Canberra are the kings of the NRL strip.
Canberra are the kings of the NRL strip.

Kent: NRL must get a grip over strip

Once again it is hard not to be impressed by the dedicated enthusiasm of this current NRL administration, whose reaction time - or should we call it overreaction time - runs at Olympic level.

Less than 24 hours after Roosters coach Trent Robinson asked a simple question: "Who pressure tested the stripping rule?", head of football Graham Annesley raised the prospect of an end of season review and whatever tweaks might be necessary to have the game, once more, all on the same page.

At least until the next complaint is made, anyway.

Robinson asked a valid question but came from a prejudiced position.

His Roosters were stripped of possession four times on Sunday, the most of any team this season.

"Honestly, who pressure tested this and said: 'refs, can you control the ruck and also adjudicate on split second guys coming in an out?' And is that adding value to our game?" Robinson said.

"I've got no idea, to be honest, I'm not sure, but ask the question."

Robinson is correct. Few rules are pressure tested nowadays and, to borrow another expression popular in the manuals, the old "bubble in the carpet" problem invariably arises.

 

 

It's a common problem for an NRL administration that has no idea what it wants or what it stands for.

Everything is a negotiation. Nothing is certain.

Earlier this year John Quayle, at his Hunter Valley mansion, was talking of the greatness of Ken Arthurson as an administrator and how one of Arko's first jobs was to resist the approach of coaches who were looking for rule changes that, coincidentally, would benefit their team.

Arko and Quayle were annoyed by all the coaches back in the day.

Roy Masters, coaching St George, might want quicker play-the-balls. Bob Fulton, at Manly wanted slower ones. Jack Gibson wanted a big five metres. Warren Ryan thought it was too big, arguing it was bordering on eight.

 

Clubs and players with the most successful strips this season.
Clubs and players with the most successful strips this season.

 

It still happens today. If a team wins the premiership by playing faster than everybody else the coaches will arrive at their annual meeting arguing for changes to slow the game down.

The pendulum will swing all the way to like now, where the team that slow the play-the-ball down most are the teams that are winning, so a push will come from other coaches to quicken it up.

The NRL will react, unaware that coaches are the chief architects of their own ruin.

Arthurson out-manoeuvred them all by insisting they submit the recommended change in writing to go before the international board. It would take two years.

It ruled out coaches fighting for changes that might immediately benefit their team, because, by the time the two-year period rolled around, the game might have changed so much it would no longer benefit their team.

Coaches realised they were more chance of succeeding by changing their roster or style.

Over time the game, influenced by coaches who don't like variables in a game they are coaching, the game has eliminated contested possessions out of the game.

So the game got rid of the stripping rule altogether, banned the rake at the play-the-ball, eliminated contested scrums, changed the rule to allow one-on-one stripping, where it often got argued whether it was a strip or a loose carry, and generally ruled

The NRL and Graham Annesley overreacted to Trent Robinson’s criticism. Picture: Joel Carrett
The NRL and Graham Annesley overreacted to Trent Robinson’s criticism. Picture: Joel Carrett

 

Unpredictability improves the game everywhere but in the coaching box.

I, for one, like the stripping rule.

Robinson does not.

"Someone has a bright idea in the off season and they put it in," he said Sunday. "One-on-one tackles, with one-on-one contact, has been in our game the whole time."

Which is actually incorrect. Stripping was allowed way back in 1908 and was there more than 80 years until Allan Langer turned it into an art form and then, in 1991, instead of telling their players to hang onto the ball tighter, a few coaches argued for stripping to be banned because they could not do it better than Langer.

Coaches don't like anything that can't be predicted or coached against or exploited to their advantage but once again they out-smarted headquarters and got their way.

The new rule is not as bad as it seems.

The Raiders are best in the NRL and have 23 strips this season against the next best, Melbourne, with 11.

That averages to slightly more than one a game for Canberra. Melbourne average one nearly every two games.

It is hardly an epidemic.

Yet the NRL, a tower of jelly, is ready for a review.

 

 

Live stream the 2019 NRL Telstra Premiership on KAYO SPORTS. Every game of every round live & anytime on your TV or favourite device. Get your 14 day free trial.

 

 

Live stream the 2019 NRL Telstra Premiership on KAYO SPORTS. Every game of every round live & anytime on your TV or favourite device. Get your 14 day free trial.

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