This week’s Spirit of Rugby League award goes to…
If there was a Spirit of Rugby League award for this last week, it would have to go to Rob Burrow. The Leeds scrum-half (165 cm and 70 kg), you might recall, got himself sin-binned for bullying Hull’s Epalahame Lauaki (184 cm and 110 kg).
It was an hilarious sight, Burrow swinging punches upwards, whilst Lauaki looked bemused at what was going on below his eye-line.
It’s a bit of a cliché about short people with short fuses, but generally speaking rugby league’s vertically challenged players have pretty good self-control. How many times has Burrow reacted to being taken out late, which happens to him in almost every game? Very few.
The smaller player learns how to use his speed and elusiveness to minimise the damage from physical confrontation with the hulking brutes around him. You can be as physically committed as a Geoff Toovey or an Allan Langer, but you acquire the techniques of self-preservation.
There are exceptions, of course, in the genuinely angry little men of the game. The one who stands out in my memory is Tommy Bishop, a wonderful scrum-half, but a player who could start a brawl on an empty pitch. He lives in Australia now and I recall one meal with him at the Bondi Icebergs club – where the atmosphere, by definition, should be fairly chilled.
Someone shoved in front of him at the food servery and there was a momentary flash of the eyes that made me think “Oh heck, here we go.”
Rob Burrow does not fit into that tradition of angry little men, but he showed in fighting so far out of his weight division that he is as brave – or maybe as foolhardy – as anyone in the game.
Does anyone else have a good feeling about the combination of Steve McNamara and Brian Smith with England?
Alright, Bradford’s form over the last couple of seasons has not always been sparkling, but he comes over as a thinking coach, just as he did as a thinking player.
His own suggestion of bringing Smith on board could be a masterstroke. He fights shy of using the word ‘spy’, but Smith will ensure that we are not surprised by the way Australia play the way we have been in the past.
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