No, I'm not talking about Riddell booking himself in for some beauty treatment. I'm talking wet weather footy. I'm talking the most recognised image in rugby league. I'm talking the tough stuff it takes to make the hard yards.
There has literally been a drought of wet weather football in the last few seasons. We are well aware of the impact that water shortages have had on our lives. I am here to describe the greatest impact of these water shortages in my life. It has robbed me of the spectacle of two tribes not only going to war, but slogging it out the old fashioned way? with REAL guts? with REAL determination.
Guts and Glory
Whilst some players may seem to be superhuman playing 80 minutes and racking up huge tackle counts, the mud really separates the men from the boys. After carting the ball up 20 times and making 40 tackles in the dry, a player may need a cool drink and a bit of a lie down. In the mud, they would be heaving up what?s left of their most recent meal, and that?s the way it should be. I don?t want to see a game of touch out there. I want to see war. I want to see the players looking like they?ve just come from the trenches in the battle of their lives. I want to hear reports from concerned citizens that they?ve just sighted something resembling Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster in the area after a match.
Seriously though, I?ve already mentioned the image of Norm Provan and Arthur Summons. There is a very good reason why it was selected as the image for the trophy of the world?s premier rugby league competition? those are the conditions that epitomise the true nature of rugby league. All this dry weather footy is starting to turn our players soft.
The Nature of Mud
As a spectator, it?s too easy to identify a player by jersey and number in the dry. When both teams are covered in mud; when the numbers can?t be made out and it?s near impossible to distinguish the colour of the jerseys; that?s when it gets interesting. Fans of the game then have to pick out players by some other feature, such as headgear or body shape. It works the same for the players, with the teams that really know each other back to front benefiting in these conditions. League is war and they have to be able to separate friend from foe in a split second, or suffer the consequences.
The Nature of Water
Players? observation skills are not the only ones tested in the wet. Handling skills come at a premium, and the number of handling errors made in bone dry conditions recently, should make players blush with shame for months on end. Maybe a good dose of rain will force coaches to spend more time on ball control at training. Perhaps then, the next dry spell will result in less frustration for fans with ?The Dropsies? becoming a rare tropical disease almost eradicated from the game, rather than something caught (pardon the pun) more often than the common cold.
Mega Puddles = Spectacular Footy
As a SCUBA diver, I know that everything looks bigger underwater. As a league scholar, I know that water amplifies the action on the field. Players must adjust to slippery turf and react to balls which suddenly stop dead. Water sprays everywhere as players dive for a ball. A player can make a break, be reigned in by the defence from five metres out and still slide in for a try, carrying two or three on their back. A player with sublime footwork can humiliate defences with a change in direction or by pulling up quickly, and all this is magnified x10 in the wet. A defender laying on a big hit creates something resembling a localised explosion, with water sent flying at the point of impact, like the dust cloud left behind by an Andy Roddick serve. With advances in digital TV, television executives and fans alike, should be salivating at the thought of slow motion replays zoomed in on the action. Forget Sky Cam? give me WICKEDISM? Zoom Cam any day.
The only spectacle I love more than footy is wet weather footy. THAT?s entertainment. THAT?s what makes ME ?happy as a pig in mud?.
* WICKEDISM? = Wet-weather, Impact Collision, Kick-arse, Earthquake Detecting, Isolated Slo Mo.
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