The little man is one of the most beloved and thoroughly talked about aspects of rugby league. There is a fascination with seeing a fleet footed, sleight of hand player, weighing 30kg less than his opponent and weaving him in knots to see him flat on his face.
I grew up towards the end of the true little man era. I watched the likes of Allan Langer, Preston Campbell, Luke Burt, Anthony Mundine, Matt Bowen and Stacey Jones. They were exciting to watch and opened up games through cunning and good footwork.
I remember watching Burt in 2007 take over from Wade McKinnon as Parramatta’s preferred fullback. What he lacked in size he made up for in speed, quick thinking and experience. Up until his knee injury against the Newcastle Knights in round 16, he was averaging close to 10 points per game and was well on his way to a 200 points season.
My enduring memory of him at fullback are his kick returns which almost always resulted in the first kick chaser being left in no-man’s land by Burt’s pace and late footwork. Despite giving away a fair amount of weight to his opponents by this time of his career, he almost always made ground.
But the times, as Bob Dylan once sang, they are a changin’.