Solution to Origin biffo: just keep playing game

IN RECENT years, Paul Gallen has won me over. His toughness and passion was never doubted, but his on-field grubbiness as a younger player earned him few fans.

However marriage, children and captaincy reformed his attitude and Gallen has become a cult hero in NSW, and a likeable villain north of the border.

And, as an off-field leader, he has developed into an astute media performer, further endearing him to the masses.

But while his unbridled passion and humility following the Origin series win last week may have impressed many who might not have previously felt the love for the 'G Train', his comments in the following days regarding the niggle in the game were irresponsible for someone in his position.

In fact we could be excused for thinking that with his 'bring back the biff' call Gallen had retreated to his dark days.

Gallen says he was embarrassed by the various 'push and shove' incidents from Origin II, claiming rugby league players look like idiots as they dance around each other, grabbing jerseys and making threats.

"They should let us punch each other," Gallen told The Footy Show.

In fairness, the Blues skipper is not alone with his opinion that the melee-type confrontation that has crept into the game was an embarrassment. Team mate Greg Bird agrees, as does the eighth Immortal, Andrew Johns.

Aggression is part and parcel of rugby league. It can be a ferocious and brutal body-contact sport, particularly at Origin level, and inevitably players will blow their stack.

But now that the punch has been eliminated - ironically following Gallen's fistic tirade on an unsuspecting Nate Myles last year - it will never again be condoned and players and fans alike have to accept that.

The hard heads may have enjoyed the biff, but to grow the game and foster its development, punching abstinence is now obligatory.

If other players are like Gallen and Bird, and embarrassed at the 'handbags at ten paces' incidents which are becoming irritably more common, the solution is simple - don't get involved.

But alas, human nature dictates they must look after their mate.

A more realistic quick fix sits with the referees.

Rather than stop the game when these melees arise, just ignore them.

Former colorful Origin and Test referee, the late Barry Gomersall, made an art form of continuing the game while players brawled in back play.

"I'm here to referee the footy, not the fights," reasoned the man known as The Grasshopper.

If one try is scored while half a dozen blokes are grabbing jerseys and mouthing off at each other 50 metres back down field, the embarrassing incidents about which Gallen and co complain will soon disappear - just as the punch has vanished.



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