For those not living under a rock, which would seem to cover most life forms with the exception of some mosses, invertebrates and referees, it is widely understood that financial leverage was one of the direct causes of the Global Financial Crisis. We could go on for hours about it, but probably not on a rugby league blog. Perhaps another time.
But the issue of leverage is causing the NRL a crisis all of its own, and it’s not just confined to the speed of the ruck.
The easiest way to explain leverage of any kind is to say it is the ability to get more bang for your buck.
So when Goldman Sachs is leveraged over 30 times more than its capital cushion ahead of the GFC, you can bet that:
a) It is making some serious money on the basis of asset prices rising, having made only a minimal down payment (and borrowing the rest); and
b) If those assets should begin to lose money (as they did), they would either be margin-called out of existence, or have to write down their assets’ value sufficiently to render the bank insolvent (which happened, but they were saved by the government).
As you can see, leverage can be good (hey, look at the value of my house go!), but it does have a dark side when the cycle moved into reverse.
Which is where Jeff ‘Goldmans’ Lima comes in, and the issue of leverage takes on one of its different connotations.
Now, Lima has had a poor track record with tackling technique, and you wouldn’t be out of order in suggesting some sinister undertones when forming an opinion about the intent of some of those tackles.
Heck! The NRL did just that in recent days, suspending him for a week for an attack on a ‘marquee’ player’s (well publicised) injured right knee.
But was it enough? That is to say, does the NRL actually appreciate what went down last Friday night? It doesn’t appear that they do, so let’s explain it briefly.
Players are so well versed in wrestling moves these days, particularly Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, that they now want to enter the MMA ranks upon retirement! It has become as rugby league as Gatorade, vaso, deep heat and “been doin’ it all day!!”.
It is a tremendous sport, and has been singled out by coaches because of the results that subtle use of leverage on opposition ball carriers can produce. In some ways it can be undetectable, a minor shift of weight here and there is sometimes all you need to immobilise someone. It helps when there is a twist of a joint involved.
Then there are the completely visible, and some would say, dead give-aways, like the chicken wing, scorpion and crusher.
Jeff Lima’s attack on Anthony Watmough’s knee was a bit of both – a touch of subterfuge mixed with something almost as extravagant as peter Sellers’ death scene to open The Party.
Most commentary has focused on his blatant twist ‘n turn when holding Watmough’s ankle. Lima almost looked like he’d been stung by a scorpion himself, or had produced an explosion from his nether regions of such force that it catapulted him into the air. That’s bad enough in my opinion, and anyone who has suffered medial damage would have winced as I did.
However, the movement before this was just as damaging, but well concealed as it turns out (though not to those who know what they’re looking at). Lima used the head and neck to bore into the knee area of Watmough, while pulling the ankle in the opposite direction prior to the twist. Watmough’s initial reaction of “Hello hello, what’s going on ‘ere?” quickly developed into a range of expletives.
So when Lima:
a) Appears to drive through the knee while holding the ankle; and
b) Follows up with a twist that makes David Mamet look like a plodder
You can argue on the balance of probabilities that our resident rugby league junk bond trader is up to no good.
The single week suspension therefore makes no sense. It is tempting to call it a joke, but really, it’s just sad. He’s effectively been bailed out Goldmans-style!
The NRL is continually presented opportunities to act on its oft-stated claim of cleaning the game up and protecting players. While it made some strides in this direction (and I applaud them for doing so), the response overall has been inadequate and misguided.
If the idea is to retain the top talent, it needs to go beyond simple marquee payments. After all, a marquee isn’t much value sitting on the sideline because he has been successfully targeted for kneecapping, neutering or good old-fashioned Lamb-Hanley-style belting, either by premeditation or misadventure.
“Welfare is top of our list and top of the clubs’ list and I think it’s always something that is front of mind for us.”
The game is awesome and athletic enough, and players tough and Warrior-like enough, to consign a lot of this rubbish to the dustbins of history.