||Issue No. 132||19 April 2002|
Interview: Generation Next
Legal: We’re All Terrorists Now
Unions: Holding the Baby
International: Taking It To The Streets
History: Off the Wall
Economics: Financing International Development
Satire: Queen Mum's Life Tragically Cut Short
Review: Return of The People’s Parliament
Poetry: Silent Night
The Locker Room
Week in Review
Where's the Silver Tail?
The Locker Room
Tipping the Scales
MEMO: NRL footy tipsters - If you haven't caught on to the implications of the new play-the-ball regime just yet, wake up and smell the roses, elsewise, think of your weekly contributions as more donation than punt.
Now, it's true to say, this correspondent has been a longtime critic of the NRL, and most other bastard progeny of that promise-the-world, deliver-nothing sire, Super League. In fact, some of my most treasured possessions are communications from the likes of John Ribot, Graham Carden, and Ian Robson, urging previous employers to take remedial action. Instant dismissal, from memory, was the Ribot prescription.
Still, give credit where it's due I always say and, believe it or not, the NRL has got something 100 percent right, and not just anything, but something central to the credibility of the sport.
They haven't changed a rule, just tweaked an interpretation, and the results are dramatic.
Effectively, at the ruck, sides are now only seven or eight metres apart, against the 12-15 that was in vogue when Super League tried to turn Rugby League into something utterly meaningless for the benefit, apparently, of vast American and Chinese audiences chomping at the bit to watch Wendell Sailor run the length of the field.
At least Wendell hung around a bit longer than they did!
But we digress. The point is, that a change in the off-side interpretation has given the sport, on the park at least, its soul back and, from the tipsters' point of view, there will be winners and losers.
One team we have to reassess, right from the off, is Parramatta.
Brian Smith is one smart cookie, sometimes too smart as it happens, but there is no denying he has constructed a squad to take maximum advantage of the Super League style, prevalent until this year.
Essentially, he did away with the variety of body types commonly associated with Rugby League in favour of the all-purpose athlete, best capable of running off the advantage line.
Melbourne was the other side that most clearly exploited the game's move towards becoming a turbo-charged version of touch but it, at least, utilised a halfback with an football brain to guide it around.
Smith went further. Versatility and interchangeability were the hallmarks of his squad, to the point where halfbacks were on and off the field as often as forwads.
It was the Super League contention that a faster game, enforced by greater distances between opposing teams, would be a better game. Well, depending on your take, it might have been but the problem is that it wouldn't necessarily have been football.
Suddenly, footy skills and footy brains are moving back towards the dominant positions they were always entitled to occupy.
This means three things for the punter - think twice about the Parramattas, Melbournes and, to a lesser extent, Brisbanes, of this world; remember, if you can, the value of really tough forwards who can win battles in the middle of the park; and, most importantly, give tight results to the teams featuring the best halves.
It was a central misunderstanding of what the game was about that led to the view that greater time and distance would showcase its best talents. On the contrary, the value of genuine footballers, playmakers and thinkers, rises with each metre and split second they, and those around them, are denied.
All of which probably goes a long way towards explaining why critics are saying Andrew Johns is playing better than ever; his brother has been "re-born" alongside Brett Kimmorley at Cronulla; and Stacey Jones is kicking ass across the ditch.
Bare those players in mind then keep an eye on the Willie Peters-Trent Barrett combination; respect Braith Anasta and the forwards in front of him and you'll find you've fashioned yourself a sturdy anchor to cling to when tipping waters are choppy.
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