Remember when the NRL and International Rugby League told everyone that Rugby League 9’s was a great, exciting way to promote the wider game of Rugby League, and that we would be seeing a number of Rugby League 9’s tournaments that you could enjoy for many years to come?
Many years ago the Rugby League World Sevens was a great way to kick off the season in Australia. Games were fast, back-to-back, the action moved quickly, teams could take advantage of their wider squad of talent, new stars were able to get their first taste of the big time, and we even allowed teams from around the world to take part and that was great for the game.
Then it all went away…
Rugby League 9’s was a much more cohesive version of Rugby League Sevens. The two extra players on the field helped games be a lot less like run-away tryfests and just added a touch more skill to the whole affair.
The problem with the NRL 9’s is that it was a closed shop. Only NRL teams took part, and this meant that we lost a whole lot of the magic that made Rugby League Sevens so exciting….the unknown.
It was the players we didn’t know, the teams we weren’t use to seeing, the weird things that always happened that were the special sauce that made the World Sevens so exciting. Seeing players from other nations and clubs outside of Australia taking on the clubs we knew, that was the great part of the World Sevens.
By turning the Rugby League 9’s into an NRL only event, everything felt sanitised.
Then there was the scheduling of games on game day. The giant gaps between games made the whole thing felt drawn out. It cut up the fast action with 40 minute blocks of nothing happening for the crowd at the event to watch.
I remember attending the Rugby League 9’s World Cup at Parramatta Stadium. I watched thousands of people leave because of the gap between games on the final day in particular. By the time the final was played, there crowd was much smaller, bored, tired, it was terrible!
All these things are so easy to fix, and that is what the NRL needs to do.
Sort out the scheduling of games, bring in as many teams for overseas as can be financially justified, bring in teams from lower grade comps and interstate competitions, bring the ENTIRE Rugby League family together and just have two great days of non stop footy action to kick off the year.