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When rugby league first split from rugby union, the first thing the organizers did was lower the numbers of players who played on the field. I presume it was felt the game would improve and become more expansive with only thirteen players on the field. Whilst there were many changes this particular change was the most profound. They were right. 100 years on and with players getting bigger, faster and stronger every generation, the question has to be asked, is thirteen to many? The average forward in the NRL today will weigh over 100kgs and be able to run 100m in under 12-13 seconds. Backs these days are getting quite large as well, it is not unusual to have a centre three quarter who weighs over 100kgs and can still run like a centre should - extremely quick with nimble footwork.
Whilst the smaller players are still playing and competing with these giants, some of the ugliest parts of rugby league revolve around the size of the men who play the game and the amount of players on the field.
The game of Rugby League has new rule changes each year and is continually evolving; therefore this proposal is to reduce the number of players to 11. The main reasons are
The Gang Tackle Many a good judge including the likes of Warren Ryan, Wayne Bennett and Brain Smith are the first to say the gang tackle is blight on our game. One huge brute charging forward only to be confronted by four equally large brutes ready to pound him back from whence he came. This clash of colossal sized men, whilst entertaining is shortening the playing life of these humongous men.
The Scrum Being an old hooker in my day, it pains to say I think scrums have outlived there use. It simply is not a contest anymore, yet still the potentially career ending and life threatening spinal injuries pack down with every scrum we still form. In the case for 11 the scrum will be redundant. Handover of possession via a play the ball (zero tackle) for a knock on and a tap kick restart for over the sideline turnovers.
The Financials Having 11 players? only means 2 less players per squad. We you spread that over a junior club with over 10 ages groups and some with more than one team per age group the savings for every junior club are very tangible. At the higher level, the salary cap can be stretched even further when there are two less players per grade.
A team would consist of the following positions.
1. Fullback 2. Left Winger 3. Left Centre 4. Right Centre 5. Right Winger 6. Halfback 7. Left Forward 8. Right Forward 9. Centre Forward 10. Acting Half 11. Centre Forward
With a 4 man interchange bench
Another change that could be included in any evolution of the great game of ours.
The Points I personally have never been a fan of points being awarded for the skill that is kicking. I have always felt William Webb Ellis decided to pick the ball up and run because he did not want to kick it anymore. Yet in today's game, very few sides can survive without a top class kicker in their side and in Union your kicker can be the difference between winning a world cup and being an also ran. In this revolution of the game I would be seeking to minimize the points that come from kicking. The recommendation would be 1 point for any kicks, field goals, penalty goals, conversions and 4 for a try.
There will always be opposition and very compelling arguments against any such evolution of the game, but if League is to survive and prosper in today?s professional sporting environment, these steps will help remove some of the concerns parents have when deciding what sport little Johnny can play. The game as a spectacle will improve with the space given to these skilful players. However the most compelling reason is the help with the financial side of running any club at any level.
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