Rugby league is amidst one of its most definitive phases in recent memory; the nature of the game is controversially shifting away from its more violent side. But why now, and is this damaging the game as a whole?
The NRL has introduced numerous rules in recent years to eliminate a part of the game’s violent streak. These include the illegalisation of the shoulder charge, the zero-tolerance approach to punches and most recently disallowing any physical contact with referees.
New South Wales Rugby League (NSWRL) is continuing this trend, as it begun trialling weight-based competitions and equipping referees with GoPro cameras in junior rugby league matches at the beginning of the 2016 season.
Many within the rugby league community have been critical of these changes, claiming the game has gone soft. However, given rugby league’s recent history, change has been necessary to keep the game growing.
With countless stories and videos documenting brawls and other violent behaviour, including violent conduct against referees, junior rugby league has been particularly affected. The start of the 2016 season saw a 4% drop in the number of registered juniors from the previous season.
Violence in rugby league is driving people away, not keeping them. Junior rugby league in particularly has been plagued by instances of violence which have tarnished the game’s image.
Junior rugby league represents the future of the game; NSWRL is making necessary changes to stamp out unnecessary risk of violence, which given the current state of rugby league is the right direction.
Rugby league isn’t losing its intensity; it’s merely evolving to keep players safe. Introducing a safer culture into rugby league gives the game a greater chance to prosper in the future.
Article and image source: The Daily Telegraph