Where is the next innovation coming from in Rugby League?

Wrestling is so yesterday

Before I start talking about where the next innovation is coming from, a few words about Jarryd Hayne.

Jarryd Hayne to the NFL

Wow.

I don’t think anyone saw that coming, especially since he was just about to suit up for Australia in the Four Nations and was apparently negotiating a multi-year extension to his current contract, which was due to expire at the end of 2015.

Will he make it?

On the downside, he doesn’t appear to have a background in the game, so that makes it very hard. It is a very complex game to pick up. There are literally thousands of plays and variations possible. Mastering even the basics will be difficult. Plus they don’t know him from Adam, so he won’t integrate easily into their systems.

On the plus side, he is an elite athlete of the highest calibre. He is only 26. He has plus speed, excellent acceleration and his physical dimensions are favourable (189cm and 100kg). Even if he was on the NFL minimum salary ($US420,000 for anyone on the active roster of a team (53 players)) that would be commensurate to what he is currently paid ($A500,000 not including third party payments or endorsements which can be substantial), however, it is more likely that (if he finds a position at all) it will be on the practice squad of a team (10 extra players who don’t play in the games but practice with the team) which would earn him considerably less (the minimum salary in 2014 was $US107,000).

I think if he perseveres, he might be able to make a go of it, but it might take a few years. It will be hard.

The story even made ESPN which is a big deal (here and here).

Where will he play?

He has indicated that he will initially trial as a punt returner or kick returner, which is the closest position to fullback. His body type, speed and physicality probably align most closely to wide receiver (though he is probably a little short), cornerback (though he may be a little slow) or running back (where his centre of gravity may be a little high). Some are saying Tight End but I can’t see that happening. The League of Extraordinary Gentleman thought Billy Slater would translate best to the NFL. Other pundits have put forward SBW as another potentially perfect code hopper.

Colin Scotts said he thought Hayne could make it. Interestingly, Scotts commented that if Hayne did make it to the Big Show that it would be the best thing that had ever happened to Rugby League. I’m inclined to agree with him. The Americans might even figure out that there is a difference between Rugby League and Rugby Union. (I’m not a hater, but I’m pretty sure the percentage that know would be miniscule). I hope he makes it.

BTW I think he broke the internet. I typed in Jarryd Hayne on Wednesday and a million stories about him shifting to the NFL came up (proving that the news sites have the SEO thing sorted).

Next Innovation in Rugby League

Back to what I planned to talk about. What strategy is involved in Rugby League and where is the next innovation coming from?

Those of you who aren’t Rugby League fans will say there is no strategy involved at all, certainly compared to other sports.

For instance, Football enthusiasts will wax lyrical about Total Football vs Catenaccio, 4-4-2 vs other formations and the Diamond and the role of the holding midfielder. American Sports tend to segregate offensive and defensive strategies and formations, leading to a plethora of well known strategies. This is especially evident in American Football where popular offensive strategies like the West Coast Offence, Option, Spread and Smashmouth are some of the more famous. Popular defensive strategies include the Zone Blitz, Tampa 2 and Cover 2. Basketball similarly splits offensive (Princeton, Pick and Roll or the Triangle) and defensive (Full Court Press, Zone or Man to Man) strategies.

Rugby League is also a game whose strategies are split into attack and defence. Current attacking strategies depend primarily on field position. Here is a brief summary of current strategies:

  • Hit up;
  • Dummy half run;
  • Passing the ball along the back line;
  • Interchange of passing between the forwards (made popular by the Bulldogs);
  • Second man play, with the variation being a short flat ball to the dummy runner;
  • Run around;
  • Offence generated from offloads;
  • Dummying to inside ball runners;
  • Switching play;
  • Blind side plays;
  • Second rowers running on the edge of the ruck off the halves;
  • Whatever Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater call that thing they do (in-out ball?);
  • Running the ball on the last tackle;
  • Chip kick;
  • 40/20;
  • The Bomb;
  • Kicking for the corners with the variation being a flatter, harder kick (especially for taller wingers);
  • Short angled kick (grubber or banana) behind the line or at the goalpost to score a try or force a re-start;
  • Drop goal;
  • Pushing in scrums (isn’t that an indictment on the game); and
  • Short kick-off.

Defensive strategies include:

  • Standard man on man defence;
  • Umbrella defence;
  • Sliding defence;
  • Defensive variations for scrums;
  • Defending kicks towards the end of the tackle count (wingers and fullback drop back);
  • One-on-one strip;
  • Intercept;
  • Forcing the ball loose in a strong tackle;
  • Forcing a player into touch;
  • Charge down;
  • Wrestling in the tackle to slow down the play the ball; and
  • Most recently (but hard to prove) deliberately giving away penalties if the defensive line isn’t set.

Where is the next innovation coming from and who will think of it?

I don’t think it will be the Flying Wedge or the Parramatta Wall. BTW the Flying Wedge link surely features the earliest ever footage of Rebecca Wilson. Classic! Also in the Parramatta Wall footage did you notice how bad the field looked? I’ve seen better goat tracks.

