THE history of sport is not simply a subject to fascinate, consume or trigger nostalgic reminisces – more importantly it gives, or at least should do, current participants and especially administrators pointers for progress.

With that in mind everyone should watch a recording of The Thrilla in Manila – the 1975 World Heavyweight title collision between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier for reasons that will be explained in the piece.

In rugby league there is always something the game can learn from the way other sports have evolved to look after the welfare of players while making it more appealing for spectators.

It could be argued that the two go hand in hand; after all fixtures between tired, shattered teams missing significant numbers of star players due to injury do not make for high-intensity games or compelling spectacles.

And we have had a couple of those in recent weeks; a mid-season dip before adrenalin kicks in with the lure of Old Trafford on the horizon.

Saints and the rest of Super League have already played each other twice, and now we are on to the last five loop games.

It is worth noting that when the Super League was first hatched, the inaugural title in 1996 was won by Saints after a programme of 22 games – the number they have played already.

This year’s regular rounds comprise 27 games – admittedly fewer than the 30 of the last year of the Super 8s in 2018, but still three more than the NRL – and too many if you listened to last Sunday’s coaches Kristian Woolf and Lee Radford.

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Woolf said: “If you look at the length of the season and how many games we expect our players to play, we have to remember is that falls on the elite players the most and they do that year after year with very minimal time off, minimal pre-season and keep rolling into the next year.

“There is no doubt that we need to have a look at the fixture list going forward – and how we can protect our best players and elite players.

For comparison there are more clubs in the NRL - but they play fewer regular matches (24) before the finals - but with no Challenge Cup equivalent.

What would it take for the powers that be to wake up? For England to take a hiding in the World Cup? For Super League clubs – the pinnacle of the domestic game - to be seen increasingly scrabbling around for loan players to complete matches, or for fans to vote with their feet on the drop off in quality?

“I am not quite sure what it would take, to be honest, but all the evidence is sitting in front of you.

“The number of elite players who are injured and carrying injuries, and how hard it is to get the same intensity in games as there was at the start of the year.

“That is all the evidence you need and it is certainly something that needs a rethink now,” Woolf said.

Older supporters and even players look back at a bygone time when part-time players with full time jobs played many games.

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For example 50 years ago former skipper Kel Coslett played a remarkable 54 Saints games in the myriad of competitions in the 1971/72 season.

No wonder the Welsh legend holds the club appearance record.

Arguably the game is much cleaner now than in the pre-90s period where playmakers and ball-winning hookers were routinely targeted for rough stuff and broken jaws and concussions were seen as occupational hazards for a 7 or a 9.

But in terms of intensity the science will show us that the physical size of the players, the pace at which they collide and the relentless number of such high-impact collisions in a match do make for a more physically demanding sport.

Bodies are clearly breaking under that strain.

So what can we learn from how other sports have evolved?

And let’s go back to the compelling spectacle that was The Thrilla in Manila – the third and arguably the most brutal of the Ali v Frazier trilogy.

The fight, as bouts were back then, was a scheduled 15 rounder – taking place at 10am local time to maximise the 1 billion global TV audience but meaning the combatants were battling in a sweltering 49 degree heat.

They knocked seven bells out of each other – and both were out on their feet before Frazier’s corner told him to stay on his stool at the end of the 14th round. A proud fighter, who wanted to carry on, but was denied the dignity of going the distance. Afterwards it was revealed that Ali’s corner was close to calling it a day, too.

In hindsight, in these days of 12 rounders, it sounds pretty barbaric to have squeezed those extra three rounds – even if that was a progression from the early days of unlimited rounds that were no different in many ways to sport of the Ancient Greeks.

Sadly, it took another seven years – and a tragedy – for boxing to change down to 12-rounders.

In 1982 the WBA Lightweight title bout between Ray Mancini and Duk Koo Kim ended with the latter’s death in the 14th round.

Three months after this fatality, the WBC reduced the number of their championship fights to 12 rounds.

Sometimes it takes something shocking for governing bodies to make the big calls.

Now that is an extreme example – but it nonetheless should be a warning that you cannot keep squeezing more and more out of combatants in such physically demanding contact sport.

Clearly when clubs, the governing body and TV partners sit down to thrash out schedules – more input is actually needed from those who actually put their bodies on the line.

And from a viewers point of view, sometimes less is more.