Mat Rogers is wrong when it comes to league’s weight division discussion

David Lord Columnist

By David Lord, David Lord is a Roar Expert


57 Have your say

    Dual international Mat Rogers bobbed up on The Project last night to disagree with Russell Crowe’s suggestion junior rugby league should be weight divisions, not age.

    It isn’t a new idea from Oscar-winning Crowe, a rugby league tragic who is part owner of the Rabbitohs.

    I remember rugby league had weight competitions in the 1950s for kids, and it was a damn good idea.

    I can’t remember when the concept was abandoned, but there have been numerous examples in recent times when huge kids have steamrolled opponents to score multiple tries.

    Two years ago Meaalofa “Rayson” Te’o made headlines playing for a Victorian rugby league team in an under nine tournament in Canberra. Meaalofa was at least four times bigger than any opponent and his multiple tries won his team the tournament.

    It was a stroke of luck none of his opponents ended up in hospital with serious injuries.

    Kids deserve to enjoy their rugby league, not survive a war of attrition to kill their interest for all time.

    So Russell Crowe is spot on reviving the concept, with Mat Rogers dead set wrong disagreeing.

    But it’s not the first time Rogers was wrong.

    He made the dumbest call possible in the 2003 Rugby World Cup final in Sydney.

    As Wallaby fullback, he had two options with just under two minutes to go in extra time with the score against England locked at 17-all.

    He had a big boot so had he reefed the ball downfield, England wouldn’t have had enough time to get back into a scoring position, sending the decider into double extra time.

    The alternative was the dumb option, kick the ball into touch from inside his own quarter which set up the inevitable.

    And that’s exactly what Rogers did, handing England the lineout feed for play to move midfield, and Jonny Wilkinson to land the Rugby World Cup with a drop goal off his wrong foot, with 26 seconds left on the clock at the 100-minute mark.

    For someone of Rogers’ vast experience as a Kangaroo and a Wallaby, it was unforgiveable.

    Fast forward to last night’s discussion where he never had to battle size early in his career.

    He was big enough to be able to compete as a kid, so he sees nothing wrong with the status quo despite size can be crippling.

    But I’ll give Mat Rogers a tick for one comment he made last night.

    “I played a lot of rugby league for and against Preston Campbell, and Allan Langer,” Rogers said.

    “If weight was the go, both would have spent their entire careers playing against 12-year-olds”.

    David Lord
    David Lord

    David Lord was deeply involved in two of the biggest sporting stories - World Series Cricket in 1977 and professional rugby in 1983. After managing Jeff Thomson and Viv Richards during WSC, in 1983 David signed 208 of the best rugby players from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France to play an international pro circuit. The concept didn't get off the ground, but it did force the IRB to get cracking and bring in the World Rugby Cup, now one of the world's great sporting spectacles

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    The Crowd Says (57)

    • Roar Guru

      February 12th 2018 @ 9:07am
      The Barry said | February 12th 2018 @ 9:07am | ! Report

      Poor article. An irrelevant cheap shot at a dual international because he has a different point of view is grubby in the extreme.

      “Meaalofa was at least four times bigger than any opponent”

      Really? Lazy.

      What I’m against with the weight divisions is what happens to this kid when he’s playing against kids 3-4 years older, stronger, more developed, more coordinated but the same weight? He’ll be destroyed and won’t last in the game.

      The flip side is also true. Preston Campbell and Alan Langer wouldn’t have become the players they did if they were playing against kids 3-4 years younger than them every week.

      What happens when they turn 15 or 16 and all of a sudden need to play in their age groups again. They’ve never had to tackle anyone bigger than themselves and are suddenly playing against blokes 30kg heavier?

      How long will they last?

      I played a lot of junior footy with Craig Field. He was tiny but he was year in year out the best player in the comp and size never worried him.

      • Roar Guru

        February 12th 2018 @ 2:19pm
        Matt H said | February 12th 2018 @ 2:19pm | ! Report

        Good comment.

