There are a number of pertinent issues in Rugby League in Australia today that are the result of over a decade of self-interest by the NRL.
A lot of these can be quickly and easily rectified through the implementation of a smarter draw.
What the NRL needs to do is look back at what the NSWRL, ARL and dare I say it, even Super League did and look beyond the local stage.
They knew that by spreading the game as far as possible on as big a stage as possible, the game would grow quickly and a plethora of new talent would be uncovered, heralding in a magnificent new generation of players from all around the world.
One of the issues we currently face is on the international scene. A lot of smaller, less established rugby league nations are struggling, let alone improving. Player eligibility laws are a big part of the problem. They need to be rolled back to much clearer and tighter guidelines. My plan would be something along the lines of:
*You play for the country you were born in.
*If you are born in Australia, New Zealand or England and have ancestory (only as far back as your grandparents) linking you to a smaller nation, you can choose one country to represent. Once you make your decision, it cannot be overturned, unless you become a legal citizen of another country you wish to represent.
People born in other countries will not be eligible to play Origin. However, I believe if smaller nations in our hemisphere were to get more opportunities and money to represent their own country on a big stage, this would ultimately see a lot of talented individuals consider representing their country instead, which would in turn help the game globally.
Australia is surrounded by a host of these small island nations that are absolutely brimming with talent and enthusiasm to play the game. We should do all we can to nurture and encourage this growth. Presently Australia and to a much lesser degree, New Zealand, are taking the great players from these nations to play for them instead.
Also, these smaller nations simply don’t get enough exposure or opportunity to see their game grow. The NRL has a magnificent opportunity to inject a huge amount of focus immediately into these nations which would see an explosion of more great talent enter our game.
Another issue for many years recently has been players concerns about the season being too long, especially for representative players.
The NRL’s birth has seen a drop of interest by the games governing body in bush footy. Playing a few trial games and a representative fixture that many want to be rid of, as the only big games played in rural Australia simply isn’t good enough.
For years now Rugby League has been growing its viewers, crowd figures and revenue but the Country has been left behind and rival codes have started swooping in.
So now, I move onto the draw. When players complained a few years ago about the season being too long, the NRL responded by throwing more bye rounds into the draw. This didn’t actually shorten the season. It intentionally made it longer in a vein attempt to appease the players, but ultimately it was done to rake in more revenue.
Each team will play each other once (a team they play at home in 2013, they will play at the oppositions home the following year). After those 15 Rounds have completed, the teams that finished in the top 8 the previous year will play each other again. The teams that were in the bottom 8 the previous year will play each other again. That comes to a total of 22 games. 2 less than in the current system, which would appease the players, as well as providing better quality games over the course of the entire year.
Pre-Season Trials – Weeks 1 and 2 – NRL teams play against Country teams and Oceania island teams. Each NRL team must play at least once in these two weeks.
Pre-Season Trials – Weeks 3 and 4 – NRL teams play each other in Country and Oceania regions. Each NRL team must play at least once in these two weeks.
Pre-Season Trials – Week 5 – All Stars v Indigenous
NRL – Rounds 1 to 8 (8 weeks)
Representative Weekend #1 (1 week)
*City v Country (NSW) – NRL Players. City v Country (NSW Cup v CRL Rep team)
*City v Country (QLD) – NRL Players. City v Country (QLD Cup)
*OCEANIA CUP – ROUND 1 – Papua New Guinea v Fiji
*OCEANIA CUP – ROUND 1 – Tonga v Samoa
NRL – Rounds 9 and 10 (2 weeks)
Representative Weekend #2 (1 week)
*State Of Origin I
*NYC State of Origin
*OCEANIA CUP – ROUND 2 – Tonga v Papua New Guinea
*OCEANIA CUP – ROUND 2 – Samoa v Fiji
NRL – Rounds 11 and 12 (2 weeks)
Representative Weekend #3 (1 week)
*State Of Origin II
*NSW Country v QLD Country
*OCEANIA CUP – ROUND 3 – Papua New Guinea v Samoa
*OCEANIA CUP – ROUND 3 – Fiji v Tonga
NRL – Rounds 13 and 14 (2 weeks)
Representative Weekend #4 (1 week)
*State Of Origin III
*NSW Residents v QLD Residents
*OCEANIA CUP – FINAL – Top 2 teams
*OCEANIA CUP – PLATE – Bottom 2 teams
NRL – Rounds 15 to 22 (8 weeks)
NRL – Finals – Using 2012 Finals system (4 weeks)
Year 1 – Australia tours Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and Cook Islands, playing no more than 10 games. 2 squads of 17 players are to be used for these games. Matches against above nations to be given Test status.
New Zealand tours France, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Lebanon and Italy, playing no more than 10 games. 2 squads of 17 players are to be used for these games. Matches against above nations to be given Test status.
Year 2 – Four Nations Tournament – Have two of these tournaments running at the same time and in the same country. Four Nations Tournament #1 comprises of Australia, New Zealand, England and the team ranked 4th at the time. Four Nations Tournament #2 to include the highest available ranked team in Europe and in Oceania, as well as the USA. The final spot to be filled by the next highest ranked available team.
Year 3 – New Zealand tours Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and Cook Islands, playing no more than 10 games. 2 squads of 17 players are to be used for these games. Matches against above nations to be given Test status.
Year 4 – World Cup – Looking to having an entire competition being played in USA.
All games listed above are to be shown live on Free-to-Air television. 8 NRL games are to be played in Country Australia every year (every team playing once)
The NRL Season, including finals and Rep Weekends alone is one week shorter than what we currently have. However there is more time between rep games, more players being involved in rep fixtures, making each club more involved in promoting the game outside of the NRL.
Also, a greater focus on Country Rugby League will help push away the risk of losing grassroots players and clubs to rival codes. It would be so effective, that it could essentially force some codes to retreat from their current expansion plans, which is again, great news for the game.
We need to start looking at strengthening the game outside the NRL itself. A strong international game means a strong local game.
The final issue is over the extra time facet of NRL games that are drawn after 80 minutes. Here’s my solution. A slight tweak on the rules to do away with the field goal kickathons.
If a player fails at an attempt to kick a field goal, the opposition team get to start their set with a play the ball from the spot where the failed field goal attempt was taken. Golden try is not a solution, because the field goal kicking would still exist.
For example, if a team kicks a field goal and two penalty goals and the opposition scores an uncoverted try, who wins? The team who scored the golden try or the team who scored the most points? Furthermore, if one team kicks a field goal and no tries are scored, is it still a draw?
My solution solves this issue without being at all drastic. It would force more attacking football and allow refs to continue officiating without fear of costing teams a victory, which they are seemingly doing.
All these ideas would improve the game for fans, grassroots, country & international rugby league and importantly, the players.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com
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