Are you ready for some (lightweight) footy?

Chris Chard Columnist

By Chris Chard, Chris Chard is a Roar Expert


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    This time of year, with the stirrings of an impending NRL season murmuring gently in the background, blokes everywhere are considering a comeback. The busted, the balding, the slow and the weary.

    No matter what their affliction, they all press their nose to the windows of the train after work as it snakes its way slowly past the suburban footy fields.

    I am of course, no different. Stopping by for a closer look one afternoon it was quite clear though that I was out of my depth.

    Looking at the size of the blokes running around, even at a club level, I realised that it would take many more hours in the gym and a lot more protein shakes to move among these mountains.

    This thought was made more depressing with the realisation I was watching the Under 16s.

    Which got me thinking. Much has been made of recent weight for age trials in some junior rugby league competitions. This process has been controversial, but at least demonstrates that officials have been willing to show flexibility to boost participation and enjoyment.

    But, umm…what about the rest of us?

    Yes call me a wuss, a sook, a nance etc but geez I reckon there would be a lot of pencil neck blokes out there who would welcome some weight divide in open age footy.

    Sure there’s been a tonne of small footy players over the years that have wowed crowds with their tenacity and bravery, some even appear in this week’s NRL All Stars game.

    Not all of us are Rudy Ruttiger in the heart department though, and some of us had to be helped off the Movieworld Gremlins ride in tears (OK, that was just me).

    I’m not interested in missing months of work with busted ribs after being trampled by a bloke 40kg heavier than me; I just want to play a game of footy.

    Actual rugby league, not some bastardised version where you can’t kick the ball or have to wear ugly shorts with material stuck to them.

    Unfortunately an emphasis on collision, a player’s mass and Newton’s second law all have a huge bearing on the playability of rugby league. This is why very little Masters rugby league exists compared to other football codes, and social rugby league is at best a tenuous prospect and at worst an oxymoron.

    Interestingly enough though another high collision sport, American football, does adopt such weight strategies. Sort of.

    In between inventing such atrocities as Mountain Dew and Slamball the Americans have created Sprint football, nee Lightweight football, which is played in American Colleges.

    Back in the 30s officials were worried that playing College ‘ball was becoming out of reach for the average Joe, so they started 150lb football. To be eligible players had to weigh below 150lbs, the weight of an average man in 1936.

    These days the sport is still played at a few universities, including the famous Army and Navy academies, with players needing to weigh below 172lbs (78kg) and maintain a body fat of at least 5 percent. You rock up after a double Hungry Jack’s brekky over the limit? No play fatso.

    Granted, the Americans have taken this concept to the extreme, but a simple under 80kgs division in local rugby league comps would do wonders for player numbers.

    Would there be blokes under 80kg who would still want to play open weight? Yes.

    Would lightweight league share equal billing with open weight? Of course not, it would be most likely be played on the unmarked back oval and officiated by a pimply 15-year-old.

    Would it be a hassle for clubs to organise? Probably.

    However, in the spirit of inclusion and strengthening community ties, wouldn’t it be worth a shot?

    Instead of having to prematurely retire to a life of touch, tag or (gulp) refereeing your average desk bound bloke could play a game of footy without having to monster 12 eggs a day for lunch and double his health insurance.

    By all means administrators should keep focussing on getting more kids and women involved first, I get that, but isn’t it time the big game showing a bit of love for the little guy?

    Chris Chard
    Chris Chard

    Chris Chard is a sports humour writer commenting on the often absurd nature of professional sport. A rugby league fan boy with a good blend of youth and experience taking things one week at a time, Chris has written for The Roar since 2011. Tweet him @Vic_Arious

    If you could choose from any and every NRL player in the competition, who would you pick in your rugby league dream team? Let us know with our team picker right here, and be sure to share it with all your league-loving mates.

