Interview: Fortress NSW
Unions: Fashions Afield
Industrial: Pay Dirt
Politics: Infrastructure Blues
History: Big Day Out
International: Making History
Economics: The Fear Factor
Review: The Robots Revolt
Poetry: The Corporation's Power
The Locker Room
Rights and Wrongs
The Locker Room
A Rucking Good Time
ruck (ruk) n. A multitude; a throng. The undistinguished crowd or ordinary run of persons or things. People who are followers, not leaders. Sports. A play in Rugby in which a mass of players gathers around a ball dropped by a tackled ball carrier, with each player attempting to gain possession of the ball by kicking it to a teammate. The mass of players during such a play. Also called loose scrum. [Middle English ruke, heap, probably of Scandinavian origin.]
One can only assume that the Australian Football meaning of the word is embodied in the first part of this definition from the old Oxford Standard.
For those who have recently arrived from North Korea, the Ruck is the tall bloke who contests the centre bounces and most of the throw ins in the game of Australian Football.
Although the term centre bounce is fast becoming an anachronism with many of the umpires now opting to throw the ball up, which means the term will probably soon be known by the appropriate epithet of Throw Up.
So these big tall blokes who contest the Throw Up are recognisable, generally, by their stature, which often resembles that of a rather swarthy telephone pole.
The nature and being of the Ruck came under some observation last month when it emerged that the Sydney Swans didn‚t have one.
They‚d lost a few, including my distant cousin, through injury or negligence and found themselves scanning the carpark for anyone coming into the ground over 200cm in height who looked like they could hold a football.
But with what can only be explained by the ghost of Roy Cazaly up in heaven pissing on the remnants of the South Melbourne Football Club from a great height, none was found.
Playing Australian Football at any level without a competitive Ruck is not dissimilar to driving without a steering wheel. Things are bound to go awry before too long. And it did.
Of course, as the old Oxford reminds us, the term Ruck occurs in other codes too.
The obvious one is Rugby Union, where it becomes a very special form of male bonding, with the opponent often trying to use your back as some kind of static treadmill.
It should come as no surprise that it is of Scandinavian Origin. There are many similatrities between the winter codes and and a Viking invasion, as anyone who has caught the train home from Homebush will know.
Since they‚ve cleaned up Rugger for the telly the ruck has lost some of its charm. The modern sanitised version getting closer and closer to a rather messy, mobile version of the League Play the Ball.
The ancient ruck was a far more interesting affair and its loss is a much lamented symptom of the dark days in which we find ourselves.
These days it is only to be found in the lower grades of sub-district rugby union when all the forwards lean on each other out of exhaustion in the second half, kicking each other from time to time to give the exercise a bit of a resemblance to sport.
The League version, the play the ball, is occasionally referred to as the Ruck by antiquarians of the game and a few coaches who are as old as dirt.
It‚s one of those hangovers, like hip bones on dolphins, that point to the archeology of Rugby League.
Either way, no one runs off the ruck from deep or too close to the ruck anymore. League is geting more like the throw-it-around-while-standing-flat rubbish you get in Union, while Union is getting more like League with players having mid-season ego-explosions and running off to join a new franchise with a bootload of cash in tow.
The Perth Natchers Rugby Union Football Club is making some waves on the eastern seaboard in scenes reminiscent of the edifying spectacle that was Super League.
It‚s good to know Union is benefitting from all this professionalism.
Meanwhile, if I was a Rugby Union back rower I‚d be giving Paul Roos a call. He needs someone tall who can hold a footy and take simple instructions.
Phil Doyle - Going for the two wood on the difficult Par 4 eighth
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