“Rugby league players get into more trouble because they are dumb and/or uneducated”.
It’s a justification that is tossed around every time a rugby league player is caught for assault, drink driving or pissing in his own mouth.
But it’s not just pub talk. Public figures such as Peter Fitzsimons’ have long espoused a similar view, although his particular version is laced with slightly more boorish class warfare overtones (never mind the fact that people with degrees from a sandstone universities also embarrass themselves while on the piss).
Indeed, the view that rugby league players are over-represented when it comes to off-field indiscretions and brushes with the law is widely held simply because there aren’t many people arguing against it.
But thankfully Karmichael Hunt – a man who has more insight than most when it comes to the football codes – has offered an alternative view.
Karmichael told a radio station recently:
“The demands of AFL footy mean you need to be in peak condition. For most of the year you need to be able to knock out 12km or 13km on the weekend. In terms of the culture of going out and enjoying yourself after every game, that does not happen whereas in rugby league, because the physical demands are a lot lighter compared to AFL, you could find boys out enjoying themselves. I certainly did when I was younger because I knew that the next week it would not affect me.”
So according to Mr Hunt, it’s not that rugby league players aren’t smart enough to avoid getting into trouble. It’s the fact they have enough energy left over after a game to go out on the town for a drink, a fight and a glassing.
And therein lies the solution to cleaning up rugby league: make the players run more. If they’re too tired, they won’t get up to mischief.
Thanks to Karmichael’s insight, we now have a blueprint on how to fix up the code. Below are three subtle rule changes that will clear things up quickly.
1. Add bumper bowling bars to the sides of the field.
By putting walls around the edges of the field, the ball will never go out of play. This will reduce timely stoppages and make it harder for players to catch their breath. It will also make collisions between the wingers and the wall interesting/dangerous (the two are not mutually exclusive).
2. Take away two players from each team. It’s now 11 a side.
Get rid of the two second-rowers. All they do is clog up the field and slow down the game by making tackles and stopping people running. I don’t think they will be missed.
3. Play on a cricket oval.
Rugby league’s glory days took place on the SCG. This is the perfect opportunity to return league to it’s rightful place, but this time the push the field up to the boundary. This will bring the fans closer to the action, and make the players run more (thus getting more tired).
By making these simple alterations to the game of rugby league, we can clean up the code’s image. It’s not about introducing mandatory behaviour codes, fining players and sacking them for making mistakes, the solution is making players expend more energy on the field, so they will have less energy to commit felonies or bring disgrace on themselves and the code.
Thanks Karmichael. Who would of thought that the very man who abandoned the game would one day save it?
By Ben Shine.