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Chris Rattue on sport

The latest sport analysis and comment from controversial Herald columnist Chris Rattue


No contest when it comes to excitement

Round one of the National Rugby League delivered a knockout blow to rugby which has instantly put its rule tinkering into perspective.
Comparing sports is a no-go area in some people's view, and maybe even my own in the past. But who knows why, because in the case of rugby and league, their matches compete for our television affections three days a week.
From this floating voter's perspective, league has already put a big hit on rugby.
One league game - between Manly and the Wests Tigers - said it all, revealing through comparison how far rugby has fallen as a spectacle that allows individual skill to flourish.
Five rounds of the Super 14 have failed to produce anything to match what Manly and the Wests Tigers came up with on Monday night, a classic of brutal power and brilliant playmaking, where a team that looked well beaten overcame an aggressive opponent through sheer skill.
Yes skill, that element which is supposed to drive all sport.

Manly were cruising to victory, and putting in a bit of arrogant biff as well, before Wests - masterminded by Tim Sheens and sparked by Benji Marshall - launched a counter-offensive that wiped the smile off Manly's face and slapped it on those of us who thrill to fabulous sport.
League continually produces something that is essential to wonderful contests yet is virtually non-existent in rugby - the thrilling finish. Rugby matches invariably peter out although on a good day someone might barge their way over the line or kick a winning penalty.
There are plenty of dud league games of course, and an over reliance on kicking at times. The weekend's match between the Warriors - who already look well worth their wooden spoon favouritism tag - and the Gold Coast Titans was an example of an ordinary contest of often poor skill.
Yet even then, there was more open field action at Skilled Park, in other words things you could actually see and admire rather than a mass of bodies piled up in front of an unforgiving referee or people barging into each other, than you will find in a host of rugby matches.
Tune in to a league match and there is a decent chance the heart will be racing down to the wire. The NRL throws up a couple of nailbiters every weekend.
Rugby just can't match this and it has become a game of patterns over personality.
In a majority of rugby matches, skill is unable to rise above desperate situations. Mistakes flow under pressure, and teams in the lead can close contests down.
In Europe, a so-called home of rugby, flair doesn't survive the opening kick-off. The only reason anyone might have enjoyed the weekend's clash between England and Scotland was for a good old laugh at someone else's expense.
All that money, coverage and pomp, to watch cumbersome brutes ploughing a field.
Tana Umaga, the All Black legend and new Counties-Manukau assistant coach, claimed in the Herald yesterday that league runaway Sonny Bill Williams had the makings of an international rugby loose forward.
Why, Tana? Why take the most brilliant ball playing giant in league, and turn him into a grafting rugby forward with his head stuck in rucks and mauls and scrums in between milling about waiting for someone to take a shot at goal or throw the ball into a lineout.
We all admire and cherish Richie McCaw, but for his courage and graft, not for anything that you would put in a highlights package.
On a good day, Williams might get to make a couple of runs and pass the ball once or twice. Wow.
Rugby is a marginally better game under the new tackle ball interpretation but you also see worrying signs of relapse. The bigger the occasion, the more rugby tends to shut down.
In contrast, league's skills flourish, from club to test level, and are even elevated at the heights.
Individually, rugby no longer produces stars to excite the masses.
Rugby is a game that has not survived professionalism all that well.
Take Zac Guildford. He's the next wonder wing apparently - but try as I might, there's nothing to see in Guildford that comes remotely close to emulating Bryan Williams, Gerald Davies, David Campese, John Kirwan, Jonah Lomu, Jeff Wilson or Inga Tuigamala. About all Zac Guildford seems to do is catch the ball and run fast.
As an excitement machine, he just doesn't rate next to league stars such as Billy Slater, Jarryd Hayne, Darren Lockyer, Robbie Farah, Greg Inglis, Benji Marshall and co.
Maestro Marshall, maybe the best rugby or league footballer I've ever seen for wizardry that works, also toyed with switching to rugby, presumably for the money.
Thank goodness he didn't.
His sensational skills would have been lost to the game he most suits, and just as lost in the game he does not suit.
Marshall reminds you of the young Carlos Spencer, and what he brought to rugby. Sadly, there's no room in rugby for the magical mavericks anymore.


You wont get to many brain washed sheep BAAing in this thread in defence on yawning.


Just heard Wille Lose stating that he couldn't believe that Rats would do this after Rd 1


I heard Willie Jackson saying yesterday that it pained him to say it as a out and out union man BUT league was killing union as far as entertainment goes.


I always give them a call when they are talking about league. But i love listening to them full stop. Best entertainment available on NZ radio.


Well, Mr Rattue has to say something to get the folk talking, doesn't he? Otherwise why bother having him write his opinion piece?
And he's most certainly right about the Titans v Warriors game not being anywhere as good as the Tigers v Sea Eagles or Eels v Dragons games....

In fairness to Rats, if the boys win Saturday and next Sunday and start really get something moving, he'll write a piece saying how great the Warriors are and that anyone who seriously thought they were wooden spooners was an idiot. For instance, He got really stuck in to the Warriors after the 6-52 thumping we got from Manly in '08 but was quite supportive as things improved and he did sound a note of caution over Mr Jones, so he's not a total idiot.
As an opinion piece writer he's quite entitled to change his tack on players/coaches/teams so I've got no problem with that. Also, whether he believes what he writes is an important consideration. I've heard Murray Deaker on Radio Sport virtually admit one night he was saying things he totally opposed just to get some talkback going....
Altough, I still get the impression he's more of a union man (Rats, not Deaks....obvious he is) which may be wide of the mark but he's never really (for me, anyhow) truly got stuck in to some of the golden cows of New Zealand sport ie is our provincial rugby competition truly great or is it simply left with not much competition to compare it with(ie Currie Cup)? Being 1st out of 10 is actually quite an achievement, 1st out of 2 or 3....meh....And the big enchilada IMO....Who, apart from Laurie Mains (who, as the All Blacks coach at the time, you can easily accuse of massive arse covering), Colin Meads (ditto as All Blacks manager) and some security guard who worked with the ABs in 95 can verify the Suzie the Waitress story??
semi-rant over :)
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Hey, I've just done post number Chew-Four-Chew!!! Richie Benaud would be proud....


I agree with Rattue fully. League is a much better game to watch and has been for the last decade.

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