Put league out of its misery

league.jpgI’ve been idly following the discussion in rugby league circles about the possibility of adding two new teams to the NRL, probably one on the Gold Coast and one on the NSW Central Coast.

Rupert Online reported yesterday that the Gold Coast consortium was totally opposed to shifting an existing NRL team up there:

The last time Gold Coast had a team in the competition, they had to be propped up by the ARL at the end of 1995, and they were closed down three years later as part of the Super League peace deal between the ARL and News Limited (publishers of The Australian).

“I’ve said from day one that we think the Gold Coast would be very cynical of a relocation again, given the fact that they were betrayed with the exit of the Chargers,” Gold Coast Dolphins director Michael Searle said yesterday.

I suppose you can understand their cynicism, but it’s a short-sighted attitude. The AFL has had considerable success in shifting Melbourne teams to create a truly national game. Brisbane people have taken Fitzroy to their hearts, as to a slightly lesser extent have Sydney people with South Melbourne.

The rugby league experience is more equivocal. Post-Super League mergers worked OK (Wests Tigers; St George-Illawarra), but the experiment with a combination of a merger and partial territorial shift in the Northern Eagles was a spectacular failure, with the Bears ceasing to exist and a drastically weakened Manly now fighting desperately to avoid the wooden spoon.

But there’s no reason why shifting an existing team, without the additional disruption of a merger, wouldn’t work, especially if the transplanted teams are nurtured for several years as the AFL did with the Lions and Swans.

The ridiculous aspect of the current situation is that the team they’re apparently thinking of shifting is Melbourne Storm. Sydney clearly has too many teams, and if rugby league has any pretensions at all to ever becoming a national game instead of a parochial joke, the NRL must keep supporting Melbourne Storm.

The real problem is that Australia generally just doesn’t have the player or fan base to support 2 separate rugby codes played at elite international level. That stark reality probably isn’t quite as obvious to the dwindling band of rugby league followers. Australia still manages to dominate the “international” game, because league really isn’t played anywhere else to a significant extent. League is very much the poor cousin to rugby union in New Zealand, and to both soccer and rugby union in Britain and France.

In rugby union, however, which is a truly world game these days, Australia’s relatively thin player depth is a potentially serious problem. Britain, South Africa and New Zealand all have much larger pools of senior rugby players from which to choose their elite provincial and national squads. Australia has so far managed to remain at or near the top of world rugby despite that disparity, but for how much longer can we keep playing above our weight?

Rugby league is a bad joke that is draining the strength from the real rugby game in Australia. It should be quietly euthanased and its players welcomed into rugby ranks. The skills and strategies of the two games are far more similar than the parochial supporters of either code like to admit. You only need to look at the recent appointment of former Melbourne Storm coach Chris Anderson to coach a top Welsh rugby union side, and recall that Australia won its first two Rugby World Cups in considerable part because it adopted rugby league-style defensive skills and patterns.

Rugby league should do the patriotic thing and commit collective suicide. After all, they only broke away from proper rugby in the first place because the stuck-up Pommy wankers who then controlled rugby wouldn’t let working class lads from northern England make a buck out of the game. Now that rugby is fully professional and a world game, the rationale for league’s continued existence has disappeared.

You know I’m right. This isn’t Sam Kekovich.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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2022 years ago

I hate to say it, but you’re right. Since professionalism, the skill gap has closed to nothing … you used to be able to say that any club league game was played at a higher level than a rugby international, but that’s laughable now – only state of origin comes close.

The only remaining reason to hold a league bias is the offensive private school rugger bugger culture that surounds the sport, but even that’s starting to break down. A professional club competition filled with league converts (and quietly taking Gordon Bray and Chris Handy out the back and removing their vocal chords) could well administer the fatal blow.

2022 years ago

Just to play devil’s advocate for a second, why don’t you insert AFL into your argument instead of rugby league. After all, which has the greater international profile at the moment?

Not happy with that idea? Hmmmm. Wonder why?

Darp Hau
2022 years ago

How many frgging chances have the Gold Coast had?

Gold Coast Giants, Seagulls, Chargers …

The QRL can crap on for all eternity about the massive junior base up that way but the facts of the matter stand that any junior worthy of a first grade birth finds his way to the Broncs whils whatever bullshit entity is residing on the GC winds up signing Martin Bella and Rowdy Shearer on one year contracts.

I hate to say it, League is getting beyond a joke. We’ve got the Packer/Politis backed Roosters, a team with no fanbase – buying up every half decent player in the comp (they just got Amos Roberts). They’re now refusing to sign an agreement to limit salary cap increases.

Ok, so I’m a Manly fan and am understandably pissed off regarding the current state of affairs. We stayed loyal to the ARL, haven’t receieved a cent of Murdoch money for our troubles – STILL have a massive fanbase and strong club tradition – yet are liable to cop their first wooden spoon ever this year, whilst bullshit entities like the Melbourne Storm are kept afloat by News Ltd and somehow manage to get their hands on gun players like Billy Slater.

