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RUGBY LEAGUE

3.1 AY OUST JUidBY UJNIUiN

GEORGE NEPIA'S OPINION

George Nepia, the former New Zealand Rugby Union full-back, who is now playing Rugby League with the Streatham team in London, rather allowed his imagination to carry him away in the' following article which appeared in the "Daily Sketch" on the eve of the final Test between the All Blacks and England. The result of the match at Twickenham between England and New Zealand, he wrote, may be far-reaching and, from . a Rugby Union point of j view, devastating. Should the tour-] ists lose, the Rugby League game, which has -been "smouldering" in Auckland for some time, may gain an! undisputed hold in the Dominion stronghold of th,e Rugby Union. . When the final selection of the present All Blacks team was announced it was accepted with mixed feelings. Some of the chosen players were "real j lucky." ' i Among the lovers of the game and among my own people, the Maoris, there was talk of discrimination. Reid is our only representative. He is worth his place in any international side. Eut so, is Charlie Smith, the brilliant Maori three-quarter, now playing with me in the Streatham and Mitcham Rugby League Club. He was considered an automatic choice. So was Jack Macdohald, who was vice-cap-tain of the Maori team which toured Australia this year. • Another cause for discontent was the omission of E. Holder (not a Maori), who has also swung over to Rugby League. Throughout the season he played well enough to earn a trial, and in that gave a beautiful display. Yet he was passed over. CREAM OF TALENT. Although half a dozen or so changes might have added strength, the cream of New Zealand Rugby is in this team. There could Be no improvement on such players as Manchester, Hart, Hadley, Mitchell, Caughey, Lambourn, Dalton, Reid, King, ana McLean. Many of these I have played with and against several times, and they would have been my selection without hesitation. In the Streatham team we have'five New Zealanders: Charlie Smith, Macdonald, Harrison, Holder, and myself, former R.U. men. That is the foundation of an international side, and at home there are "R.L." enthusiasts awaiting our return as men of experience to whom can be entrusted the spreading of the Rugby League gospel. In the past, I received- several invitations to play Rugby League football. I might have accepted had it not meant a long journey from . my farm to Auckland. Before sailing for England to join Streatham I was informed that a number of centres have been planned in the North Island, ready for the turn over to Rugby League. Rugby. League is seriously threatening Rugby Union in New Zealand. Now the Rugby Union predominates, but defeat of the All Blacks today might easily lead to a sweeping advance of the Rugby League. I was at home when the news of the defeat by Swansea was broadcast, and I know of the amazement and shock it produced. New Zealand still thinks in-terms of the original All Blacks, and in these days of divided opinion defeat at the hands of a club team may quite easily result in real beginning of the change-over. A. convincing victory over England and New Zealand R.U. team may preserve [ New Zealand for Rugby Union, but it I will have to be convincing. ONEREGRET. My one regret since turning to Rugby League is that I did not play the game years ago. Actually, I am only learning it, but- the improvement over Rugby Union is obvious. The big difference for me, as a fullback, is the touch-finding,- the control that is needed to drop the ball in the field of play away from the opposition, in order that it may bounce out instead of the hefty punt into or over the stand—a science, so gratifying to the player himself when properly applied and to the spectator in seeing" it to say nothing, of the time it saves. From my position behind the team, in botlr codes, I feel competent to judge the differences and' honestly favour the "League." The elimination of the lineout and the resultant loose scrum is a forward step. _ .. Already I can say frankly that I like the Rugby League game best. The play-the-ball rule speeds things up tremendously. And, of course, with only 26 men on the field instead of 30, the play naturally-is more open and faster. But the Rugby League rule which, in my opinion, does most to open up play is the one which compels the halves to be behind their packs when the ball has been thrown in the scrum. This puts a distance of several yards between the two lines of backs. Ample space in which to get the attacking machinery in motion. These Rugby League rules, in the past considered revolutionary by the Rugby Union in England, have found some favour with the Dominion Rugby Union. Now we find the Dominions strongly advocating new rules on principles long since adopted by the Rugby League. MARKED TIME TOO LONG. The Dominions desire to introduce the rule by which "kicking direct into touch between the two twenty-five lines shall be forbidden under the penalty of a scrummage at the point where the kick was taken." The ball-back rule of the Rugby League or Northern Union. Another Dominions' proposal is that "no player • shall advance beyond an imaginary line drawn through the middle of scrummage until the ball has been heeled out." Again, the force of the Rugby League argument against off-side play until the ball is. out. And, thirdly the reduction in value of the dropped goal from four to three points. Once more ,a step nearer to the League, in which all goals count two points. The Rugby Union.has marked time too long. With the present League situation in New Zealand and the firm grip it holds in Australia, the Home unions might, well be advised to pay heed to the Dominions, whose pro-i posals, after all, arc progressive.. Now, to wind up. I want the All Blacks to beat England, of course, and I think they will—but if .they fail, they will have helped the Rugby League to get a tighter grip on things "down under." ________«——

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Bibliographic details

RUGBY LEAGUE, Evening Post, Volume CXXI, Issue 33, 8 February 1936

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1,041

RUGBY LEAGUE Evening Post, Volume CXXI, Issue 33, 8 February 1936

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