The other day I was watching rugby union. No, not Aussie Super Rugby because I’d rather get a live feed of an abattoir beamed directly into my bedroom, but good rugby.
I watched the Six Nations, and I was pleasantly surprised with pretty much everything I saw.
They kicked. They scrummed. They ran. They belted out a cover of Swing Low Sweet Chariot which was nothing like the original but wasn’t half bad. They even let Eddie Jones drive his car home.
At the end, a team won, a team lost, and the game was thoroughly enjoyed.
Before I go any further, if you’re looking for a code war you better go back from whence you came. The mods don’t need you and man they expect the same.
This isn’t a knock on union – although it clearly can be perceived as a knock on the Brumbies and whoever those Rose Bay accountants in blue who play alongside Israel Folau each week are called (the wacky result against the as yet unemulsified Rebels notwithstanding).
I love a good game of union. The continuous play. The diving tries. The Force Em Back. I wish the NRL would find a way to get a few lineouts into our game. Love it.
But when it comes to scrums in rugby league, you can stay right where you are thank you very much.
If you are hankering for a time of scrums, of pushing and tearing up some perfectly good soccer fields, then there’s already a game for you and if you live in Australia they probably wouldn’t mind if you dropped by to a game or two. But for me, I don’t want a bar of it.
And it’s not because my cauliflower-free ears haven’t heard enough ‘Bring Back The Scrum’ reasoning either.
The modern rugby league scrum is a glorified hug. We get it. I’ve hugged grandmothers for longer and with more vigour.
But what do we get when we don’t get down with scrums? We get backs on backs. We get scrum plays. We get the most exciting players on the field taking on the most exciting players on the field, while the other blokes play knifey-spooney over in the corner somewhere.
The war of attrition which is the rugby union scrum is, and I mean this in the nicest possible way, rugby union. Look up rugby union in the Oxford Dictionary – or ‘rugby’ in the American Edition – and there’s a picture of a few blokes pushing against another few blokes as grass flies through the air.
That thing where the ball is thrown in and they catch it near the line and then some blokes push against other blokes and no-one knows what’s going on until they blow a whistle and there’s a try or there isn’t? Love it. But I don’t want it in rugby league, the same way I don’t want State of Origin decided by penalty shootout.
Let’s keep scrums the way they are and rugby league the way it is. A throbbing fairytale of corner kicks, flick passes and questionable off-field decisions.
Maybe we can tell blokes to push a bit more and even have a few won against the feed every now and again to keep the ghost of Rex Mossop happy.
But whenever ‘your day’ was, not everything was better back in it. And in a rugby league context, scrums might just be the finest example.