Malcolm Boyle: Hybrid rugby food for thought

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Aussie league great Bob Fulton in onboard for the development of a new hybrid game.   Photo / Getty Images
Aussie league great Bob Fulton in onboard for the development of a new hybrid game. Photo / Getty Images

It's stating the bleeding obvious to say Australians love their sport. Any sport, anywhere, any time from two-up in a Balmain pub toilet on Anzac Day to gladiatorial set pieces in stadia.

It's not surprising therefore that there's always demand for more - and different - from action-hungry fans. Now speculation is mounting that a well-connected group with links to the top levels of rugby league is in the final development stages of a new hybrid game incorporating both rugby codes - including sevens.

The shape of the new game is still in its formative stages but, with past greats of Australian rugby league such as Bob Fulton on board, the final product has the potential to be spectacular.

My mail tells me the game will incorporate key parts of both codes. Some features are already leaking - such as replacing league's six- tackle rule with a basketball-style, 60-second 'shot clock' giving teams one minute to use the ball.

The game will apparently also feature aspects of rugby and league in which using the ball quickly will be paramount.

The emphasis will be on speed and excitement. A game featuring schoolboys has been played in Australia to an audience of 6000 and was extremely well received.

While Australian rugby personalities are lending their support, the proposition is still to be considered in New Zealand. Former Kiwis coach Graham Lowe has long advocated a hybrid game, saying it was "inevitable with the increasingly busy player schedules in both sports and the demand for a wider talent pool".

From this initiative, it could eventually be possible for one pool of New Zealand players to be available to represent New Zealand in rugby, league, sevens and any other variation which may be developed. Players like Shaun Johnson and Kevin Locke from the Warriors would be absolute gold for sevens, while others could be available for selection in the hybrid game.

Of course, entrenched and one-eyed bias would need to be overcome in the long term but, as they say, nothing is impossible.

Seeing Brad Thorn announcing this week that he will be available for the Highlanders again confirmed that we are not far away from a multi-faceted squad system which could have selected All Blacks playing for the Kiwis in the Rugby League World Cup.

It's a fascinating concept which will likely attract derision from both codes but most of this will be myopic with the people behind this revolutionary thinking not likely to go away easily. Watch this space ...

- Herald on Sunday

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