      • February 12th 2018 @ 2:47pm
        Bazza said | February 12th 2018 @ 2:47pm | ! Report

        Fieldsy played his junior footy between 1980 and 1988. Not too many 80 – 90 kg Samoans and Tongans around in those days, He was tackling blokes like you and me,

        • Roar Guru

          February 12th 2018 @ 7:52pm
          The Barry said | February 12th 2018 @ 7:52pm | ! Report

          Yeah, fair point but he was still much, much smaller than everyone else and thrived. If he’d have been playing against kids 2-3 years younger, there’s no way he would have been the same player.

          Same as Langer and Campbell. There’s no way they would have developed their skills to step and stop and turn and duck to evade bigger men if they were playing against younger kids they could run over the top of their whole lives.

      • Roar Guru

        February 12th 2018 @ 4:02pm
        Nat said | February 12th 2018 @ 4:02pm | ! Report

        An Oscar gives Crowe RL credibility and a dual international is derided for making a decision David Lord never had the ability too. Age groups fit the majority while weight groups make no concessions for mental/physical maturity.

      • Columnist

        February 12th 2018 @ 4:14pm
        David Lord said | February 12th 2018 @ 4:14pm | ! Report

        Short memory TB, Mat Rogers butchered the chance for the Wallabies going into second extra time by making the worst decision possible. Finding touch instead of reefing the ball down town gifted Jonny Wilkinson the drop goal that pinched the RWC.

        Cheap shot, like hell it was, Rogers should have known better, and with Elton Flatley matching Wilkinson penalty for penalty, the Wallabies were wearing England out, despite the fact the men-in-white were by far the best nation right through 2003.

        I vividly recall yelling at the television and Rogers to kick it deep, then no, no, no, as he shaped to kick for touch.

        I still contend the Wallabes were the better team that significant day, and there’s no cheap shot in calling it for what it was.

        • Roar Guru

          February 12th 2018 @ 4:40pm
          Nat said | February 12th 2018 @ 4:40pm | ! Report

          Completely On Point reply. Any thoughts on the actually topic David?

        • Roar Guru

          February 12th 2018 @ 7:43pm
          The Barry said | February 12th 2018 @ 7:43pm | ! Report

          Are you serious?

          It’s a cheap shot because it’s got nothing to do with Rogers’ opinion on weight v age divisions.

          It’s irrelevant because it’s got nothing to do with the subject.

        • February 13th 2018 @ 12:14am
          soapit said | February 13th 2018 @ 12:14am | ! Report

          a cheap shot because it lays a wc defeat on one players decision in a team of 15 played over 100 minutes and aims to make it relevant to the mans opinions 15 years later, seemingly in an effort to strengthen your own opinion and in lieu of being able to manage a full article based arounf logical argument.

          massive lack of class.

        • February 13th 2018 @ 12:36am
          Bakkies said | February 13th 2018 @ 12:36am | ! Report

          ‘The alternative was the dumb option, kick the ball into touch from inside his own quarter which set up the inevitable.’

          He shanked the kick off the side of his boot.

          • February 13th 2018 @ 8:20am
            soapit said | February 13th 2018 @ 8:20am | ! Report

            yep and the team should have set up for a right footer there for that one but according to the expert author the loss is all down to rogers

        • Roar Rookie

          February 13th 2018 @ 3:16am
          3_Hats SSTID 2014 said | February 13th 2018 @ 3:16am | ! Report

          WTF does Matt Rodgers playing for the Wallabies have to do with the Rugby League Issue of Weight for Age for kids?

        • February 13th 2018 @ 12:42pm
          tonyv said | February 13th 2018 @ 12:42pm | ! Report

          The two things are totally unrelated. Because he made a bad decision in the heat of the moment trying to win a big game IN A DIFFERENT SPORT then somehow he is disqualified from having an opinion about Rugby League! How are the two things related?? I would argue that throwing a phone at a hotel concierge in a fit of “don’t you know who I am” was probably a poor decision.