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    The Crowd Says (13)

    • February 1st 2012 @ 8:43am
      Ken said | February 1st 2012 @ 8:43am | ! Report

      I’ve thought about similar ideas myself, I look wistfully each year at the banners at the local parks saying that registrations are open. I’m in my early 30’s and still reasonably fit but I haven’t played proper footy since my mid-teens – I would likely get hammered. I’ve played touch on and off through the last few years but, at this stage of my life (kids, career etc), I’m not interested in spending every other week limping or nursing broken bones so I stay away from the real stuff.

      I’d have to lose a few kilo’s to join your under 80kg league but I reckon that would be good motivation. I reckon you’re right, there must be a heap of other people out there that love their footy but just can’t fathom being smashed by the local 120kg monster. Naturally injuries would still occur, hey I occasionally manage to injure myself out running alone, but at least they wouldn’t be certainties.

      • Columnist

        February 1st 2012 @ 1:56pm
        Chris Chard said | February 1st 2012 @ 1:56pm | ! Report

        Hi Ken,

        Maybe you can hang out a few more years to play Masters, by that time the ‘120kg monsters’ will have blown out to the size of a small bus and be easier to avoid ha ha!

        And don’t feel to bad about the injuries, you’re talking to a bloke who did his ACL/MCL combo building a vegetable garden

        Thanks for reading



    • February 1st 2012 @ 9:50am
      Rex Ryan said | February 1st 2012 @ 9:50am | ! Report

      Dammit, lightwieght league would mean no more goddamn snacks!

    • February 1st 2012 @ 10:09am
      Kiwidave said | February 1st 2012 @ 10:09am | ! Report

      Over here Auckland rugby union has an under 85kg competition which works fairly well, some of the clubs have fielded three U-85 teams.

      Possibly there is also room for a set of social rules that takes a bit of the collision out so we can turn up to work on Monday but keeps some of the physicality that we all love (otherwise we’d just play touch).

    • February 1st 2012 @ 10:57am
      Mals said | February 1st 2012 @ 10:57am | ! Report

      NSW Subbies Rugby have had an under 85kg comp that runs mid-week for quite a few years..

      Would be fairly easy to set up a similar arrangement in rugby league.

      • Columnist

        February 1st 2012 @ 2:01pm
        Chris Chard said | February 1st 2012 @ 2:01pm | ! Report

        Interesting points Kiwidave and Mal, i’d never heard of that sort of thing going on in Aus or NZ before.

        It makes a lot of sense I think as if you’re keeping people playing your rugby (league or union) then they won’t go and play tag or touch.
        This in turn would mean more money going to the games governing bodies through registrations, greater player numbers for Govt support, more likelihood of coming into contact with potential sponsors etc.

        Also an under 85kg might be a good stepping stone for the kid who’s finished U18’s but isn’t physically ready to step up to reserve grade or equivalent.

        Cheers for your input


    • February 1st 2012 @ 11:37am
      Jaceman said | February 1st 2012 @ 11:37am | ! Report

      In LA they ran an adult under 6ft basketball league which ended up becoming the white mans nerd league. The same may happen here…

      • Columnist

        February 1st 2012 @ 1:45pm
        Chris Chard said | February 1st 2012 @ 1:45pm | ! Report

        White Mans Nerd League? Do they need a poster boy?

        • February 1st 2012 @ 1:49pm
          Jaceman said | February 1st 2012 @ 1:49pm | ! Report

          Sorry I took it…

          • Columnist

            February 1st 2012 @ 2:03pm
            Chris Chard said | February 1st 2012 @ 2:03pm | ! Report

            How about a game of NBA Jam, winner takes all?

    • February 1st 2012 @ 12:10pm
      Paul said | February 1st 2012 @ 12:10pm | ! Report

      Its the way forward for our game. With the size and power of the Pacific Islander kids we run the risk of steering our juniors to other sports becuase we dont develop as physically fast. Also i think its very hard to develop the playmakers if their constantly being run over the top of by a 100kg 15yr old.

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