The national obsession starts up again this week. Here’s a few improvement ideas for rugby.
Chris Rattue, NZ Herald
1.BE KINDER TO REF
Encourage the TV commentators to be a little kinder on the referees. Players contest the breakdown, and commentators contest breakdown decisions. Constantly. Continually analysing this highly subjective area of the game is pointless, unfair on referees and affects the legitimacy of the sport.
A few of our commentators appear to believe they know the rules better than the whistlers, which I bet they don’t. The main point here is that breakdowns can indeed be things of beauty if there is greater acceptance that interpretations of them are largely in the eye of the beholder.
Rugby by nature is something of a lottery folks – and the game appears all the better when you accept that. As for coaches who keep demanding greater consistency at the breakdown, they are usually excuse-makers who should put more energy into doing their own jobs better.
2. CROOKED FEEDS
Allow very crooked scrum feeds. Why are people obsessed with putting the ball in straight? As if civilisation will come crashing down because halfbacks don’t display a laser-guided set square honesty.
Straight feeds actually encourage messy scrums – a bane of rugby – because the front row of the team feeding the ball cannot plant their feet as securely. Blatantly “crooked” feeds would encourage a cleaner, quicker dispersal of the ball, or at least allow shoving contests with less shenanigans between the front rows.
There aren’t any heeled tightheads these days, so what is the point of the supposedly “honest” feed which actually contributes to collapsed scrums and constant re-sets.
3. TAP FREE KICKS
Introduce the John Mitchell rule. The former All Black coach, now in charge of the Johannesburg-based Lions, wants tap free kicks and penalties to be taken in line with the mark anywhere across the field.
This would open up the game by stretching and tiring defences, and get the ball into spaces. The current technicalities work against the quick restart for no apparent reason other than forcing referees to operate like trainspotters.
4. MORE DAY GAMES
Keep banging the drum about reintroducing more day games, which often produce the best rugby.
Most of us accept the television imperatives – most of the audience is in front of the box, and television is the major funder.
The ratings-motivated drive towards night games reflects what suits most of the audience so we can hardly complain too much when rugby (or any sport) takes this route. New Zealand rugby needs every cent it can get off the broadcaster and such are the pitfalls of international competitions.
However, rugby has taken night scheduling too far. The balance is not right especially when New Zealand’s tough winter conditions are taken into account along with a strong desire among many rugby supporters for more day games.
5. DROP GOALS
Embrace the drop goal. Drop goal attempts are way more exciting than watching endless rucks on the road to nowhere.
6. SECOND REF
Introduce a second referee with the sole responsibility of setting and policing the offside lines.
7. LET GO FRANCHISES
Let go of New Zealand’s Super 15 franchises rather than continuing the attempted pseudo privatisation of the five major rugby teams in this country.
Obsessive central control has squashed tribalism and innovation – including in the money-gathering department – in New Zealand rugby.
The game needs an injection of free-thinking and hard-nosed operators to compensate for the jobs-for-the-boys bureaucrats who have hijacked the game. Anyone who doesn’t understand this should ask themselves why Ian Foster was allowed to park at the Chiefs awaiting the call-up from All Black coach-in-waiting Steve Hansen while the crowds evaporated from Waikato Stadium.
This is not to say that the NZRU is necessarily wrong all the time, but the national administration needs to be given a run for its money.
Open disputes and arguments and debate and conflict are exciting, healthy and honest. There is stuff going on in the game – but it’s often behind closed doors. Compared with real professional sport, New Zealand rugby’s Kremlin style is boring.
8. QUICKER DECISIONS
Stress the need for quick video refereeing decisions.
9. HALFTIME INTERVIEWS
Quit those halftime TV interviews. “Yeah, no Brian – the boys are very positive after the first half and we just want more consistency and intensity.” Yaaaaaaaaawn.
10. JERSEY NUMBERS
Insist that jersey numbers are clear. A small point overall – but a major one now and again.
SOME COMMENTS IN THE NZ HERALD:
►Try to be 6 points, conversion 2, penalty 2, drop kick 1.I doubt SA teams would like this change, but it would be good for their game and the game internationally. Much more running and tackling and risk taking – more excitement.
Also – referees should be told to keep the game going as much as possible and only blow the whistle if they really need to. Key to this would be not blowing a penalty of the team who it is given to is going to win the ball anyway. Same as soccer.
►Agree with all except No5. drop kicks should be reduced to 1 point, because they are basically undefendable. A drop kick should not be the difference between losing and winning – it should be used ONLY to break a tied score. More ball in hand equals more tries. That’s what we go to see.
►For us TV watchers I would like to see an International level of commentory.
None of this really dumb – Gidday mate I’m a kiwi and know how to use a chainsaw crap.
NZ commentators become very parochial when the NZ teams are rubbed up or receive bad decesions,quite pathetic.neutral information only please.
Stop the absurd music between plays, we’re not that brain dead!
(RW: Saffas will agree!)
►Point 7 is a great idea. Would also allow each team to have their own jersey rather than have five teams with playing strip that are all very similar and very boring. We also need more day games, Sunday afternoon being the best time for families.
RW: Don’t worry – there’s no way you will miss the Bulls.