What do you think about the state of the game?
That was an unexpected question thrown at me last week when I sat down for dinner next to the wife of the president of the Rugby Football League.
I was attending the annual Wooden Spoon golf event which takes place at the Royal Birkdale course every June. It's league against union and the competition is fierce. Gary Schofield, Paul Sculthorpe and Steve Hampson carried their clubs and tried their best. Eddie and Stevo got their one woods out as well, but it wasn't enough to retain the trophy as the union guys were just too good on the day.
We all shared a convivial dinner at the end of play and raised some money for a great cause. I had the pleasure to be sat next to Anne Risman, wife of Bev, a dual code international who captained Great Britain in the 1968 World Cup. Both of them are intelligent people with a passion for sport. Anne's question hit me cold. What did I think?
It led to a wider conversation about what we want to achieve. Last week's news about the cut in government support for our game will force us to reconsider our priorities. Where should the 'game' invest its time and money?
It's important that we have some very clear, realistic, measurable and achievable 'goals' and set a time-frame against these. I know the RFL state that they want to manage, develop and promote rugby league in this country, but I think that we need to be more specific.
I know the RFL state that they want to manage, develop and promote rugby league in this country, but I think that we need to be more specific.
Quotes of the week
We have a very wide-ranging remit to cover, from the community game to the international one. How the game is played in schools is equally important as to how it's played in Super League.
Should clubs that play semi-professionally receive central funding, or would that be better used in development? Do we need to spend more money attracting new referees to the amateur game or invest more in the England team?
It would be interesting to see a detailed pie chart of the expenditure. I'm sure that we'd all have our own views over what we would increase and reduce. Are we getting the return on investment that leaders demand?
Phil answers your emails...
Got a question for Phil? Email him at email@example.com or use the feedback form below...
Hi Phil, i know this might sound strange but if we were to bring back the War of the Roses match (which I'd certainly come and watch) if this were to ever happen there could be a third team which could include the players born outside the rugby league heartlands e.g. Harrison, Purdham, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Donaldson etc. I don't know what this team could be called but i think it's a valuable idea.
PHIL REPLIES: That's an interesting suggestion Ross. I'd be fascinated to know if firstly, you attended any of the War of the Roses matches, and secondly, if you attended the recent England - Exiles match. I can't really see how one would be that much more attractive than the other.
How would you play a three-team representative competition in the middle of the season? Would you have it at weekends or midweek? Would it be three consecutive weeks, because if so the players would be playing six games in 21 days.
I think it would be difficult to find the space in the season to allow three representative teams to play each other.
It's important to me, and the sport in my opinion, that the England team get to play as often as possible in competitive matches. I think that your suggestion is a step backwards, not forwards, in developing the sport.
Give 40/20 the boot
I don't like the 40/20 rule. I think it punishes good defence. I also think it's a cheap way to gain an attacking position. I would much rather see a quicker play-the-ball, allowing teams to run the ball more. I don't like all the talking the ref has to do at the ruck. Why not follow Aussie rules and just blow the whistle. A quick whistle would signal the tackle complete and the tackler must release and roll away immediately.
PHIL REPLIES: Well mark, you're the only one I've heard who isn't a fan of this rule. I don't know who came up with the idea but we should have him or her on an annual retainer.
I know that we don't want to change the rules every year, but we do need to ensure that as coaches adapt their tactics and the game evolves, we maintain and improve the level of entertainment for the people who play and watch rugby league.
I'd argue that it isn't a 'cheap' way to gain an attacking position. It's a brilliant piece of skill that is much more difficult than it appears. Out of the 132 games played so far, we've only had 30 of these kicks prove successful for the winning team. That works out at one every four games or 320 minutes of play.
Like you I am in favour of teams running with the ball, but feel that we have the balance about right in terms of passing and kicking.
With regards to your point about blowing the whistle, I've already been there. A friend of mine called Graham Starkey suggested this to me years ago when players were being dragged towards the touchline, and the referee was shouting 'held'. A quick blow of his whistle would be easier for the players to hear, although you'd probably get sick of listening to a whistle all through the match.
This is a question for everybody, not just Mark. Do you think that the current speed of the play-the-ball and the match is geared about right? If the players released the man with the ball much quicker, I think the game would be in danger of running too quickly. It's a grey area in which the teams don't comply with the rule book, but it seems to have been accepted by everybody.
At the end of the Bradford v St.Helens match, some Bradford players ran towards the goal kicker with their arms raised to put him off. Surely when a kick at goal is being taken the defenders have to remain still? If the goal had been missed could the referee have allowed it to be retaken?
Geoffrey Joseph, Leeds
PHIL REPLIES: We spoke about this at the time; in fact we discussed it in the studio at the end of the match. I asked the question of whether the referee would have allowed the goal kicker to retake the kick, had he missed.
It's very strange in that we've seen it a fair few times this season. Ali Lauitiiti did it for Leeds this season when a conversion was taking place. I've no idea where it's come from; they must have been watching some rugby union and mixed up the rules.
The rules in rugby league state that the defending players need to be 10 metres or more from the ball and towards their own line, and shall not make any attempt to interfere with or distract the attention of the kicker.
I've never really understood why they have it in rugby union nowadays. It seems like an out-dated rule and I've never seen a man charge down the kick or visibly distract the kicker.
- Page 1 of 1
Ross Harvey says...
Would you agree with a point i've been making for a while that rugby league should spread to the south west, in particular Cornwall where I am from. Rugby has a huge following in Cornwall and introducing topflight rugby league to it maybe a big step forward in raising the profile and interest of the sport?
Posted 16:34 30th June 2011
Ian Fishwick says...
re: Charging down the conversion attempt, yes, I have seen it happen once. However it went very wrong. The ball was going to end up short of the posts, hit the player making the chargedown, and bounced off his head and over the posts. Conversion awarded!
Posted 13:35 30th June 2011
- Page 1 of 1