Alec Swann - Don’t be ignorant of rugby league’s qualities

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.

Tell someone that you prefer golf to cricket and they probably won’t bat an eyelid.

Inform that you have a preference for basketball to tennis and no surprise will be registered.

Have the audacity to state that you would rather watch a game of rugby league as opposed to one of rugby union and it is likely you will be sneered at.

Not by everybody, obviously, but far too many, especially in these parts, have a ridiculously snobbish attitude towards the 13-man code.

‘It’s not as skilful’, ‘There aren’t any tactics’, ‘It’s too predictable’ are the kind of criticisms you hear from those who lean towards the 15-man game and while everybody is entitled to an opinion, a slightly more open minded approach wouldn’t go amiss.

Quite why there is such a division of thought is probably a question for the sociologists out there - different classes, industries, origins and so on - but purely from a sporting angle it does seem to exist for little reason.

It’s a variant of the same sport, many of the skills on show are used across both formats and each can learn from the other.

That would suggest that there should be some appreciation of the northern code but this would be the exception rather than the norm.

Taken for what it is, and last weekend’s Super League Grand Final between Warrington and Wigan was a fine example, rugby league can be an uncompromising and fast-paced spectacle that’s full of skill and full-bloodied commitment.

It can ebb and flow as well as being a tactical contest and when played well can provide 80 minutes of excellent entertainment.

To see it as a predictable and almost neanderthal pastime is naive and places too much store in what it’s union cousin offers.

Plenty of league games can be one-sided, fairly dull and shoddy from a skills point of view but this is a factor that exists across all spots.

When played properly, as was the case in last week’s heavyweight encounter between South Africa and the All Blacks, union can be a pleasure to watch but when it descends into a wrestling match up front with a fly-half kicking away any possession he gets then it becomes tedious and mind-numbing.

Both codes have their pros and both have their cons but they are fundamentally different so to compare is both unnecessary and, when it come to it, pointless.

So for those who turn their noses up, when England face Australia in the opening skirmish of the World Cup at the Millennium Stadium in a fortnight’s time, give it a try.

You never know, you might actually enjoy it.