State of the Union

I’m sitting down to write this post with no actual content in mind to fill it. It’s more out of a sense of obligation and in recognition of the fact that I’ve had nothing of substance to say for quite some time. Unless of course you count last week’s efforts on the word queue and the North Korea situation. Part of the reason I’m writing this is because I’m sick of the “ronery so ronery” title sitting at the top of my blog page. Those of us still carrying the world cup torch know that the hotly anticipated all European final is on in the early hours of tomorrow morning. For those supporters out there who’ve fallen off the wagon Italy (boo) are playing France (Oh ho ho) in a battle worthy of an Olympic 10 metre platform dive final. The number of dubiously decided close games in this World Cup have done nothing to further the game’s cause in Australia. Speaking of games in Australia, I made the mistake of watching a bit of last night’s Bledisloe Cup. For those of you not interested in the petty fights between League and Union fans I’ll give a quick summary of my problems with Rugby Union.

1. Its fans claim superiority over league based on the flowing nature of the game. Sure the ball is in play longer because there are less penalties given (only because Union refs actually play the advantage rule properly), but so much time is taken up setting up the lineouts and scrums, and the ball is constantly tied up in rucks and mauls. The game flows about as fast as an arctic river. Which is to say not very fast at all. Their tries are invariably scored in an all in “stacks on” on the tryline. Hardly the result of dazzling ball play, creativity or athleticism.
2. Union fans claim the moral highground because their scrums are contested. As far as I can see, contested scrums are not necessarily a good thing. They do not punish dropped ball to the degree that league scrums do, and they take so long to get right. I can understand the ref’s concern with a correctly packed scum, because if they go wrong people will get hurt. I was once told that international rugby players develop hemorrhoids due to the pressure exerted in the scrum. And I believe it.
3. Union aficionados always claim a higher level of sophistication and intelligence than their league counterparts – this claim was historically rooted in the fact that union players traditionally came from good private school, university educated stock. But no longer. These days the Wallabies backline (traditionally the smarter team members) are more likely to have a background in League than a private school education, and they’re much more likely to be getting themselves in trouble off the field (ala Wendell Sailor – those two factors probably go hand in hand). They’re also more likely to get caught out lacking sophistication on the field too, thanks to the wonders of modern television.

Really that link and a genuine dissatisfaction with the quality of last night’s game were the only reason I made this post. I suspect I’ll also get more response from particular female readers (Miriam and Robyn come to mind) than from any passionate male Union supporters. So over to you girls…


Stewart says:

well I’m sorry that I’m not Miriam or Robyn… but as first comment off the rank, I just want to throw my support behind your arguments. I wholeheartedly agree with you…

That said, I would have to say I’m ambivalent to league as well

miriam says:

League = 5 tackles backwards and forwards = BORING!!

No brainers without necks.

miriam says:

Besides, have you seen the calibre of people that support the Leagure?

Union is a gentleman’s sport. The game they play in Heaven. It requires skill and tact and carefully thought out plays. Real men play Union. Rucks, mauls, proper tackles, scrums, kicking, running and passing! Ah, what a game.

Oh, did I mention Ben Tune, Matt Burke, Cameron Shepherd, Matt Giteau and my favourite of all, Phil Waugh?! Be still my beating heart.

Nathan says:

The reason league has a set number of tackles is because their players can count, even if they can only count to 5… unlike their union counterparts, who are harldy counterparts at all because they can’t count at all.

Union supporters are still riding the waves of the sport’s former amateur glory. Since professionalism they’ve lost the moral highground and the standard of player taking the union field has dropped dramatically.

Give me Nick Farr-Jones, David Campese, Tim Horan, Michael Lynagh, or John Eales (see I do know my Rugby history) over any of the current crop of wannabe celebrities with their stupid fashion mullets and fancy cars.

It’s no longer a class war – and there is no way Union can compete with the on field excitement of a league game.

miriam says:

HA! A closet Union fan – you have just shown your true colours Nathan!

Does anyone remember the flop of the League Super 12 or whatever it was called?? I’d just like to point out the magnificence of Union – we no longer have Super12 but Super14. We grew, League shrank.

