When I failed to get RFL accreditation for the 2018 season, I decided that a season off to concentrate on my new full time job wasn’t a bad thing. After all, I had spent most of the last year concentrating on my final year at university and hadn’t fulfilled the RFL requirement for published pieces (Although I do run my own website with interviews and match reports…) to gain that fabled plastic pass.
It would give me chance to sit and watch the sport as a fan again, rather than with a critical journalistic eye.
Sadly, that is almost impossible.
The game is being turned on its head as we watch. Players are doing their best to milk penalties, slow the ruck, con match officials and generally stop the game being the fast, free flowing sport I grew up watching.
Yes, it has always been thus, but I am seeing more of it than ever.
I’m used to football players acting like they’ve been shot when an opposing player brushes past them, but when RL players are starting to milk penalties in a similar vein, the game needs a shake up.
I honestly believe this is being coached into players, rather than the players themselves deciding to con not only the match officials, but the paying fans as well.
It comes down to coaches telling players they will not stand to see such play acting, rather than actively encouraging it.
There also needs to be better awareness from the match officials of players locking in an opponent to gain an advantage. Perhaps the touch judges could be better placed and make the man in the middle aware when they see something, rather than just wandering up and down the line?
During the Challenge Cup game between Featherstone and Hull FC, it was the touch judge who spotted the knee from Danny Washbrook and he was (harshly in my opinion, given the rest of the game) sent to the sin bin.
Why can’t they take more responsibility for what happens on the field?
The game I love watching appears to be dying a slow death by a thousand cuts, and we’re all partly responsible.
Match officials are too easily conned, players are taking the easy route to gain an advantage, coaches are allowing players and coaching them into how to gain a penalty and journalists and writers of the sport are not castigating players and clubs for all of the above, perhaps for fear of losing access to clubs and players.
They should be shaming players for simulating injury, but like fans of any team, they will only see opposing players doing it, not their own.
I wont be bothering to try and join the ranks of the press next season.
I don’t see the point in writing about a sport where players and coaches are only too happy to con the paying public, and get away with it because of a lack of leadership from the sports governing body, because leadership comes from the top.
That means coaches, officials, fans and the RFL themselves needs to get a grip of our sport before it does lose all its credibility.
Rugby League is a tough game.
Lets keep it that way.