We always end up on the same table when we’re back at home, at our original pub.
No-one organises it. It’s just what we do. Perfectly aligned to the bar and the small screens.
It doesn’t take long for the stirring to begin. It’s a tough school. The wrong shirt or a dodgy haircut is enough for some unified bagging.
The talk turned to footy, as it usually does. Timely, with one of the great Origin games on the way.
There are hundreds of games between us. Lots of blood, sweat and broken bones. With a few cool drinks sprinkled in between.
Half of those at the table turned to coaching after playing days. These blokes know the game. Some have sons still involved.
The races weren’t even done when it became clear this mob was unhappy. Everyone saw a problem with the modern game. A few of the boys have even stopped watching on a Friday night.
We went around the table, and everyone had their say. Voices of real fans. I wish I’d made a recording, and sent it to the NRL.
Weird Harold hates the wrestle. In his day, he was a tough forward, who tackled, and was tackled. Always around the legs, as we were all taught. He can’t stand blokes grappling, and being kept upright, to allow defensive lines to re-group.
We all agreed. The Cannonball tackle, where a third defender comes in and hits a player’s knees while he’s being held by others up top, makes me sick. It goes against everything we were ever taught.
Smithy bought a round, and we went quiet, thinking about why this great game keeps getting tinkered with.
Coffs broke the silence. He thinks they’ve got the defence all wrong. He can’t stand slide defence. When it doesn’t work, wingers keep scoring in the corner, game after game. Boring, he reckons. Get back to defenders attacking attackers. Coaches over-coaching. It’s one of the reasons the game is short of playmakers. He would know. There were few better with the footy in his hands.
They both can’t stand how technology has slowed things down. The mind-numbing delays, when video refs are trying to make a decision.
It makes the game so much slower. Teams are unable to create pressure, while a director is rewinding yet again. And pressure on the footy field can bring the best of teams undone.
Richo hates how they form scrums today. Anyone can stick their head in there. They amble over, with any number on their back. No-one pushes, or attempts to win the ball over. Drives him nuts.
Bez doesn’t say much. Just stands, and nods. We’re assuming he’s not happy either. He would come off the field, covered in dust. Without the energy to say anything. Nothing much has changed there.
I agreed with all their gripes. I think the game is best when there are minimal stoppages, and the skills of the athletes are on show. I want big blokes to get tired, so little blokes can create magic. Fast men being put into holes. That’s what kids will copy in the backyard.
It’s still a wonderful game. We agree on that. Just stop changing the things that make it great. The speed, and the strength, and the skill, and the toughness.
Let’s hope the Origin decider is all of those things, and more. Keep an eye out for Cannonball tackles. Boo if you see one. And for Richo’s sake, let’s hope we don’t have a winger packing into a scrum. It might be the end of him.