St Helens coach Mick Potter seems to have noticed a trend in refereeing this season, one which he feels is affecting his team and hje’s not too happy about it. Potter claims that referees are slowing down the speed of the play-the-ball, and that St Helens are unable to get over the advantage line as quickly:
“It is harder to get over the advantage line with your dummy halves if the rucks are slower.
“Having good dummy halves, who get over that advantage line, is a great asset to have and that has been St Helens’ strength over the past few seasons.
“I did not know there was going to be a change – if there has been somebody needs to tell me but what am I seeing at the moment is a slower ruck.”
On the one hand, if there has been an official mandate from the RFL that the play-the-ball is to be slowed down and this hasn’t been communicated to the coaches, then that’s a mis-step. They have a right to know what rules theyll be playing to, as it can affect gameplans and coaching decisions. Also, assuming that the interpretation of a slower PTB is in order to change the speed of the game, actually telling the coaches about it means they are far more likely to actually adopt plays that work with slower rucks. How can teams adapt to new parameters if they don’t even know that they’re using them?
On the other hand, if there has been a concsious decision to slow down the speed of the ruck, then good. A fast ruck may encourage a frantic, entertaining style of play, but it isn’t condusive to ball skills. It’s telling that the coach of St Helens is the one who’s brought this up, because if any side relies on a quick play-the-ball it’s Saints. A large portion of their attacking style is based on getting a quick play-the-ball and letting James Roby or Leon Pryce run at a still-retreating line. I’ve been trying to write an epic piece on the importance of the defensive attitude of the NRL in establishing its dominance (Potter’s comments serve as a reminder to finish it) and allowing a slower ruck-speed here is a good first step in trying to develop players who can compete under international rules.