Friday, 27 May 2011

Hybrid Rugby

I have a confession to make: I like it both ways. Despite preferring the 15-a-side game, I am also a supporter of my local rugby league team: St.George-Illawarra Dragons, the reigning NRL premiers. 

In contrast to the muted ambience at Waratahs games, when you're dressed in red and white in the midst of the Dragon Army the atmosphere is intoxicating, the cameraderie overwhelming. The difference boils down to demographics: Dragons fans are blue collar, while 'Tahs games are attended by the gentry. 

Due to the disappointing standard of local SuperRugby games this week (the Reds had a bye), the entertainment highlight was provided by league's State Of Origin game. It was a typically brutal stoush, complete with post-match pugilism. The QLD combination of Lockyer, Thurston, and Slater showed once again that creatively they have no equal, coming from behind to clinch the game with a classically worked try. 

Aussie rugby union could do with players like that. 

SuperRugby's Australian conference has degenerated into a lop-sided farce because, although the ARU has created five SuperRugby franchises, there aren't enough union players of sufficient quality to ensure that more than one or two teams are competitive. The Reds are superb, the 'Tahs are disappointing, and the rest are rubbish.

The dearth of quality players owes to the fact that the ARU, which represents the elitist upper class of Australian society (private school old boys), has never made any attempt to spread the grass roots of rugby to the masses. This has not happened by chance; throughout the history of the game there has been an unspoken policy that rugby union should remain a game for the privileged.

No wonder concerned individuals are promoting a union-league hybrid game: Read the description of the game here.

With no grass roots of note, the cross-pollination of the code with league players is the only hope Australian rugby has of achieving consistent success at international level.

Unfortunately, league’s popularity in Australia has now marched so far ahead of union that the NRL is in no hurry to co-operate. Still, this blogger lives in hope that one day the schism will finally come to an end. With News Ltd reportedly lending its support to a hybrid game, perhaps it is not as far-fetched as some might think.


  1. I do prefer watching union compared to league EXCEPT for State of Origin. It's one of those things like the AFL final at the MCG that is SO Australian, that I just love it. The intensity of the games are fantastic. It's just a great spectacle.

  2. Steve,

    Is it televised in the USA? What about superRugby?