        • Roar Rookie

          February 13th 2018 @ 7:38pm
          William Dalton Davis said | February 13th 2018 @ 7:38pm | ! Report

          I once decided to hold off on doing my laundry for another day and then unfortunately had no clean underwear. I guess that disqualifies me from commenting on how a dishwasher uses less water than washing dishes in the sink.

          This is more or less the logic you’ve used here.

      • February 13th 2018 @ 12:38am
        Bakkies said | February 13th 2018 @ 12:38am | ! Report

        Barry the NZRU has weight divisions however you can’t play with kids that are more than two years older than the relevant child’s age.

        • Roar Guru

          February 13th 2018 @ 8:06am
          The Barry said | February 13th 2018 @ 8:06am | ! Report


          I guess I can see that working. I still think there’s a mismatch in terms of strength, coordination etc…but maybe that helps bring the younger, bigger kids on.

    • February 12th 2018 @ 9:40am
      Chris Morrison said | February 12th 2018 @ 9:40am | ! Report

      I agree with the sentiment of the article but agree with Barry that the cheap shot on Rogers about his decisions in a World Cup final were not called for. Didn’t do anything to strengthen the point of your article at all.

      Back to the point, I definitely agree that league should go back to weight divisions for children. At young ages the sport should be focussed on participating and having fun. Definitely not fun for small kids who risk having their bones crushed when trying to attempt a tackle on a kid over 100kg when they themselves weigh 35kg or worse coming over the top in tackle and squishing the smaller opponent. This is not an exaggeration. A kid in my brothers team was 105kg in under 9s. Every tackle he made a kid was going off on a stretcher with broken ribs, collar bones etc. not to mention he use to carry the whole opposing team on his back the length of the field to score.

      Age groups under 6, 7/8, 9/10, 11/12, 13/14 played in weight divisions. Once you hit 14 it’s open division only. A rule like this could allow rugby league back into our schools! Which is what is drastically needed if the game is to survive.

      This rule is not just for the benefit of smaller kids either…. these huge kids for their ages are often lost to the game once they start to even out in size when they hit junior reps/older age groups. They can’t just steamroll everyone anymore and they have almost zero footballing skills as they have never needed to develop them due to their sheer size in their youth.

      From mine it’s a no brainer. Works for everyone.

      Also, Matt Rogers comments about Allan Langer and Preston Campbell are irrelevant. I don’t think anyone wants to see weight divisions in seniors. NRL under 90kg and over 90kg lmao ? cmon brother!

      • February 12th 2018 @ 11:21am
        theHunter said | February 12th 2018 @ 11:21am | ! Report

        So Chris, which weight group will this under 9 player fit in then? He is 9 years old but weighs as much as a second rower in the NRL and/or Intrust Cup. With weight groups, it will definitely benefit the lightweight kids but hugely disadvantage the heavier group of kids.

        The heavier group of little kids will be forced to play against teenagers who aren’t just physically stronger but mentally developed/stronger as well. They’ll be bullied and that is terrifying because physical contact will ensue.

        Just Imagine a 9 year old being mentally harassed and is now running at a teenager with better reaction time, well developed muscles and stronger bones, and getting mauled. The kid may will be left mentally broken and may not want to play the sport anymore.

        The age group is better in my opinion because we are trying to build mentally stronger players above all things. While physicality is one thing, mental strength has been one of the, if not the, main factor why smaller, lighter NRL players are exciting and some have been noted as great players too.

        Because if they didn’t have the chance to play against bigger players and finding ways to outsmart them, they wouldn’t have developed those skills at all.

        Besides just look at the implications with weight classes. The lighter group will have slim chances of progressing up the levels of professional rugby because if there genes aren’t supposed to have them grow to no more than 80kgs a different player who had better genes on this part will be ahead of him regardless of who is a smarter player.

