Rugby isn’t just rugby


Nathan on the left, in his Byron Union jersey, has been playing both union and league for years, as has Nathan on the right in his Red Devils league kit. Nathan has represented both the Mullum Shiners and the Byron teams in union and the Byron Bay Red Devils in the league.

Eve Jeffery

When I moved up from Victoria almost 20 years ago I went to the pub to watch ‘the rugby’.

I know, I know, I got it wrong.

My 20/20 hindsight tells me that not only was it the league, it was a State of Origin –  but back then, my southern AFL-infused sensibility registered just a ‘rugby’ game with men who had legs more like tree trunks than the lanky fellows I was used to.

Fortunately when I took over as sports editor at The Echo about six years ago, sales rep and mad Manly man Pete Couldwell, aka Video Pete was on hand to set me straight.

Betwixt Pete and our awesome league commentator John Campbell, I have been given a fairly decent education in the rules of how to get it right.

Though the codes of rugby split over 100 years ago, it was still a source of animosity until recent times when humans realised that now they get two sports to enjoy.

I spoke to a league-unionist over the weekend.

Nathan-Union-9W6A7319Nathan-League-9W6A7297Nathan Nicholls has been playing football for many years. ‘I have played league all my life’, says Nathan. ‘But union I have only played for eight years. Personally, I do enjoy league more.’

Nathan says that in union he plays as a fly half, scram half or wing and in league he plays as hooker or centre.

People’s attitudes have changed and Nathan now slips seamlessly between codes and says players at all of his clubs have no qualms with his switching from one to the other. Fortunately, the local comps usually see union on a Saturday and league on a Sunday which in the past meant  he could play both.

Nathan says he sees the main difference as the tackling and the 10-metre rule. ‘With league, once you make a tackle, if there are more than three people, one has to go back the ten metres to be back on side’, he says. ‘You also only get six tackles.’

‘With union you can tackle the ball player and you don’t have to come back the ten meters and you can get as many tackles as you want.’

Nathan has in the past played both codes over the space of one season but this winter will stick to league, his prefered code. ‘I reckon union is harder. But league is more fun.’

Getting rugby terminology right is important if you don’t want to upset the humans.

Newbies (mostly Victorians like moi) still have trouble getting it right and to be honest it did take me a while, so last week I asked Video Pete to put pen to paper to write it in English as if we were all 9-years-olds. And he has.


Pete Couldwell

There appears to be some confusion around football terminology, particularly in relation to the codes of rugby league and rugby union.

Granted, these two codes as well as Australian Rules and soccer are all ‘football’, but some sports fans and new arrivals from the southern states are confused as to the differences inherent in the naming of the two rugby codes.

If the word rugby is used on its own, this ALWAYS refers to rugby union. If the word union is used on its own it means the same – rugby union.

Rugby league is rugby league or sometimes just plain league: end of story. Rugby league is NEVER called rugby without the totally definitive addition of ‘league’. Simple as that.

Okay, rugby league is also the ‘footie as is rugby union’. So too is Aussie Rules.

QUESTION: Do Soccer fans ever refer to their game as footieFootball yes, footie perhaps not.

Anyway the beat goes on and bring on March 7!


I hope we are all clear now. Any questions?


~  Photos and digital shenanigans Eve Jeffery.

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