resulting free kick/pass is awarded.

    Scoring would work similarly to league, but with all scores being multiples of three. A try is worth six and a field goal worth three. A marked ball within the try scoring area, though, is worth nine.

    This would be akin to the AFL mark inside 50, minus the necessary resulting goal.

    Imagine a game something like gridiron, with continuous play and kicking rather than passing, and you have a better picture.

    It might not be pretty on paper now, but this game – in the modern Australian sporting landscape – would have far more relevance to the average punter than the international game, which Australia dominates.

    This is true of both codes, with the NRL (and I include the Kiwis under this banner) dominating international competitions.

    Imagine names like Thaiday, Smith and Cronk charging through the AFL lines, using superior power to punch vast holes in the line.

    Imagine Franklin, Riewoldt and Brown streaming ahead offside to take overhead running marks within the scoring zone, unmatched in speed and overhead aerial ability.

    And imagine code-converts Folau and Hunt, lining up for the AFL. It would truly be a most mouth-watering piece of entertainment.

    Yes, this game might purely be a fantasy. But what a fantasy it is…

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    The Crowd Says (61)

    • Roar Guru

      March 17th 2012 @ 8:30am
      The Cattery said | March 17th 2012 @ 8:30am | ! Report

      You would also have to add the rule that a spoil on an opposiiton player attempting a mark could not be deemed a knock on.

    • March 17th 2012 @ 8:35am
      Ian Whitchurch said | March 17th 2012 @ 8:35am | ! Report

      Every time I saw Paul Kelly take the ball up on the SCG, sidestep a defender to break the defensive line and run into space with support outside him, I saw the hybrid game.

      Every time I see the big men fly, trying to out-mark the spoiling defenders and take the ball, I see the hybrid game.

      Every time I see an AFL player wrap the ball carrier up properly, and stop fast hands creating an offload to support, I see the hybrid game.

    • March 17th 2012 @ 8:41am
      Cman said | March 17th 2012 @ 8:41am | ! Report

      Here is a great idea? Why don’t we have a hybrid game between ALF and Golf we can play on golf courses all over the world and sell the TV rights for millions!

      • March 17th 2012 @ 8:57am
        Titus said | March 17th 2012 @ 8:57am | ! Report

        That is a brilliant idea!

        You could build massive stands alongside the fairways and around the green, paid for by the AFL of course, and the forwards could stand on the green, midfielders on the fairways, a mark on the green is a goal/hole.

        • March 17th 2012 @ 11:07am
          TJ said | March 17th 2012 @ 11:07am | ! Report

          That’s awesome! What role would the caddies play? And would the crowd have to stay quiet?

    • March 17th 2012 @ 8:45am
      brendan said | March 17th 2012 @ 8:45am | ! Report

      They did play a game at the Sydney Showgrounds in the thirties called universal football which was amixture of both codes.Apparently it was played on an oval field ,you had to handball backwards and a kick under the crossbar was worth one point and over the crossbar two points.It lasted one game and wasn’t well received.It is a real pity that the two biggest cities in the country arent unified in terms of winter sport as the rivalry would leave cricket in the shade.I know Afl and Nrl have teams in both cities but there aren’t enough Melbourne born Nrl players or Sydney born Afl players to compare.

      • March 17th 2012 @ 4:12pm
        p.Tah said | March 17th 2012 @ 4:12pm | ! Report

        We use to make up games like that in the playground at primary school

    • March 17th 2012 @ 9:11am
      chris said | March 17th 2012 @ 9:11am | ! Report

      If a united code i.e. AFL and NRL had happened then we wouldn’t see the child like pointless media war between the 2 codes.
      I sort of seen the hybrid code in the NRL with Billy Slaters competing for the ball with aerial marks and seeing Nathan Merritt drop goal at the SCG a couple of years ago.

    • March 17th 2012 @ 9:43am
      Maximus said | March 17th 2012 @ 9:43am | ! Report

      Bizarre and you said the International Rules series rules were bizarre. Its Rugby league with about 5 AFL players added in for specialist spots. As Gallop said about the hybrid rugby game devised by rugby people, why would Coke give Pepsi a free kick but in some peoples eyes Gallop is the Pepsi here…

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