Eye On Rugby League by Tony Williams
If Phil Clarke wanted to cause a storm when he resigned as Great Britain manager last week, he certainly achieved his aim. Clarke, a former Great Britain player, has been in the role for the last five years, and claims that not only are we no nearer to catching up with Australia and New Zealand, but that the clubs and the RFL are not interested in the international game.
One of the most shocking things for me was that Great Britain squad has not met once since their defeat by Australia at the KC Stadium which eliminated us from the Tri-Nations. I think it's shocking that the players did not even have a kind of ‘debriefing' to round off the series.
In 2004 it was New Zealand who missed out on the final, only scraping one point in the league stage of the competition. They had a meeting immediately afterwards, talking of their disappointment and signalling their intent. The following year they were Tri-Nations champions. What does that tell you?
If Clarke is right about the clubs and the RFL not taking the international game seriously enough then we have little, if any, hope of seeing international success of the past repeated in the future. Great Britain RL were the first ever Rugby World Cup winners, but it is unlikely that we will ever see such a thing again.
There are clearly problems in the way that things are being run. I feel that maybe, just maybe, Phil Clarke can be the catalyst which brings these problems into the open and forces those in charge to work out a solution.
If not, the best that we can look forward to is to enjoy, or endure, the international success of cricket, soccer and rugby union.
NRL Still Has Edge
I have said in past columns that the engage Super League is improving this season, and that improvement can be seen with the unpredictability of games. But that is not always the case, as anyone who saw either of this weekend's televised games will testify.
The St Helens versus Hull game was a huge disappointment for the neutral, while the Leeds versus Harlequins game was slightly less so as a thrashing for Quins was somewhat predictable. However, 46-0 and 60-0 scorelines are hardly indicative of a competition that is vibrant.
Contrast that with this season's offerings from Australia's NRL. Last week we saw Penrith Panthers defeat St George-llawarra Dragons 13-12 in Golden Point extra time (extra time in league games is a bit nonsensical, but that's a different story). This week Manly Sea Eagles came from behind to bat Cronulla Sharks 20-18.
In Australia really big scorelines are very rare, while most games are settled late on by small margins. The unpredictability of the NRL was exemplified by the fact that many people are now tipping lasts season's wooden-spoonists for the Premiership.
In Super League there are too many one-sided games and the chances of a team from the lower reaches actually winning the league are remote indeed. Which means that, in my opinion, the NRL still has the edge on Super League.
Diving Is A Joke
Having watched with interest the recent furore in soccer over diving, or as FIFA terms it ‘simulation', I can't help but feel a sense of satisfaction that such a ridiculous idea has not reared its ugly head in our game. Okay, rugby league does have many problems, often self-inflicted, but falling to the ground and pretending to be hurt is not one of them.
As a fan of the round ball game, I find it frustrating when I see players, especially those form my own team, collapsing in a heap the moment they are ankle-tapped. Some of the dives beggar belief, and I won't name names as the blame is spread evenly throughout the sport.
And you can tell it is pretence. Imagine walking down the street and someone tripping you up. Your first instinct is to prevent yourself falling – it's human nature. But soccer players choose to lift their other leg and dive to the ground in the most dramatic way possible, which convinces me that they must practice doing it.
Imagine rugby league players feigning injury every time they were touched. Some of the hits that are players get up from are truly amazing, while in soccer a push to the chest is enough to call on the stretcher. Thank goodness that our players prefer carrying on and showing their mettle rather than lying down and whining for a penalty.
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