In an age when so many people aim to pick holes in the game and focus on the negative aspects of rugby league, Tiffany Salmond has put together her top 25 reasons to love the Greatest Game of All.
The sheer physicality of rugby league is most definitely why we love the game so much. There’s a reason why there are countless ‘Rugby League Biggest Hits’ compilation videos on YouTube with thousands of views each – because no other game can compete on a physical level with the 13-a-side game.
Although watching a game at home means not having to combat the winter weather in the stands, it has absolutely nothing on the experience of being at the game. The infectious vibe from the crowd and the overall atmosphere is enough to make anyone stand on their seat and chant for their team. The famous ‘Viking Clap’ performed by Canberra Raiders fans is enough to give anyone chills and make them want to buy a season pass.
3. Women in League
The respect the game has for the women involved is one of rugby league’s great virtues, whether it be supporters, board members, volunteers or players. The ‘Women in League’ round is a perfect display of recognition to every woman that contributes to the game. What began a decade ago as an initiative to recognise the role women play in the game has now become a key fixture in the rugby league calendar.
4. The Biff
The good old days, when a game of rugby league was also a boxing match. The biff was undeniably one of the reasons rugby league was so entertaining to watch. Although the biff is nowhere near what it used to be due to severe penalties put in place, punch-ups are still occasionally a part of the great game. Can you really expect 26 large men smashing into each other for 80 minutes not to throw a punch out of frustration? Bring back the biff, I say.
The NRL has to be one of the few sporting competitions where at the beginning of each season, every team has a legitimate chance of winning. The competition is so even that there is always a realistic chance that last on the ladder could beat the top team at any time throughout the season and no one would be shocked. This is what makes the premiership so great – it is always a guessing game who will come out on top and it can change so quickly.
6. A Game for all Shapes and Sizes
There are few sports that don’t require a specific body-type/skill-set in order to be good. Rugby league is a game where you can be big, small, fast or slow and still have the ability to become successful. As long as you put in the work, anyone has a chance to play professionally.
A game of rugby league can change extremely fast. One minute a team is down 30 points at half-time and by the end of the game the score can be reversed. The momentum of a game can be changed by something as simple as a drop of a ball. What can be a betting person’s nightmare is often what makes the game so thrilling to watch.
We don’t call it the toughest game in the world for nothing. If anyone is not convinced, show them the game where Raiders fullback Jordan Rapana played for 25 minutes with a fractured skull, or when Shane Webcke defied doctors orders in the 2000 grand final and decided to play with a broken arm, or Sam Burgess claimed the Clive Churchill Medal in the 2014 decider after suffering a broken cheekbone in the opening minute. Those are just a few examples of countless injured players that have battled on, confirming how brutal the sport is and the passion of the players.
Rugby League gets a lot of grief for being a simple game, but there is nothing simple about some of the plays I witness on the field every season. It always amazes me how smoothly the players can execute technical plays and make it look so easy.
10. Freakish Finishers
Not only are the set plays something to be admired, but the skill and athleticism some players show when scoring tries is mind-blowing. Leaping into mid-air while still managing to land the ball millimetres from the white line still leaves me in awe every time.
11. Down to the Wire
I can’t remember the last time a game of league hasn’t left me on the edge of my seat, screaming while watching the clock count down the last 30 seconds. A huge proportion of games come down to the last minute with both teams having a chance at coming out on top.
Every year the game improves, making it faster, more physical and, of course, more exciting. Compare a game from 2007 to 2017 and you’ll see how far it has come in such a short amount of time. It is constantly evolving and is often the trend setter for other codes to follow in its footsteps.
13. Non-stop Action
The foremost thing I love about rugby league is the fact that there is always action happening – it’s non-stop excitement for 80 minutes. No time for toilet breaks or you might miss three tries, a broken leg and a punch-up.
14. The Next Generation
The NYC gives up and coming rugby league stars a chance to develop their skills and experience what it would be like to reach the big time. Not only is it good for the young players, but watching their games can be just as exciting as the NRL professionals. And it means there is more league on TV to watch – how could that not be a good thing?
15. Young Guns
Each season there is an influx of new, exciting, young players who are passionate and ready to bring new tricks to the game. Kalyn Ponga was one of those new players who left crowds in awe of his talent in the 2016 NRL season and will be one to watch in this upcoming campaign.
16. Loyal Fans
Rain, hail or shine, there will always be a full crowd coming out to support their favourite team. Rugby league fans are about as passionate as sports fans can be. Through hard times they will stand by their team. After the terrible loss from the Warriors’ 42-0 defeat last season to Melbourne Storm and the off-field scandal involving multiple players that followed, there was still a full house at their next game cheering them on to do better.
17. Top-notch Coverage
Rugby league is one of those codes where you don’t have to be there to experience it in all its beauty. With new technology introduced to the game over recent years, we see tries, goals and tackles from multiple angles and in slow motion, allowing spectators to take it all in as if they were on the sideline themselves. No one misses out if they can’t make it to a game.
18. Golden Point
Although we all have a love/hate relationship with it, you can’t deny that golden point leaves you biting your nails with stress every time. Sometimes the end result leaves you frustrated – but when your team makes that winning try or goal kick, there’s no better feeling.
The rivalries in rugby league are what makes for those tense, powerful games when you’re just waiting to see who will blink first. Whether it’s the Blues versus the Maroons, the Kangaroos versus the Kiwis or the Rabbitohs versus the Roosters, you know sparks will be flying – or punches, that is.
Who doesn’t love to see an underdog win? One of the NRL’s greatest pluses is the competition is so close that it’s not impossible to see a rank outsider win any given game – or even the premiership. Take the Sharks’ long-awaited victory in the 2016 season, for instance.
The 40/20 rule is unique to rugby league. We love them because they are so effective in swinging the momentum of a game, which is a necessity when a team needs a bit of luck to get back into the contest or put their foot on the opposition’s throat.
Rugby league players are always coming up with new tricks and adding flair to their plays, which make the games just that bit more special. What would a game be without a few side-steps and Benji Marshall-style flick passes?
We all love to see tries scored and perfected plays but a true rugby league fan will always appreciate the skill in a team’s defence. From magnificent try-saving tackles, to players who rack up over 70 tackles in a game, good footy is all about the defence.
They may be mocked by rugby union types, but scrums are a beautiful thing in league – they mean we don’t have to wait hours for backline play to happen, bored to tears be endless repacking. Nothing’s worse than waiting for the formalities of scrum-time when all you want to do is watch them get on with a good game of footy.
25. Giving Back
I think the best aspect about the game we love so much is the community and support surrounding it. In 2002 the Men of League foundation was formed with the aim to provide support and assistance to men, women and children from the rugby league community who have fallen on hard times. There are not many sports around the world who rally around their community – and vice versa – amore than rugby league does.
— Men of League (@menofleague) December 10, 2016
[YouTube – BsporTV]