Fans Creagh-ving for skill

Is it just me, or are the powers-that-be who set the rules in rugby league hellbent on "dumbing it down" to the point the game will soon resemble a hybrid version of "force-em-backs"? You only have to go over the transcripts of the commentators to see alarming evidence that the art of skill has all but been weened out of rugby league. Gone from their vocabulary are the descriptive words and phrases such as "finesse", "sleight-of-hand", "deceptive", "creative", "crafty", "shrewd" etc. In their place is "scoot", "settler", "hit-up", "dummy run" and "kick-chase". You can see where they got the term "dummy-half" from. Any dummy can do it and you only need half a brain to perfect it. Last night's Brisbane-Souths game was a prime example. After more than half an hour, Channel Nine's Ray Warren described the match as "dour and lacking in creativity". So reluctant were the teams willing to promote the ball, that the attack rarely ventured outside a 10-metre corridor either side of the ruck. Not surprising we had a nil-nil scoreline at halftime. The scrum's not a contest, the play-the-ball's not a contest and defenders can't contest for the ball. The rule changes have bred a predictability about the game which has led to on many occasions even the contest not being a contest. Rugby league seems to be going down the same track as touch football which consists of five darts from dummy-half for field position, before the stock-standard flick the ball out along the line with the forlorn hope the opposition has short-term memory and forgotten that your attack is a replica of previous last-tackle plays. It seems "taboo" for present-day forwards to even threaten to off-load the ball, much less actually release it from what once had to be a vice-like grip but not anymore since players are "rewarded" with a penalty for a loose carry. I exclude Sonny Bill Williams, Anthony Laffranchi and the like from such criticism. Theses guys are a throwback from an era where ball-playing was an art form. Great forwards like Bob O'Reilly and Artie Beetson, the former who commentator and ex-player Graeme Hughes says would have taken up the entire salary cap - agree with that - were marvellous to watch. It didn't matter whether it was before the line, in the line or through the line, their genius play set the platform for many an attacking raid. Goodness knows how many tries Johnny Mayes and Kevin Junee can attribute to big Artie? Safe to say, heaps! Isn't that Graeme Hughes' nickname? That was purely an accident The lack of creativity in the game has become so apparent, that some players must be under instructions to "die" with the ball because surely it wouldn't be of their own volition to be so negative? Ben Creagh is a case in point. Has he ever passed the ball? Seriously, I have never seen the Dragons backrower part company with the ball on purpose. I took particular notice of his performance in Thursday night's City versus Country match, and unless I dozed off - and wasn't that on the cards - he came up with zero offloads. But Creagh isn't Robinson Crusoe. He has plenty of mates in the NRL who never seem to even contemplate passing the ball. The tries scored in the second half of the Broncos-Souths game were the product of inventive play. Mmmmmmmmmmm, could be something in that. Maybe, just maybe, if teams played a more expansive game more often, they would increase their chances of scoring tries. Now that's got to be a good thing. Go for it coaches.

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