The teams pack down for a scrum. We already know who is getting the ball. Out wide is Latrell Mitchell in a one-on-one with his opposite.
His support players are holding the attention of other defenders. With an early ball and room to move, the crowd’s expectations and excitement is pulsating.
The feed, the pass, he’s got the ball. The crowd rises as one in that instant, but then deflation slaps us in the face. He is tackled by a player who was loosely packed into the scrum as the open side prop.
A simple time and motion study might suggest that it would be impossible for that player to reach Mitchell, and that would be correct if his release was controlled.
This isn’t an article about scrums per se. I have already addressed that question. Rather, this is about what adjustments to our game would better showcase the brilliant skills of our players.
I ask myself this question: what excites me about our game? At the moment it’s the amazing athleticism of wingers scoring tries. A great catch under pressure. A classic one out tackle. Goal kicking with the game on the line.
Don’t get me wrong, rugby league has a lot going for it, but there could be so much more. My example is but one thing the game lacks, but it could yet be created.
Now Mitchell has made the break – 20 metres, 30 metres, 50 metres. Here comes the defence. He fends off the first, but James Tedesco is in full flight. He reaches Mitchell and pulls him down inches from the line.
So what have we got? Evasive skill. Speed. Sheer determination. The crowd is on their feet, both sets of supporters are roaring with excitement.
That is but one example. No doubt you will have one of your own – perhaps a memory of a passage of play long forgotten or, worse, lost seemingly forever.
I will concede that this does happen, but only rarely. We have some truly gifted players whose skills are limited by the restraints that the game imposes on them.
So what’s holding this back? Perhaps the narrow-minded thinking of our the game’s policy-makers, who are unable to think outside the square. Or is it simply that they just go with the flow and, like our politicians, don’t rock the boat too much for risk of being thrown overboard?
Let us also consider that sport is a business and the sponsorship dollar limited. It goes to the vehicle that offers the best return. Rugby league may be that vehicle at the moment, but for how long without change?