Here are some ideas:

Contract Football

Contract Football is each person in a team ensuring (‘the contract’) that if their team mate is in a better position to pass them the ball. It results in an unstructured style of play which is harder to defend with current defensive tactics. Anything that reduces the prevalence of that blight on our game called wrestling has to be a good thing. According to Steve Mascord Contract Football was the form of Rugby League made famous by Duncan Thompson, who captained the North Sydney Bears to their only premierships in 1921 and 1922. It is being brought back by Ben and Shane Walker at the Ipswich Jets and some NRL teams would do well to become early adopters, especially teams like the Canberra Raiders or the Gold Coast Titans who look short of cattle at the moment.

Ad Lib Football

There have been many recent comments about the structured nature of Rugby League and the detrimental nature this has had on younger halves and their ability to read the game. Many fans and quite a few experts including Andrew Johns have called for a return to ad lib football or playing off the top of your head. The game tends to go in cycles and this could be the next trend.

Rule Changes

Rule changes often dictate innovation in Rugby League. The wrestle evolved from recognition of the dominant tackle post-Superleague and leniency around the play the ball area.

Where do you think the next innovation will come from and what will it be?

What was sweeter than Jelly Bread?

  • David Villa. 1 Game . 1 Goal. So far, so good.
  • Northern Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Who would have thought they would all be in contention after 3 games of the European Championship Qualification Tournament? Unbelievable.
  • Prime Minister’s XIII vs PNG – They can’t play enough Rugby League up there. Just awesome.

What wasn’t?

  • Ben Flower. Enough said.

Other random thoughts 

  • Glad to see Todd Carney get another chance with the Catalans Dragons. They should be set in the halves with Todd Carney, Thomas Bosc and Sam Williams for next season. They will be looking to build on this year’s successful campaign. 

EPL Tips for Matchday 8 

Arsenal vs Sunderland, Kieran Richardson, Theo Walcott and Simon Mignolet - Photo by Ronnie McDonald - CC-BY-2.0

Arsenal vs Sunderland, Kieran Richardson, Theo Walcott and Simon Mignolet – Photo by Ronnie McDonaldCC-BY-2.0

Home teams first

Man City vs Tottenham – City 3-1 (City too big, too fast, too strong. Spurs none of the above)

Arsenal vs Hull – Arsenal 2-0 (Hull have been plucky so far but Arsenal will have too much for them at the Emirates)

Burnley vs West Ham – Draw 1-1 (The Clarets are a different proposition at home but the Hammers are much improved this season. I think a draw is the most likely outcome)

Crystal Palace vs Chelsea – Chelsea 2-0 (Chelsea are too strong for everyone except arguably City. Palace will keep it tight)

Everton vs Aston Villa – Everton 2-1 (Didn’t think Villa would be above Everton after 7 games but here we are. I think the Toffees will shade them at home)

Newcastle vs Leicester – Newcastle 2-1 (Newcastle desperate for a win but Leicester will look to play on that and will be confident of at least stealing 1 point from the fixture)

Southampton vs Sunderland – Southampton 2-0 (The Black Cats were magnificent against Stoke in the last round but Southampton have been magnificent all season and will be looking to bounce back from their recent loss to Tottenham)

QPR vs Liverpool – Liverpool 1-0 (Liverpool have been inconsistent but QPR have been consistently bad. Having said that, Liverpool desperately need Sturridge back. I hear he is close)

Stoke City vs Swansea – Draw 1-1 (I think a draw is the likely outcome but Swansea is sneaky good this year, especially that midfield. Sigurdsson is white hot. Shelvey is banned and they will miss him)

West Brom vs Man U – Man U 2-1 (Man U slowly emerging from the wilderness. Could still do with a back or two in the January transfer window. Can’t believe their in 4th place. Then again 4th is only 1 win from 16th at the moment)

I’ve adopted the scoring system utilised by Mark Lawrenson on the BBC (a correct result (picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth ONE point and picking an exact score THREE points) and even though he wouldn’t know me from Adam we are going head to head all season long. It’s on like Donkey Kong (unless I get a letter from his lawyer or Donkey Kong’s lawyer and then I’m tipping against myself again).

Last week – Me – 15 (7 from 10 with 4 perfect scores) and Lawro – 17 (9 from 10 with 4 perfect scores) 

Season so far – Me – 52 and Lawro – 59 (Lawro looking very Chelsea-like now) 

Stay Tuned

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode on Thursday, 23 October 2014 titled ‘Should the Premiers have a bigger advantage in the next season?’

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6 thoughts on “Where is the next innovation coming from in Rugby League?

  1. Pingback: Should the Premiers have a bigger advantage in the next season? | The Game of Sport

  2. Pingback: Jarryd Hayne – Made for Disney | The Game of Sport

  3. Pingback: The Game of Sport’s 2015 NRL Grand Final Diary Part 1 | The Game of Sport

  4. Pingback: Ben Simmons vs Jarryd Hayne, a study in perspective | The Game of Sport

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