BRING BACK THE BULLY              

Thursday July 6 2017 


Just the headline will have coach’s teeth gnashing, administrators heads spinning and players trying to count to 3. I know there are pedant’s mouths moaning something about how ‘they are still in the rules you know’. But the time has come to regain our hockey heritage and bring back one of the most iconic part of our game. 


The Bully disappeared in 1991, around the same time as offside became, well, on side. Now that rule change was a winner. Not because it changed the game in some essential way. As players we all adjusted to the changes, both attackers and defenders. I don’t think scoring was any easier or harder. But it did make the game easier for the Blind Sages, who could then concentrate on not seeing more important offences on the field rather than whether the fat centre forward was in line with the fat fullback at the other end of the field*. But why change the Bully? 


 I still find myself talking to people who immediately say “Oh, hockey 1, hockey 2, hockey 3” if the subject just happens to come up, you know, in casual conversation. They know nothing else about the game but an element that hasn’t been in use for over 25 years. It is a truly unique part of the game. I can only equate it with the ‘bounce down’ in Australian Rules football, where 2 behemoth men take a run up and jump into each other. Not the same visual experience, but it is part of the same iconography and mythology that Hockey needs to create for itself. 


I have nothing against the ‘push-off’ as such, except that it is boring and smacks of soccer. Large crowd, teams presented, anthems played, everyone’s fired up for the big game and how do we start it? A contest? An event? Some tension about the unknown? No, someone taps it a couple of feet to someone else. Gee, that’s excitement. I should know, I have seen a giraffe. And as for soccer, apart from sharing an 11 a side format and having a goal with a net, the last thing hockey needs is to copy a sport that thinks playing for a draw is a good thing.  


 So I propose a return to the Bully for the opening of each half. After goals by all means, have a push off. There is context within the game for that to happen. But to start the game, and the second half, when 2 teams walk out equal, a Bully not only is iconic, it has a sense of a happening, an event, for both players and spectators. 


 Of course there will be some opposition to my plan for a return of the dark art. Not everyone is cut out for the bully. I don’t know my score, bully wise, but I am pretty sure it has a ‘0’ on my side of it. And players will adapt. It will be another skill, call it ‘feather in cap’. Those that can, will, and those that can’t, will lose money at training to those that can. And if you start a team fine for people losing a bully they get real good at it real quick. 


  So bring back the Bully, and give the game a roar.      


  *Hockey Tip No 87:  If your team has a fat, lazy, unfit centre forward encourage them to score by placing a warm meat pie in the back of the opposition goal. This may backfire if the opposition has a hungry goalkeeper, but it’s worth it to watch someone eat a meat pie with a helmet on.


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