        All will see in NRL are just 100+ kg players running at each other all day trying to out muscle each other with not much variety in skill or footwork.

        • February 12th 2018 @ 11:35am
          Chris Morrison said | February 12th 2018 @ 11:35am | ! Report

          Hi Hunter,

          As I stated in my post, this particular kid would have been in the under 9/10 age group playing in the upper weights division.

          • February 12th 2018 @ 11:39am
            Chris Morrison said | February 12th 2018 @ 11:39am | ! Report

            Furthermore, there would be no terror running at older teenagers as they would simply be playing kids around their age
            ( within 1 year) just this time they would be similar size to themselves so that they may also learn the skills that smaller kids learn as they will need a greater skill set to get the upper hand not just rely on their physical ability to bulldoze a kid half or a third or their own weight.

            I repeat, age groups and weight groups. Not one or the other.

            • February 12th 2018 @ 3:13pm
              theHunter said | February 12th 2018 @ 3:13pm | ! Report

              That will not work at all. There is no team with more than 5 players in their team that are overweight. How would you be able to get more than two full teams of under 9s who weigh above 40kgs? You state that this kid is 105 kgs, good luck finding more than 26 players who will play in his weight class…under 10s

              The only way weight class works is to have no bounds with age so that the right number of players can be guaranteed otherwise the big kids will be greatly affected because on average a healthy 9 year old is supposed to weigh less than 40kgs. So while the majority are thereabouts, your system, doesn’t have a solution for this ‘big’ kids to pursue their rugby league aspirations.

              They’ll either try to go on unhealthy diets to trim down and/or just maintain the weight and wait until they hit the right age or just do the easy one, QUIT THE GAME.

              The solution is maintain the age groups but have all divisions under 12 play touch footy until they are teens and by the time they hit their teens they’ll be well prepared to play the full contact version of it.

              • February 13th 2018 @ 1:14pm
                Boz said | February 13th 2018 @ 1:14pm | ! Report

                Have a weight limit for each age group. If the child is above that weight, they can only be moved ahead 2 age groups maximum – as Bakkies said happens with the NZRU. This would still give some variation in size, but would be a much better balance than dividing kids by age alone.

              • February 13th 2018 @ 3:25pm
                theHunter said | February 13th 2018 @ 3:25pm | ! Report

                There is no need for weight group Boz. If he is under 9 years old and performs well with the weight he has than advise him to move up to higher age group. Some kids maybe huge but aren’t strong or mentally weak to just be thrown up just like that.

          • February 13th 2018 @ 12:48pm
            tonyv said | February 13th 2018 @ 12:48pm | ! Report

            We are making the assumption that bigger means better. What about the less athletic kids who are carrying a bit of extra weight that may not be beneficial. As someone currently involved in teenage league I can tell you that the majority of tries are scored by speed and footwork rather than size. It’s a beat up by lazy journalists and Hollywood actors who are given way too much cred in the game.

      • February 12th 2018 @ 12:31pm
        spruce moose said | February 12th 2018 @ 12:31pm | ! Report

        I see where you are going Chris, but junior rugby league doesn’t have the numbers to sustain weight divisions within age brackets.

        I prefer age brackets, but perhaps with limitations on what people can do:

        I’d scrap the open arm fend, and would have the advantage line right at the play the ball to eliminate a kid getting a 5/10m boost.

        Finally, I’d forbid movement from attacking players until the dummy half touches the ball – again, to limit a 100kg 9 year old from getting a head of steam.

        • Roar Guru

          February 12th 2018 @ 12:50pm
          Cadfael said | February 12th 2018 @ 12:50pm | ! Report

          I would like to see weight divisions for mini and mod league and age divisions for international rules. This looks after the smaller ones starting out.

