I don’t even know why they still have tackle counts when nobody tackles anymore. A ‘grapple count’ would be much more suitable, given the fact wrestling appears to be not only the games present, but the game’s future.
Rather than bemoan Chris Sandow’s missed tackle count, Phil Gould and co. can much more accurately discuss his effective wrestle rate, total grapple time per wrestle and average catch count.
My recent article on Craig Bellamy mentioned his introduction of the wrestle and the way the rest of the competition has followed suit.
Just about every fan and commentator of the game recognises it as one of the most negative aspects of the competition, yet few offer suggestions on how to stop it.
And you know why? Because we can’t stop it. It’s just too effective. When a system works so well, no team is ever going to stop using it just for the sake of entertainment.
Rugby league clubs are in the winning business (well, all of them except Parramatta) not just the entertainment business and losing games but gaining kudos is not a viable business model.
However, I feel all hope is not lost. We can’t stop clubs from utilising grapple tactics to slow the play the ball, but we can discourage it.
The games rules need to change to promote one-on-one tackles to combat the wrestle, especially low ones.
When I was learning the game one was taught the best place to tackle was down low. Now, classic rugby league tackles such as these are punished with a quick play the ball.
They should be rewarded instead. Every time a player cuts down an opposition player one-on-one below the waist, the defence should be allowed to be ‘set’, to the referees discretion.
So if a player cuts down his opposition one-on-one with a great low tackle, he is allowed the time to get to his position at marker and all his team mates be ready for the next tackle before his opponent can play the ball, assuming they are in a position to be onside within a reasonable amount of time (I’d say 3-4 seconds depending on situation could be a reasonable time).
Instead of the defence being on the backfoot after a low tackle, they are ready for the next play.
This isn’t the same as a dominant tackle call, although it could work as an extension of it, which doesn’t even seem to get used anyway.
It isn’t just about winning the tackle immediately on impact as the dominant tackle rule is defined; it’s about rewarding any defender who is willing to make a solo tackle, be it bringing a player down from around the ankles or driving in with the shoulder at waist-height.
This ‘set’ call won’t stop the wrestle, but it encourages players to back themselves to make a one-on-one low tackle, as they know it will be just as good if not better than a well-executed four-man grapple.
Due to this, it also encourages more attacking play from the team with the ball in hand – more one-on-one situations create more opportunities to break tackles and more opportunities to offload the ball.
So that’s one of my ideas to start to try and weaken the dominance of the wrestle, what’s yours? Share it in the comments below if you think you’ve got some solutions that can top mine.