Modern footy feels like '05: Heighington
The more things change, the more they stay the same. That's the opinion of Sharks veteran Chris Heighington who believes the current brand of rugby league is starting to resemble what was played in the mid-2000s.
Heighington was a member of the razzle-dazzle Wests Tigers side that shocked the rugby league world to win the 2005 competition with a flamboyant style of play that hasn't been since in footy circles since.
While their highly entertaining game plan has been replaced by a more structured model focused on getting to certain points of the field before launching into set plays, Heighington said there were signs of yesteryear in the modern game.
"I reckon it's going back to the way it was," Heighington said after Sharks training on Tuesday morning.
"Back in 2005 when we won the competition, ruck speed was so quick. Then they brought in the dominant tackle, the wrestle, surrender tackle. After '05 – around '06-07 – they brought in all these tackles and the wrestle came into the game.
"But '05 feels a lot like what we're getting to now again. Maybe the attack's a bit different, but the speed of the game is similar."
Heighington recalled a time when little men like Benji Marshall, Scott Prince and Robbie Farah destroying opposition teams through the middle on the back of quick play the balls, while the Tigers' smaller edge forwards wreaked havoc with late ball movement and offloads.
Fast forward to 2017 and the game has changed considerably, although Heighington believes there are signs to suggest otherwise after his Sharks side scored all three of their tries last weekend via offloads which allowed smaller guys like Jayden Brailey and James Maloney to touch down.
The 34-year-old credited rule changes such as shot clocks for scrums and line drop-outs as well as the reduction in interchanges from 10 to eight for helping the game speed up.
"In '05 we were just banging down and getting down and playing the ball and [guys like] Princey, Benji and Robbie were getting on the front foot and going forward at a back-tracking defence," he said.
"It feels a little bit like that now, which is good because it's entertaining, it gets people fatigued, it gets the little guys into it and it gets the big guys going hard at the line where the guys aren't going forward so much.
"I reckon we've got a good brand of footy at the moment."