    • February 12th 2018 @ 10:00am
      Beastie said | February 12th 2018 @ 10:00am | ! Report

      I believe having weight divisions is a great idea, but also having the option to move between weight divisions should be an option for the smaller kids that prefer a challenge, or the larger kids that just aren’t as physically developed as older kids their weight. It could be a bit messy to set up at first, but there are benefits for all players.

      The bigger kids play against kids closer to their own size which could lead to them not just thinking it is as easy as brushing off a kid half your size, and the more skillful, smaller kids can opt to play up a weight division if they want the extra challenge that comes with having to aim up physically.

      It would be a massive undertaking to get set up and put the logistics in place, but could really get kids loving the sport again and also keep the more talented kids challenged. We have to remember that League is played for fun when you are young, and getting destroyed by a kid twice your size is not very fun for a lot of kids, let alone their parents.

      • February 12th 2018 @ 11:11am
        Paul said | February 12th 2018 @ 11:11am | ! Report

        Your idea makes a lot of sense,Beastie. The two things kids need to gain at a young age are skills to play the game and develop a love for Rugby League. It should not matter how this is achieved, as long as we can maximise the umber of children playing and enjoying the game, both male and female.

      • February 12th 2018 @ 12:33pm
        spruce moose said | February 12th 2018 @ 12:33pm | ! Report

        The problem is then the fat 9yr old has to play with 14 yr olds, with the mental and emotional maturity of a small child against teenagers ready to bully and tease.

      • Roar Guru

        February 12th 2018 @ 12:55pm
        Cadfael said | February 12th 2018 @ 12:55pm | ! Report

        That is what I had in primary school. You could play up a division but not down. (Though it was rugby union.) I think junior union allows for players to drop down an age group if they are small.

        • February 13th 2018 @ 3:49pm
          Bakkies said | February 13th 2018 @ 3:49pm | ! Report

          ‘I think junior union allows for players to drop down an age group if they are small.’

          Nope you can play up (usually up one age group), not drop down.

          • Roar Guru

            February 13th 2018 @ 8:46pm
            Cadfael said | February 13th 2018 @ 8:46pm | ! Report

            Players could drop down in Illawarra JRU but that was a few years back

    • February 12th 2018 @ 10:59am
      Bazza said | February 12th 2018 @ 10:59am | ! Report

      The problem over the last 15 t0 20 years has been the huge increase in Pacific Islanders playing the game, particularly Samoans who are naturally bigger and stronger than your average kid of anglo saxon heritage.
      I didn’t see the show but when Mat was 12, around 1988 Polynesian % in junior league was around 5% and it is now
      50 -60 %. No one is suggesting 12 year olds play against 15 year olds.
      NZ rugby league in Auckland have a weight/age comp and rugby union has a program where you play up or down one age depending on your weight. Seems to work ok for the All Blacks, they go pretty good. The All Black team is about 60% Polynesian and 40% Anglosaxon and funny thing our wallabies are close to 50/50

    • Roar Pro

      February 12th 2018 @ 11:25am
      Chris Charlton said | February 12th 2018 @ 11:25am | ! Report

      When I was a young Auskicker, my coaches removed me from the Auskick-abouts and brought me over to the big boy field to play one morning with a leather ball and tackle footy instead of the Auskick ball and 3-second hold. While the initial introduction to big boy footy didn’t go so well, (I soccered and withdrew from full contact) I learned the game and my skills grew.
      The point of the story is, skill and game influence should be the determining factor. Like in the NRL, if players stand out through size or skill in the juniors, raise them up a level or two until they are among their equals.

    • February 12th 2018 @ 11:30am
      Bazza said | February 12th 2018 @ 11:30am | ! Report

      I don’t know when you played RL Hunter but if it was in the 1970’s – 80’s like myself there was maybe one kid of Polynesian heritage.. It is a scientific fact they mature earlier, are heavier, higher grip strength and bone density.
      Have a look at Mat’s team photos when he was 14 to 16 years old and the Harold Mathews teams last year and this year. No one wants kids playing up 3 or 4 ages nor do we want less Islanders, NZ Rugby and RL can do it so are we that dumb not to try something similar in 3 or 4 age groups, say 12 to 15 years ?