It’s a fucking joke!

Darp Hau
2022 years ago


Nah – I still firmly believe that League IS the better spectacle.

I have played both and probably prefer Union to PLAY as you don’t cop as much post-match amnesia, but to watch, union just gets too painful – all those pathetic scrum and ruck penalties.

Maybe they should amalgamate the two games?

1. Three tackles then ruck & maul situation comes into play. If possession changes hands from the ruck or maul, the team gaining possession begins with a zero-count tackle.

2. No “out on the full” rule inside own 22 metre line. Get the poofy kicking out of the game.

3. Penalty goals worth only 2 points, tries 5. This will fuck the likes of Jonny Wilkinson.

4. Dispense with breakaways, 13 A side.

5. Permit shoulder charging.

6. Turn the ruck and maul into a free-for-all. Hands, feet, stomp, anything goes. Get rid of all those bullshit penalties.

7. Have competative Union style scrums. Pushover tries permissable.

8. Have line-outs (with lifting)

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago


I don’t have a major problem with a lot of your rule changes, but I disagree with 2 and 6. League-style play the balls should be avoided at all costs. They’re the main thing that makes league so boring, static and predictable. At least rucks and mauls suck some players in and allow for the possibility of decent broken field action from second phase.

I still think my proposal for a 5 metre rule (for both attackers and defenders) at scrums, rucks and mauls would be the go. That would enhance still further the second phase attacking options and make for a great open running game. If you combine that with your rules minus 2 and 6, I reckon you’ve got a game that combines the best features of both codes.

BTW I’m a frustrated, depressed life-long Manly league fan too, and I agree.

Darp Hau
2022 years ago


How did we end up in this mess?

Financially – we got shafted by News Ltd when they effectively took over the game in the ARL-SL “merger”.

The general lack of interest in the game during that period and the ensuing after effects of this doubled this hit.

Really makes you wonder about the old “silvertail” shit in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s?

When the game was operating financially off it’s own bat, we were in the money. When it gets taken over by outside capital, we’re fucked.

We were never with Murdoch so we never got any of his money like the SL clubs were getting up to and including 98-99.

No offense to Max Delmege but we don’t have a Packer or Politis to back us up.

On the field…..forget it. It’s too painful.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago


The Fatty versus Bozo feud didn’t help. And the Leagues Club at Brookie’s been badly run for years, which can’t have helped its ability to funnel money into the footie club. And I’m sure there are lots of other issues as well that I don’t know about because I don’t live there any more.

Craig Field and then Brett Kimmorley didn’t settle as big name purchases, and that didn’t help either. I wonder why. You can understand with Field, because he was a dickhead, but Kimmorley’s another matter. He was brilliant at Melbourne, and has settled OK at Cronulla now. My tentative view was that Peter Sharp was a pretty ordinary coach, and that was part of the reason for the decline too. Then again, Desie hasn’t shown much sign of pulling them out of the death dive. Maybe he’s just too nice a bloke, and they need a coach with a bit of mongrel in him.

Peter Ransen
Peter Ransen
2022 years ago

There is an argument put forward at times that leggaue leaggge lagugeg (damn I hate it when I do that) is popular for the fact that the ball is in sight the whole time, unlike rugby.

2022 years ago

The AFL has had considerable success in shifting Melbourne teams to create a truly national game. Brisbane people have taken Fitzroy to their hearts, as to a slightly lesser extent have Sydney people with South Melbourne.

It sounds easy, doesn’t it? In reality the Swans were regarded as a joke and were a financial backet case until 1996, when Locket kicked ‘that point.’ As for Brisbane, winning three premierships on the trot has helped. I wonder how they’d be if the success hadn’t been there.

Moving clubs is extremely difficult. The Swans almost folded. Fitzroy (and to a lesser extent, the Swans) moved because they were bankrupt and had no choice. Rugby League head office couldn’t do it because their attention span is too short.

Killing off clubs or forcing amalgamations is even more difficult. Remember Souths? Remember Wests Rugby League club years ago? Remember the proposed merger between Melbourne and Hawthorne AFL teams? The fans will walk over red hot coals to prevent these things from happening.

Killing off a code …. impossible. I’m afraid you’ll just have to let Rugby League gradually whither away. It’s demise won’t happen any time soon.

2022 years ago

End of the line?

I mentioned the other day that I had some doubts about the long term viability of Rugby League in Australia; now prominent legal eagle and Rugby fan Ken Parish calls…

2022 years ago

Tribalism – The Weakness of Rugby and The Strength Of League

I saw this post by Ken Parish last week and put it in the back of my mind to comment on at some stage.

Now it is at the front