Patience needed as NRL goes through major transition
I used to be one of those people who liked the chocolate coins you get in a little bag for $1 at cheap shops. You know the ones, they taste like absolutely nothing and have a texture similar to moulding clay.
I used to think they were an acceptable form of chocolate, not the best, but passable. Worst of all, I would willingly choose them over actual treats with taste, especially around Easter.
Then somewhere along the way I changed my mind, my standards were raised.
Flavourless, pretend chocolate was no longer good enough because it was not nearly as delicious as the real thing, and why would I waste time (and calories) on a sub-par substitute? Yes, I’m still coming down from my post-holiday sugar high, but I have a point. I promise.
At the moment rugby league is experiencing a transitional period. We're caught somewhere between a dusty old chocolate coin and a Lindt bunny and slowly but surely we're starting to figure out a way to demand the quality we're all looking for.
In most areas of the game the standards have been raised. It has certainly the case on the field, where the referees have been cracking the whip when it comes to off-side penalties, poor play-the-balls, slow peels and basically everything that has very slowly but very deliberately crept into the game over the past few years.
Yes, penalties make the game slower. But we're aiming for the best rugby league possible here, and to do that, the rules need to adhered to. It's short-term pain for long-term gain.
It’s here that the common argument for "consistency" tends to pop up, to which I would say of course we should aim for it, but when we have human beings refereeing the game it will never be perfect.
They only have two eyes, after all. If we stick with this, we might get to see the game the rules were designed to give us – fast and free-flowing and better than even the best chocolate.
Obviously, there is work to do. I thought the decision to suspend Sam Burgess for two weeks after his collision with Josh Morris on Good Friday was definitely harsh.
I thought for sure he was going to be let off, but perhaps this is another attempt to draw a line in the sand and hold our players to a higher standard.
Off the field, you can also feel the plates shifting. Right or wrong there was a huge uproar when Matt Lodge was registered by the Broncos and it’s started a conversation bigger than the situation itself – we're now talking about what we stand for and what we want our game to be for another 110 years.
Higher standards are being enforced in the bush as well, away from the headlines and media pressure.
Recently, Group Nine club Junee terminated the contract of former State of Origin player Dane Neilsen, who had signed on to captain-coach the club this year.
The season hasn't even started yet, but after an alleged wild night out, the Diesels decided that behaviour wasn't good enough.
The difference between what is acceptable and what isn't is changing, and even struggling clubs in the bush know it.
The Diesels have had their fair share of issues over the years but they should be commended for knowing when enough is enough. It's a fantastic example to set for the younger players and a step in the right direction towards establishing a successful culture.
I'm certainly not saying that every time someone stuffs up they should be sacked, just that we're facing a moment in time where we're making decisions about what we’re willing to accept for ourselves and for our game.
We're not there yet and there is no way to make everyone happy. It might be the Easter leftovers talking, but I'm optimistic. I genuinely have faith that the bar is being raised for future of the game.
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