      • Roar Guru

        February 12th 2018 @ 3:36pm
        Nat said | February 12th 2018 @ 3:36pm | ! Report

        Bazza I grew up playing in NQ in the 80s, 90s onward and there were quite a lot of big Islander boys playing. Intimidating for sure for a bunch of skinny country kids but we learned 2 things: Legs tackle and they had to catch you to tackle you. Most teams had 1 maybe 2 boppers but the rest are within reasonable range of each other. So why change something that fits 99% of participants? If the bopper is that good (not just big) he will go up an age group. The Alfie Langer’s of this world have been playing the Paul Sironnen’s all their life and have a guess who is more afraid of whom?

        • February 12th 2018 @ 4:15pm
          Bazza said | February 12th 2018 @ 4:15pm | ! Report

          I’ll tell you why ! I won’t mention the name of the club in Sydney but one club who did not have an under 14’s in 2016 suddenly had an under 15’s last year 2017. Of the 22 man squad 14 had come from another district club and 19 were of Polynesian heritage and at least 7 of them were between 80 and 90kg.

          • Roar Guru

            February 12th 2018 @ 4:34pm
            Nat said | February 12th 2018 @ 4:34pm | ! Report

            OK, fair enough but that is one example, is that worth changing the entire national system? Would you have those 15yo boys playing against 90kg men? If somehow they ‘stacked’ that team with Poli boys from all over then have the local administrators break the team up.

            • February 12th 2018 @ 4:56pm
              Bazza said | February 12th 2018 @ 4:56pm | ! Report

              No, I’d have some of those 90kg 15 year old boys play up against 16 year old boys.
              Remember some of these kids could also be born in Jan and playing against lots of boys born in Nov / Dec. There can be nearly a one year difference already.
              The girls comps play a combined 2 years 13/14’s – 15/16’s – 17/18’s but I guess they are a lot tougher than us boys.

              • Roar Guru

                February 12th 2018 @ 5:33pm
                Nat said | February 12th 2018 @ 5:33pm | ! Report

                That’s interesting, I grew up playing u8, 10s, 12s,14s, 16s then into seniors 17s, reserve then A grade so I guess I’m coming from a position of always playing against bigger boys. Obviously we had far less a pool of kids which necessitated the 2yr age brackets.

                Don’t take that as a ‘back in my day’ statement but I do believe by 15yo they should have the ability to bring down a physically larger boy by the legs. Of course that relies on the coach teaching the basics of league and not trying to emulate the NRL.

      • February 13th 2018 @ 10:42am
        theHunter said | February 13th 2018 @ 10:42am | ! Report

        Bazza, I’m a Melanesian so I know how it is with poly guys. My point above, however, was that if they mature they move up an age group NOT a weight group. If he is overweight and plays well in under 10s he can than be moved up to under 12s (afterall under 10s is under 12s too). And if he is phenomenal than he can move up further.

        This can be done better in age groups only. Weight class will disadvantage a young overweight kid who is not mentally fit to challenge older children in a same weight group/class.

        And also not all big body boys are good players, some can’t even play and are scared, believe me I’ve met some huge pacific islanders who are scared to even run a strong hit-up. So while they may be big, the mental state has to be determined first and that can only be seen when he plays his age group first.

        Another point also is that with Rugby League, and even Rugby Union, each position in a team are subconsciously related to the size of a body. We know upon first impression of putting a team together that the forwards are always and have to be bigger than the faster but smaller backs. So in stating that, RL or RU, are team sports that requires a variety of different physique players. So encouraging a young player to only challenge there same size, in my opinion, isn’t learning the sport at all.