OUR CHANGING GAME
The Game evolves.
Evolution, as opposed to revolution, occurs incrementally and usually slowly enough to escape notice.
Anyone can pull out their 1973 Barbarians – All Blacks video and see the changes that have crept into our code. The longer the time interval, the more evident they are.
This writer recently had the disappointing experience of watching a videotape of a game in which he scored three tries. In memory yet green even twenty years on, this had been a game with dynamism and flow.
Alas, magnetic traces on videotape are less susceptible to subjective and favorable alterations than neuronal traces in the cerebrum.
In truth, by contemporary standards the game would be considered to be a dog’s dinner at best. It was the kind of game a twenty-first century referee would complain to the appointments secretary about. The lineouts were chaos personified; the up-and-under was the primary offensive ploy; tackle ball was never secured and usually buried but not to worry! – the referee allowed plenty of time for the players to eventually produce it, just in time for another pop kick to the box so someone else could be piled high upon.
As recently as the late eighties, a tackled player could not properly lay the ball back; much less keep a hand on to steady it for arriving players. As recently as the early nineties, teammates in the lineout could not touch each other until the ball was caught. As recently as ten years ago, scrums formed up as far apart as they wished and crashed together at a mutually-agreed upon moment – the referee had no part to play in the engagement at all.
Some of these changes are imposed on the game by changes in the Law. Others are the result of coaching and playing innovations.
When innovation is occurring, referees need to be attuned to the direction the game is going and interpret the Law accordingly until, if need be, the Law can be re-written.
One such evolution is occurring at present.
Highly skilled, fit and motivated players wish to get back onto their feet after a tackle as rapidly as possible; certainly faster than a referee’s five-syllable thought of ‘immediately’.
What has been happening occasionally in the upper strata of the Game the past couple of seasons is the following:
Two opponents are running fast and meet at an angle. Blue tackles Red, who has the ball. They hit the ground having positioned their bodies so that their feet are quickly under them. Blue gets to his feet as fast as if he’d landed on a trampoline. But so does Red. It looks like their momentum has brought them back to their feet, as if they’d bounced off the ground.
In fact, they get up so fast they never become separated. Blue still has his arms around Red and Red still has the ball.
Those who are fortunate to be refereeing in matches of such skill levels play on from this situation. Arriving players generally form a maul and no-one gives a second thought that there should have been a whistle.
By the time the referee could have formulated the syllogism, ‘Blue tackler did not release after the tackle, Red ballcarrier did not release the ball but simply got to his feet with it, ergo I should blow the whistle and penalize…? ’, everyone else on the pitch is carrying on playing rugby while the coaches and spectators are happy.
This situation is the result of increasing situational awareness, strength and skill levels. Players are so keen to get onto their feet immediately that, in essence, the tackle is not consummated.
When his happens in the middle of the pitch nobody even remarks on it. Tackler and tackled player both go to ground and then pop back up.
But the situation has now penetrated in general consciousness as a result of an NPC match this past weekend.
One of these pop-up no-tackles happened a few meters out. The resulting maul was driven over the line by the attackers, where the ball was forced by the original ballcarrier and a try was awarded.
This brings up a 'larger' issue, which is the evolution of refereeing the tackle.
Not so long ago, we refereed the Tackle and then the Ruck, positioning ourselves and thinking accordingly.
Then, a few years ago, we realized that the players’ and coaches’ approach is in terms of winning the Collision before the tackle. That affected not only our positioning at tackle but also our mindset, the priorities we would assign to various players for compliance. (Basically, whoever's going backwards has to release first, be it tackler or ballcarrier.)
More recently we've realized that there's another wrinkle, the Contest for the ball after the tackle. Players, coaches and spectators don't want an instantaneous whistle; they want instantly-arriving players to have a brief interval to sort it out for themselves. (Andre Watson, in his autobiography, called this 'letting it breathe'.)
So - the refereeing of the Tackle/Ruck is evolving into refereeing the Collision/Tackle/Contest/Ruck (or Maul, if the contest is won by a player on his feet).
This brings us back to the issue at hand - the players who pop up before either of them has released. Both of them are saying: we don't want a ruck, we want a maul.
Refereeing this as 'not a tackle' is in the interests of continuity. It is also in the interests of playing the game the way players and coaches want to play it, and the way the fans want to see it.
Not applying tackle law to this situation is safe, it is productive, it's good rugby and we get to keep the whistle in our pocket one more time.
Our Game evolves. We are so lucky to be such a vital part of it.
NCRFU AGM MONDAY EVENING
Don’t forget the Annual General Meeting of the NCRFU, 7.30 PM, Monday, August 21, at the San Francisco Golden Gate clubhouse on Treasure Island. Food will be provided for the first 40 people.
The agenda for the meeting is as follows;
1. Report by the President and Treasurer on the 2005/2006 year
2. Election of officers for 2006/2007
3. Review of the membership status of probationary member, West Sacramento
4. New business, including the admission of new member clubs
After the conclusion of the AGM, the Men's Clubs will meet to discuss the structure of the Men's Club competition.
D1 clubs should be ready to discuss the PCRFU playoff structure and the possibility of Haggis playing as a guest in NCRFU (under all NCRFU protocols etc).
The nominated slate of officers for 2006/2007:
President: Giles Wilson
Vice President: Kirk Khasigian
Treasurer: Pete Dubois
Secretary: Katrinka Blunt
Scheduling Secretary: Steve Siefert
Nominations will be accepted from the floor as well.
With respect to new member clubs, admission to membership is by the vote of the member clubs at the AGM. A new club must be nominated and seconded by member clubs. Typically, prospective clubs are asked to explain (i) the reason for forming a new club, as opposed to joining existing clubs, (ii) its organization, finances and field situation, and (iii) why it thinks it can fulfill its obligations to the NCRFU.
Every club should send a representative to the AGM.
Proxies are acceptable. Proxies must be in writing and name the club giving the proxy, the name and position of the person signing the proxy on behalf of the proxy giving club and the person to whom the proxy is given. Writing means ink-signed originals, faxes or printed emails. The chair of the AGM will rule on any disputes regarding proxies.
This is, as we used to say, too awesome.
Somebody has made a ‘music video’ by combining the last 25 minutes of Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 classic 2001: A Space Odyssey with Pink Floyd’s also-classic ‘Echoes’ from their 1971 album Meddle.
What’s the opposite of déjà vu?
If you have a cable modem, sit back and relive this experience for the first time:
Click here: Pink Floyd Echoes Music Video with 2001 A Space Odyssey - Google Video
THIS WEEK'S PHOTO
You don’t see this everyday! Look closely – these are not birds of a feather, yet they are flocking together!
Pelecanus occidentalis, in the foreground, are ‘our’ pelicans, the Brown Pelicans of coastal California. They prefer seafood and choose their habitat accordingly.
Pelecanus erythrorhynchos, the White Pelicans afloat, inhabit inland lakes all over North America. Some of them do winter near the Gulf Coast, hence this happy concatenation on the inland waterway near Galveston, Texas.
Thanks to Vera Green of Scottsdale, Arizona, who is aware of our interest in these avians, for sharing this delightful moment.
For the Senate