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  • John Coumbe-Lilley

Understanding Rugby League (Part 2)

Learn More About What Makes Rugby League a Remarkable Sport


This is a follow-up post to the previous one where I talked about the remarkable physicality of rugby league and some of the things that make it unique for players, coaches, and fans. Rugby league players require exceptional body control and skill in the contact zone. Rugby league is a collision sport, and players' safety and welfare are the number one priority of good coaches, officials, club administrators, and people who run the game. Tackles should be made below the armpit on the player in possession of the ball to protect them, the individual who made the tackle, and the players who control the player to the ground.


Everyone in the rugby league wants the game to be tough, skillful, and creative, and that means ensuring head, neck, shoulder, and back injuries occurring from contact are minimized. It's because players are people first and players second. Raptors Rugby League focuses on correct technical play in the tackle zone, channeling physicality and quality into executing skills at the top of a player's ability. This approach prevents injury and promotes positive attacking, transitional and defensive play.




The contact zone in rugby league can be initiated by the player in possession or a tackler who can be joined by two and sometimes three teammates to stop the player in possession control the player to the ground. The defenders' height, angle, and velocity of the tackle can determine how the player in possession is controlled to the ground. The goal of the defense is to stop the player with the ball from progressing to the goal line, prevent them from passing during contact or control themselves to a position to restart the play with a quick play-the-ball. The player in possession aims to attack the defender at their weakest point, advance toward the goal, pass to a teammate before or during contact or keep possession of the ball and control themselves on their chest or their knees, allowing them to rise and snap, sweep and play the ball as quickly as possible to maintain the speed of the attack. On the other hand, the defense wants the player in possession turtled on their backs, with their feet facing the opponent's goals line, loaded up with 2-3 defenders adding their weight to the completed tackle, which slows the play of the ball and allows the defense to reform.


It's because players are people first and players second. Raptors Rugby League focuses on correct technical play in the tackle zone, channeling physicality and quality into executing skills at the top of a player's ability.

The sequence outlined above occurs hundreds of times in a rugby league game, and it's like watching high-speed chess as a contact sport as players aim up, align themselves, team up and contest the space territory for ascendancy. The agility before contact of well-educated players challenges the defenders to get in line and make square contact. These decisions are made in parts of a second, and slow-motion video analysis shows the physical capability, technical quality, and emotional control with concentration at the point of contact. It's hard to overstate how highly educated rugby league players are at the higher level of the game in the contact zone. To play in this phase of the game, you notice the quality of the player's learning ability, and it's in the contact zone. The momentum of a game can change in less than a second and light up the contest for everyone involved.


Every game of rugby league offers moments of confrontation between physically capable and skilled players. It's one of the reasons we love rugby league, and we're excited to be part of a game that has so many duels between players consistently. A National Rugby League game will offer about 600 contact moments in a regular game with a ball in playtime of 55 minutes compared to 34 minutes in today's top-level rugby union games. There are often over 30 stoppages for set-pieces that suspend play at the top levels and even more at the lower levels because of the difference in physical and skill levels. Players can reset and prepare, and this reduces jeopardy compared to rugby league, where jeopardy is part of every contact phase of the game. So which would you prefer to play, officiate or watch? Exactly!


Want to learn more? Contact me at jcl@ilrl.org


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