AS the winter sports season starts to swing into full gear, debate in rugby league circles will inevitably turn again to the question of whether weight divisions should be introduced again for younger players.
And it’s a debate that will never be satisfactorily resolved.
Rugby league officials are this year planning a new trial of weight divisions in a number of Sydney junior competitions in an attempt to even the playing field a little.
The move represents a return to the old days in rugby league but the reality is that while it will solve one problem, it will not solve them all.
Weight divisions have been used before and abandoned because it was found that smaller players allowed to play down against kids one or two years younger than them also gained a great advantage.
But at least those advantages – in terms of speed and co-ordination – did not necessarily pose a physical threat to opponents.
The same cannot be said for a strict adherence to age divisions where player sizes can vary greatly.
In particular, an increasing number of junior league players of Polynesian background has really tipped the balance for many young teams.
We have all seen video of hulking kids as young as 10 swatting off the smaller opponents in what is clearly a mismatch.
The prospect of taking on such large opponents is naturally frightening for many young players and the evidence suggests the sport is losing kids to soccer, in particular.
So something has to be done and you would have to think a new trial of weight divisions is as good a place as any to start.
The concept of weight divisions will be familiar to readers who played rugby or league in school competitions in the 1960s and 1970s.
Part of the pre-season ritual in most schools included the official weigh-in and players being registered to one of two weight divisions for the season.
If it was perfect, though, it would never have been abandoned. But as society becomes more litigious and sporting groups become more concerned about the prospect of being sued, it’s only natural they might explore new – or old – ways of doing things.
Kids’ sport should be about fun but we cannot ignore safety.
No-one, though, would like to be the sporting administrator trying to solve this one.