Fashion mullets and fancy cars? You forgot to mention that we also have university degrees and necks. I guess we just don’t have the controversial escapades of our league ‘counterparts’ in Coffs Harbour.

Nathan says:

Funnily enough your training camp is in Coffs Harbour – the Bulldogs were cleared of any wrongdoing up there and I’d like to postulate that it was actually unidentified union players involved… lucky I know all about defamation hey…

How many of the Super 14 teams are Australian? Remind me how successful Union’s national club competition is? Oh that’s right… they don’t have one.

I’m not a closet union fan… funnily enough not many male union fans I know have come out of the closet – but perhaps they should.

miriam says:

Coffs Harbour is a great place for the Union boys. They conduct themselves well and from memory, they weren’t caught up in the scandal.

Western Force (brand new Aussie team); QLD; NSW Waratahs and the ACT Brumbies.Point made.

Plus, the are considering a Victorian team or moving the Brumbies further South. Either way, I gain.

Not many people are even aware of when the national league team does anything.

Nathan says:

There’s a national league team? I guess people don’t worry about the league team because they’re proper Australian’s and they actually win games.

I think it was a bunch of Union players in league jerseys in the Coffs incident… it wouldn’t take much to fool someone from Coffs would it Mr Herd?

4 teams makes your point? no, it makes mine… The NRL features 15 teams (16 next year), and only the Warriors are from outside Australia. That’s 15 viable sporting teams in the one competition in the one country (we all know New Zealand isn’t really a country).

The Western Force aren’t a viable team yet so that’s 15 v 3. If you were to argue that Melbourne isn’t a viable NRL team I may be forced to agree, but they still drew 15,000 to last weekend’s game.

miriam says:

If you’re going to include premiership/Club teams (oh, wait, aren’t they the only ones League have?) then we have many too – Randwick, Manly, Sydney Uni, West Harbour, Northern Suburbs etc.etc.

We also have NSW Country and QLD Country teams and community rugby teams.

Ah, sweet victory.

Nathan says:

Yes both Sydney and Brisbane have club rugby competitions. Each city also have second tier league competitions (and third and fourth and fifth… and lets face it, at the end of the day Union is just a second rate version of League so there’s also a sixth tier). How many people walk around Sydney claiming they support Randwick, or Warringah, or Gordon… to steal a phrase from the brilliant A League Ad (and the song by Scribe) not many, if any.

What is the point of having state level competition where players can change alligiences like they change underpants (Wendell Sailor anyone?). League has a genuine representative competition that means something to the players – State of Origin. It’s an interesting concept that maybe the Union powermongers might consider. I mean who in Western Australia even knows what Rugby Union is… League jumped off that bandwagon years ago.

miriam says:

One major game a year. Sad.

For the record, I don’t, and have never, supported the recruitment of League players across to our code. Am more than happy for them to stay where they originally are/were.

RjB says:

I leave it a day before I post and look what happens… Mind you, half of what is written on here is complete rubbish, and Nathan, I think you are responsible for that. Miriam, well done for your contribution so far :)

I have a few arguments in support of rugby union over league – some of which have already been mentioned, but since there are league supporters reading this I’ll remind you again. It takes league supporters little longer to comprehend the truth.

Firstly, league may be considered a game of rugby which has been simplified for those less able to comprehend its rules. It seems that league players simply can’t handle too many rules, after all, they can only count to five. Rugby is much more tactical and complex a game.

Secondly, rugby is much faster and free-flowing than league. In league, players spend half the game running backwards and forwards. At least in union, an attacking play can continue until someone either scores or stuffs up. It gives the players the opportunity to show their talent without being obscured by a limited number of tackles. I guess that you can argue that the stop-start game of league is fairer because then each team gets a go with the ball. This ‘sharing’ principle originated in primary school to help control the behaviour of children, so its probably fitting for league players too.

