Mortimer's plea for scrum contest
Bulldogs and New South Wales great Steve Mortimer wants an invite to the NRL competition committee's end of year review, and first item on his agenda is making the scrum relevant again.
Named in 2008 as one of the game's greatest 100 players of all time in Australia, Mortimer is a deep thinker on the game who is not afraid to share what would some would deem either Draconian or left-field viewpoints.
But rather than being a grizzled old halfback sick of seeing five-eighths, hookers or centres feeding scrums, Mortimer insists that the game will one day again see a contest for the ball in the scrum, and he is happy to champion the cause.
"I honestly believe that in the future, somewhere along the line, the scrums will absolutely be for contests. It needs to be," Mortimer said. "Rugby league is a simple game and I think we've got to be very careful that we don't complicate things.
"The scrums are an insult to the intellect of rugby league supporters that sit down and watch. We need to compete for the ball in the scrums. We used to have a differential penalty where you couldn't kick for goal. So if the ball kicks back out again, the referee says, 'You kicked it out, penalty,' but it's going to add a lot more excitement to the game, particularly if it's 18-all with a minute to go and you're down attacking one line. That needs to be looked at at the end of the year.
"They have a review each season and they ask players or whoever; hopefully they invite me along to say some things as well."
The modern era is often witness to centres packing into the second row, hookers packing in at lock and five-eighths feeding the scrum, a far cry from the era of Mortimer, Sterling, Langer and Stuart where feeding the scrum to the advantage of your side was a finely crafted skill between hooker and halfback.
"That's not good for the game," Mortimer said of players from different positions packing into the scrum.
"The scrum is definitely a part of the DNA of the game, but you need to compete. If you're not competing, it's an insult to the people who come to watch that game and the people watching on TV.
"I'm speaking on behalf of Sterlo, myself, Allan Langer and co; it used to be a talent to cheat," added Mortimer, who played 272 games for the Bulldogs between 1976 and 1988.
"It's not cheating anymore; you just throw it under the second-rower."
As the captain of the first New South Wales team to win a State of Origin Series Mortimer is desperate to see the Maroon stranglehold broken, and is confident that the Blues are closer than they have been for almost a decade.
Although NSW skipper Paul Gallen remains sidelined and his deputy, Robbie Farah, was injured on Saturday night, Mortimer believes that the foundation of the past two years will bear fruit in 2014.
"It would be hard but I just think that we've got so many players now that can step in," Mortimer said of the Blues' prospects of winning without Gallen. "He is their captain and I've said a little prayer that he'll have the opportunity to be the winning Series captain for New South Wales in 2014.
"It's being tough and prepared for Origin games. Sometimes it's not the talent that wins you the game, it's how you apply yourself, how you respond and your mentality and I think over the last few years that New South Wales, first under Ricky Stuart and now under Laurie Daley and our captain Paul Gallen, we are starting to, if you like, follow what Queensland have been doing so well.
"The series win for New South Wales is nigh."