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August 2006   

Interview: A Life And Death Matter
Macquarie Street and Canberra are squaring off over safety in the workplace, NSW Minister for Industrial relations, John Della Bosca, explains what's at stake.

Unions: Fighting Back
When John Howard's building industry enforcer started threatening people's homes, one couple hit the road. Jim Marr met them in Sydney.

Industrial: What Cowra Means
The ruling on the Cowra abattoir case highlights the implications of the new IR rules, according to John Howe and Jill Murray

Environment: Scrambling for Energy Security
Howard Government hypocrisy is showcased in its climate change manoeuvring, Stuart Rosewarne writes:

Politics: Page Turner
A new book leaves no doubt about whether the faction came before the ego, Nathan Brown writes.

Economics: The State of Labour
The capacity of the state to shape the political economy and thus improve the social lives of the people must be reasserted, argues Geoff Dow.

International: Workers Blood For Oil
A new book by Abdullah Muhsin and Alan Johnson lifts the lid on the bloody reality of US backed democracy for Iraq's trade unions

History: Liberty in Spain
Worker Self-Management is good management. The proof in Spain was in Catalania, Andalusia and continues in the Basque Country, as Neale Towart explains.

Review: Go Roys, Make A Noise
Phil Doyle thought he'd find nostalgia, but instead Vulgar Press' new book, Maroon & Blue is a penetrating insight into the suburban mind under stress.


The Locker Room
Ruled Out
Phil Doyle plays by the rules

Tommy's Apprentice
Chapter One - Tommy and "The Boy"

Westie Wing
Ian West wonders what might happen if the NSW Coalition actually did win power next March at the State elections.

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The Locker Room

Ruled Out

Phil Doyle plays by the rules

Lleyton Hhewitt has shown the true Aussie spirit and bravely run away from the imminent threat of Argentinian fans.

Australia is playing a Davis Cup semi-final against Argentina in Buenos Aires apparently and Hhewitt says he is worried about the reception he will receive in Argentina, which shows the Argies can't be all that bad.

Hhewitt missed Australia's first-round encounter against Switzerland after another tantrum, but returned to lead the team over the might of Belarus in April.

One wonders why he doesn't just get the rules changed, after all, that's what Rugby League does when faced with a problem of player behaviour.

From the very first season, when they began awarding a penalty for a deliberate knock-on, League has been tinkering with the rules, but in recent decades things have got completely out of hand.

When League started in Australia the big differences between it and Rugby Union was having thirteen players per team, the play the ball rather than rucking and mauling, the elimination of the line out and slightly different scoring.

In 1967 the unlimited tackle rule was abolished, ostensibly to stop the St George forward pack, and replaced with a limit of four tackles. In 1971, the number of tackles allowed was increased to six, and a field goal was reduced to just one point, to stop Souths' Eric Simms winning matches single handed.

Until recently the marker at the play-the-ball could strike for the ball immediately upon it being placed on the ground.

Rugby League scrums became a farce when authorities gave up trying to get sides to play by the rules.

What changes to both the scrum and the play-the-ball miss is the reason for their existence - both are meant to be a genuine contests for the ball, as the ruck should be in Rugby.

Another big change was the introduction of the 10-metre rule in 1992; this was to stop Warren Ryan coaching rugby league teams.

Ryan had always taken a rather ambivalent view of the old 5-metre rule, along with most other rules, allowing his sides to seem very effective in defence.

In fact Warren Ryan never seemed to really like Rugby League at all, preferring another code of his own invention, dubbed Wozzaball by it's supporters. The former Canterbury coach is often given to long hallucinogenic raves whenever anyone lets him near a microphone about some magical game with fewer players and more predictability. The game sounds disturbingly like basketball. It has long been feared that Ryan missed his true calling as a science fiction/fantasy novelist.

The 10-metre rule has been a disaster for bush football, turning it into a rather physical version of touch, and has made the two markers the most important defenders on the field; making the play the ball as ugly an experience as it was when the ball was being raked at, with none of the skill.

There is also a raft of new kicking laws that seem predicated on having a good lawyer and an understanding of complex algorithm.

The 40/20 rule was invented so Joey Johns wouldn't defect to Rugby Union.

Once upon a time if a ball went dead over the try line it was a goal line dropout. No ifs. No buts. Just suck it in and lets see how far we can belt this thing up the ground with a drop kick. If you were lucky enough for the attacking side to stuff up over the try line you might get lucky with a 25 meter tap. But that was it.

Then some humanitarian organisation which remains nameless (but which could be linked to Ryan) decided that sides defending their try line from bombs, grubbers, well scythed bits of footwork or a second rower with hands taped in number 8 fencing wire, needed to be protected.

The powers that be set about restructuring rugby league as if they were trying to save the Albino Pygmy Pandas of the Western Riverina.

We now have such a complex system of restarts that only Star Trek fans, referees and other lowlifes truly understand it.

And this isn't even getting into the fiasco that is video refereeing.

Who is behind all these changes? Well, the major culprit appears to be coaches. The ilk of Ryan, W (Cch) mentioned aforeward.

Perennial whingers and malcontents, coaches have always craved predictability. But why someone would expect predictability in a game that features Fuifui Moimoi is beyond anybody's ken.

The tired old argument is people want more tries. Well, if that were true basketball would be Australia's most popular sport. What people want is a physical contest, for the ball.

In 1964, Rugby League laws consisted of 17 sections taking up 10 pages. In 2006 the laws take up twice as much space, and we have a far more rigid game.

Some of the laws are quite handy. Such as Section 5.4: "The colours of the jerseys worn by competing teams shall be easily distinguishable"; something lost on the NRL.

And section 12.3. "A player shall not take the ball from a tackled player. If any doubt arises as to the tackle the referee shall give verbal instructions to "play on" or "play the ball" as the case may be". It makes a mockery of new legalised stealing of the ball rules.

You could also get a free kick if you took the ball cleanly, how's that for rewarding fullbacks who can actually take a bomb under pressure.

The point is, these rules encouraged common sense and brave physical play, rewarded the skilful and punished the slack. Everything a good sport should do.

One of the new rules is worth mentioning: "Section 12.6. (a) The ball shall be put into the scrum from the Referee's side by holding it in a horizontal position with a point in each hand and rolling it along the ground into the tunnel formed by the opposing front row forwards."

And it'll be a cold day in Hell, or Henson Park, before you see that.

Phil Doyle - stepping up to the plate at the bottom of the fifth


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