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What would a hybrid of NRL and AFL look like?

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Roar Rookie
18th November, 2021
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Rugby league and the AFL are in the middle of a brutal war for the hearts and minds of the Australian winter sports enthusiasts.

Older brother rugby is lagging, unable to keep up with the pace of its two younger siblings.

Cousin football, or as we like to call them, soccer, are there too, yet kind of exist in a parallel universe.

So, ultimately, it is down to the NRL and AFL, particularly on the east coast.

There are a lot of talks of expansion lately for the NRL, while the AFL has been called to add a team in Tasmania.

A lot of the reasoning for this is to grow the game and ensure that the other doesn’t gain an unassailable foothold in any particular market, outside Melbourne perhaps.

If one was to grow, surely it would be to the detriment of the other?

Bailey Smith of the Bulldogs gets away from Christian Salem

(Photo by Gary Day/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Maybe the answer is that the Australian public just like both sports? Maybe they can just co-exist forever growing at the pace of the population? Maybe they can’t?

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As a fun little diversion to all the Bears articles, I wondered whether we can make a new sport which scratches both itches?

Welcome to Squid Game.

The name has no real connection to the TV show, except that it’s a cool name and squids are flexible, which we will need to be to enjoy this great new game.

Let’s start at the beginning.

There are 11 players to a team, with an interchange bench of six.

The game starts with the ball being kicked from the ground at halfway toward the opposition, as in rugby league.

The ball is to be caught, but it doesn’t matter if it bounces, and the team will attempt to get the ball to the other try line.

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The ball may not be marked, and no kicks are allowed until after the first tackle.

Players of the receiving team may shepherd and block opposing players as the player with possession advances the ball on this first tackle only.

The general style of play will be like rugby league, with a few key changes borrowed from the AFL.

When tackled, the player will play the ball, so the game is relatively free flowing.

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Like league, all passes are to be backwards, and the defensive line will be set ten metres back from the play the ball.

The defending team is to tackle the player with the ball. All players must be behind the play the ball at the time the ball is played or retreat past the play the ball to be involved in the play.

Cody Walker vs Nathan Cleary

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

This is where it gets interesting.

Two players from the team with possession may move to a position forward of the ball (normally offside in league).

The ball may be kicked to them, and if caught on the full (without touching the ground), the ball will be called a mark, after which they may not be touched.

A mark will also be paid if any player catches a kick from their team that goes forward more than 15 metres.

This will still count as one play unless it is the last tackle where the team will get one more play.

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The player that has marked the ball will have the ability to play on immediately if desired, continuing the play. If this is the last tackle, no additional play will be granted.

If a player drops the ball forwards, it will be deemed a knock on, but a defending player contending a kick cannot knock the ball on in the contest.

With two players needing to be marked, and one player playing the ball, there will be plenty of space to attack the defensive line through passing.

The aim will still be scoring a try, which will be worth ten points, but a place kick between the two posts will be worth six points, and off the post one point.

Tom Trbojevic is tackled.

(Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

Each team will get five plays per set before the ball is handed over. If the ball is kicked dead, the receiving team will get another set.

Imagine off the kick-off James Tedesco getting the ball and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves running interference?

Imagine Adam Reynolds kicking for the likes of Daniel Tupou rushing forward, then offloading to Ryan Papenhuyzen sizzling through for a try?

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Imagine Lance Franklin receiving a kick from the laser boot of Jordan Dawson, then swinging around onto his left leg and sending through a trademark goal?

Maybe your team is down by four with minutes left. Maybe you bring Tom Papley off the bench.

The play the ball is quick. The ball is passed to Papley, who ducks under one, now two tackles, weaves around a third and somehow squeezes a kick off, which gets around the raised arms of a desperate defender and sneaks into the goal for six points and a win!

Imagine Tommy Trbojevic linking up with Christian Petracca? Max Gawn running into Taniela Paseka?

Patrick Dangerfield battling it out with James Tedesco. Nathan Cleary scheming against Dustin Martin.

Dustin Martin

(Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Picture this.

Dustin Martin latches onto a Junior Paulo offload, bursts through a tackle or two and puts through a hurried kick to Jason Saab flying down the sideline.

Aliir Aliir reads it perfectly, intercepts and counter attacks. He links with Brian To’o, who bumps out of one, two, three tackles before being brought down by Luke Parker. Great tackle.

The defence is expecting a kick to Franklin, who is tearing downfield into space, so Nathan Cleary decides to straighten, sending Payne Haas straight up the centre.

He is knocking players over left, right and centre, getting the ball within 20 of the try line.

Franklin is standing out the back ready to kick it home, but the ball is spun out wide!

It finds Marcus Bontempelli, who steps inside, brushes past one and drills a kick beautifully onto the chest of Zac Lomax, who scores under the posts.

The best thing about it is, with new teams needed, we could bring back the Bears.

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