Nathan says:

Starting with the assumption that anyone who takes up one of the Rugby codes (league or union) isn’t the brightest cookie in the Subway cookie rack – I’d say arguing based on the intelligence of participants is fallacious to begin with. It’s hardly rocket science, unlike Avionic Engineering (which is rocket science).

But let me break it down one more time for you Rugby fans out there – League players are smarter because they can count to 6 (they have even thrown a zero tackle in there now because they can cope with that sort of confusion), union players can’t count so don’t have that rule.

I’d like to know the average number of phases a union team strings together for each possession – my guess is their error rate is slightly higher, leading to more scrums, leading to more wasted time… and don’t even get me started on the rubbish penalties, the boredom of watching a 5 minute rolling maul or the tedium of waiting for scrums and lineouts to be correctly structured. Give me the fast paced bash and barge of League anyday.

CB says:

You have a problem with subway cookies?

miriam says:

HAHAHAHA RJB! That was so funny! I like your style!

Go you good thing!

Nathan says:

Subway cookies are not big enough, and too expensive, and too delicious.

Leah says:

Miriam- League is definitely NOT a no-brainer. Trust me, if you watch an NRL game involving the clever and not-so-clever players, the clever ones stand out by a mile.

Union on the other hand, while it may be fun to play, is boring to watch. It’s not a spectator sport, it’s so slow-moving. League on the other hand is never boring and there is always action. ^_^

Leah says:

Heh, just read rjb’s comment. Union, faster and free flowing? Ok, I suppose that explains the scrums every 2 minutes… ;P

And while it appears League players can’t comprehend union rules, it appears union supporters can’t defend their sport unless they involve insult to the opponent ;D

RjB says:

I thought this discussion was over but it seems that some of the supporters of league remain unconvinced…

Nathan – I was amused by your reply. Your opening statement referred to arguments based upon the intelligence of participants being fallacious… That’s great, but then why did you then go on to write about the number of tackles in league and its delusive insinuation with respect to the intelligence of the players. I actually laughed out loud at your self contradictory statements.

Nathan and Leah – wrt to the flow of play / fast paced argument… How can you claim that play flows in league when, every time someone gets tackled, the players have to run back onside again before they are allowed to participate in the game? Surely, a game that includes rucks (not scrums) as a means of continuing the play means the game is more free flowing than a game where the players stop for a little breather every time they get tackled. Poor boys… Secondly, the observance of the play on / advantage rule in union also helps the game to be free flowing.

As for the argument of speed – if you are talking about the speed at which the players collide with each other, perhaps there is some argument for league – but that’s just because there are more run & tackle instances in league (as opposed to rucks and mauls). The rules for union are somewhat more advanced in that they allows players to get the ball down the field in more than just one or two ways. Some of these ways rely more on tactics than speed, so yes, at face value, there is some leeway in this argument.

If the speed which you refer to is the speed which players run when they make line breaks then that argument is trivial and cannot be proved one way or the other.

BTW – Australia vs South Africa tonight – watch and be educated.

Nathan says:

This isn’t an argument I take particularly seriously. Mostly because I’m sure I’m right so any discussion is simply a series of moot points that might be raised if in fact the outcome was in question.

If you measure the time taken between phases in rugby (see I know the terminology) – for the uninitiated that’s the time the ball is tied up in a ruck or a maul and not actually being passed around – union fans will argue that it is in fact in play at that point, I would argue that the ball needs to be moving to be in play. This is where League is a faster game – a set of six tackles takes about 50 seconds to get through – and then there’s a kick downfield, a chase, and another set of six. In the same timeframe a Rugby game would feature potentially one phase of play, followed by a scrum, followed by a penalty, followed by another ruck. A ruck is just a stacks on with a ball involved – it is not a visual spectacle. Sure it might be fun to be on top stomping away at your opponents, but it’s not really a sight for sore eyes – or eyes that are in perfect health.

miriam says:

‘a set of six tackles takes about 50 seconds to get through – and then there’s a kick downfield, a chase, and another set of six’.

Boring & predictable game.

Nathan says:

1. An attack on the rules of Rugby League.
2. A disparaging remark about the quality of the game.

boring and predictable response…