You don’t have to remind David Klemmer that international rugby league remains a different beast to the NRL when it comes to fisticuffs.
Klemmer was the man on the end of a nasty right hand from Sam Burgess in last year’s Four Nations tournament, with the England captain opening a cut over Klemmer’s eye during Australia’s 36-18 victory at London’s Olympic Stadium.
The big Australian didn’t have the chance to retaliate as players kept them apart but with rules for the Rugby League World Cup more lax than the NRL, where Klemmer plays for the Canterbury Bulldogs, a few jabs here and there may well be on the cards.
That presents an intriguing dilemma, especially for enforcers like Klemmer, who are tasked with going head-to-head with opponents such as Burgess and owning the middle of the park for their respective sides.
Burgess remained on the field after clocking Klemmer and World Cup referees will be able to use their judgment when it comes to incidents of striking, with the sin bin not automatically in play during the tournament.
Klemmer said nobody was going out looking to start fights but if a spark turned into a fire on the field, so be it.
“It’s always been part of it, even though the rules were changed. I copped a couple last year … Sam Burgess got me,” Klemmer said.
“It gets a bit heated. It’s grown men playing at 100 miles per hour, there’s a lot of emotion going through it. You’re representing your country.
“Everyone enjoys it. If you cop one, so be it. Everyone stays mates after the game.”
Since former NRL boss Dave Smith introduced mandatory sin bins for striking four years ago in the wake of Paul Gallen’s short-lived bout with Nate Myles in State of Origin, fighting has simply vanished from the code in Australia.
The notion of an old-fashioned punch-up would be something of a novelty for local fans, many of whom long for the days when players were able to do more than puff up their chest and posture when things started to get spicy.
Klemmer is hardly a shrinking violet but said overt aggression was a double-edged sword for players, with the media likely to play up the appetite for a biff, then criticise players for taking part.
“It’s the media … they want to see it, then they want to scrutinise you. The media try to get it all going and then scrutinise you. You can’t please everyone. But we’re here to play football. You can’t be worrying about that sort of stuff,” Klemmer said.
“People obviously get frustrated but now they take that out on a big run or a hit. You can definitely feel when someone is fired up. It’s good … that’s how it’s evolved. And I love being a part of that.”
The early rounds will give players and fans an indication of how referees are going to deal with incidents of striking. But if players are given an inch, some may take a mile, in which case the era of the stink could be back for a guest appearance over the spring.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.