Dear All,
Here I have posted another bit of nonsense for your
attention! I know I express the view of many on the subject of our game today.
It is also a bit off beat, but use it or not as you see fit. It’ll fill a bit of
space on the Blog.

Don’t know what the rest of the ever diminishing
band of old Hunslet Parksiders’ think, but I have a few gripes
about the way the game of rugby league is played today. While admitting that the
game is faster and played by much fitter players than in the past, old time
players and supporters complain about certain facets of the game which they say
make the game less attractive

A bone of contention for many is the way players of certain clubs seem intent on
holding down tackled players until the last second ,with the propose of allowing
defenders to get into position. Another infuriating item is the way players
move off the mark when playing the ball, a manoeuvre penalised only on the odd
occasion, by some referees who are also inconsistent in deciding what has been a
loose carry, a knock on ,a dropped ball or a reaped out ball. The high tackle is
a also a contentious issue, when on numerous occasions undeserved penalties are
awarded or they are missed completely’.

Worst of all is the way the scrum is conducted. The need for a hooker is no
longer a necessity, except for the work done in the loose or as receiver. Loss
of the ball and head and feet, means scrum halves feeding the scrum are certain
to get possession, whereas in the old days packs had to get down bind tight and
push ,when a quality hooker still had some hope of obtaining the ball. Even in
Union, where I played a great deal in the Army and obtained a second class RU
referees certificate, standards of scrimmaging have dropped. In those days the
ball had to be put in the scrum 18” to 2foot inside the tunnel and go beyond the
two feet of the nearside props before it could legitimately exit the scrum. The
other day and old friend of mine equally as unimpressed as myself came out with
the remark; What a waste of time this is. When next they get down, before
putting in the ball, they should play a waltz .it would be more meaningful and
more interesting to see the players dance than this charade of scrum play. I’m
sure he was right.

And in comparison with the procedure of the line out in RU it does nothing for
today’s game. Also when now do we see quality stand-off play such as produced by
Willy Horne, Dickie Williams, Brain Gabbittas and other once
prominent half-backs. Apart from a few, when and where do we see three-quarter
play in the style of Lewis Jones, Reg Gasnier, Ernest Ward ,
Risman and others like Hunslet’s , Shelton, Rookes and
others who had the ability to sidestep, change pace and body-swerve. Only a few
wingers to day match up to some of those old-timers. One exception, almost in
the mould of Lewis Jones ,either at full-back or anywhere else on the field is
Sam Tomkins who has a natural gift of performing these
moves

.
But to return to the subject of fitness in which today’s players are a fine
example, it should be remembered that in days past, players had to train
Tuesdays and Thursday evenings after possibly a hard day’s work, and often play
Saturdays after a mornings work. In the past I have quoted that among the Leeds
V Huns let championship play-off Final at Elland Road in 1938.
There wasn’t player above 14 or 15 stone, whereas today we see 15-17 stone backs
and forwards doing 12-13 secs in rugby togs. Hardly seen or heard of before
World War 2.

Talking of fitness and strength in the Prossie one night with my
old friend Ken Traill, (also once a bowls player ) I suggested that
gridiron players were equally as hard as ours in RL. He used to
deny this, quoting the padding and protection they wear. This discussion was
never brought to a conclusion, and has no real relevance to the subject in hand.
But we are bound to decide that our game today has some similarity in the way
smother tackles are made and the way shoulder charges and other sometimes brutal
methods are used, in blocking or the tackle.

Before closing I should perhaps mention another of my gripes, this time on the
subject of Crown Green Bowling, in which I have competed since leaving the army
in1949. While still serving, and on leave from Germany, playing both rugby and
bowls, another old friend the late Keith Clark, father of Howard, the Leeds
Ryder cup golfer, used to say; “Can’t understand you playing rugby and that
other rubbish old man’s game bowls!. I replied that is what I have become used
to., and all I could afford. We had little chance of taking up golf in those
days, and had to be content with carrying the bags of golfers around Middleton
or South Leeds for a few coppers. But for those who perhaps never noticed we had
a quality green at the Mother Benson’s end of Parkside, so
naturally for a couple of years I played with the Hunslet Club
before transferring my affiliation to the Hunslet Lake bowling club
when injury caused my retirement from rugby.

My gripe about bowls relates to the obvious lack of real talent which one can
see on the bowling greens of today. Believe it or not Crown Bowls is a skillful
and often hard physical challenge, as any who have played for any length of time
will tell you. But as with the oval ball game, many of the old skills seem to be
disappearing fast, as the older generation of players pass on, and the standard
of play now is both boring and unimaginative. And here is where a suggestion of
another bowler is on the lines of the waltzing scrum of players in Rugby League.
Skill is essential as most of you will know in all sports, some of it is natural
ability the other has to be learnt. But as a bowling competition proceeded a
week or two ago, the old player who commented said;” They’ve been on the green
for over an hours, some taking part in their second game, and they still don’t
know where the green slopes uphill and down. “What would you do then Jack” said
another. “Let both captains hire helicopters and by dropping their bowls onto
the green I’m sure they will get them near (to the jack)” Having seen and played
with some of the best players around for over76b years, I had to agree. At that
point I’m afraid it’s time for bed. So, like the Old time Dixon of Dock Green ,
Jack Warner ( you have to be as old as me to remember him), I’ll say“ Goodnight
Folks”

Ernie ‘L’