We already have soccer for a world game, but what would one truly global contact footy code look like?


One world-wide footy code to rule them all? Why not? How hard could it be?

Let’s leave soccer out of this – the beautiful game already rules them all, so they say. No, we’re inventing a new game for the egg-shaped pill with this hybrid. We’re uniting the best bits of rugby league, union, Australian rules and American football in one new World Bowl, where running, evading, kicking, passing, catching, leaping and tackling are the skills required and rewarded. Just like they already are – only better. Because the whole world gets to play ...

Sorry, AFL: the playing area is going to have to be rectangular – far better for spectators and TV coverage; majority rules here by 3-1. And brace yourselves, because in this game when you get tackled, you are going to get really tackled. A lot. The other three codes wouldn’t exist without physical confrontation and occasional heavy impacts where a runner’s progress is suddenly and dramatically halted. This ain’t touch footy.

But sorry, America: no helmets. Again, you’re outvoted. No tackling headfirst. No contact with the head. Any future game that doesn’t take care of its players’ brains ain’t going to make it. Tackle shoulders-first, but you must use those arms. No bumping. Tackles will have to be limited so one side can’t completely dominate possession, like league and gridiron (sorry, rugby union and AFL). Four plays (or “downs”) seems fair. Play will be resumed American football-style, with a snap (hey, it’s way cooler than a ruck or play-the-ball or that frustrating mess we call scrums). But we’re going to allow a form of shepherding to maintain the skills and encourage the various bodyshapes involved in mauling and in the defensive strategies of the American and Australian codes, where runners can be protected by blockers. We love that stuff – and it’s completely missing from rugby league. This only causes headaches for administrators in that game. Shepherding the runner will be okay. In fact, it’s going to be really cool.

Forward passes are okay, too. The rugbies will struggle with this one, but this is where we’re borrowing again from the Australian and American codes. Sure, you can pass backwards to protect possession (as many times as you like, America), but the most dynamic moves will come when a receiver makes their way ahead of the player in possession, and a perfectly weighted pass falls in front of them as they bolt onto it. Just like a perfectly timed backline pass, only better. Downfield.

But unlike American footy, it’s going to make a LOT of sense to chain pass, moving the ball laterally along a line between players, probing for gaps, before sending an attacker flying on their way.

To that end, we’re going to HAVE to reduce the size of the conventional rugby ball a tad, so that players can wrap their mitts around it and throw it overarm from time to time – this is such a fabulous part of the Yank game, be they pinpoint passes in compressed plays or Hail Marys to charging receivers. But the ball can’t be so small and pointy and tautly inflated that it can’t be kicked with the same precision we see in the Australian game. Kicking is still going to be BIG.

To kick a goal, we’re going to have to slot the thing between a pair of sticks, definitely over a crossbar (again, majority rules 3-1). We’re probably going to have to allow a point for a field goal (drop punts will do – a bit unfair to limit these to drop kicks), and probably place kicks for penalty goals. And conversions ...

Which brings us to try time. The touchdown. The “goal” of the game – getting that pill into the “end” zone or “red” zone as it’s dubbed in the rugbies. If you run the ball over the line, you have to ground the thing in the in-goal (it gets a bit silly in the American game where a player can force his way over the line, then get forced back, but still score a maximum).

But the best parts of American and Australian football (and the rugbies) are the spectacular catches resulting in scores. So if you catch a ball in the endzone, you don’t have to ground it – it’s try time the moment you snaffle it and get both feet on the ground. But here’s the thing: you can only score this way by receiving the ball from a boot – preserving the sanctity of the “mark” in the Australian game and the dynamic of the bomb or pinpoint crossfield chip kick in the rugbies. If you catch a ball from a pass from the hand, you still have to get that pill onto the deck and ground it.

So, what do we think? Four codes of footy wrapped into one ... Might need some trials to work out how many players fit on a paddock. Might need a few tweaks ...

But the rulebook for the World Bowl League is open for suggestions.