NRL Season Length Hurting The Quality Of Football On Show

Will this season ever end?

When the terms of the new Free To Air broadcasting deal were announced I was really disappointed. The NRL basically locked itself into the same season schedule it has right now for a further five years, and I absolutely hate the current season schedule!

You could cut an entire month out of the current NRL season and it would have no effect on who wins the Grand Final. Every single team plays a handful of games each year that have pretty much no impact on where everyone finishes. We have all become accustomed to the fact that our teams will have ups and downs, but that at the end of the day it won’t matter because the Rugby League season has turned into a long, grinding marathon that is won by the team with the least amount of injuries and a bit of form in September.

Star players come out of the State Of Origin series looking busted. They all look like they could use a few weeks off rather than having another month and a half left in the season to grind out meaningless games against similarly busted opponents.

When NRL clubs start to talk about resting star players mid season, we have a problem. When a player misses a few weeks leading into the finals with a minor injury and it is seen as a good chance for them to rest up, we have a problem. When supporters of the game tune out for weeks at a time because there is just too much football being played, we have a problem.

It has been refreshing to get to the very end of the season and see a few teams competing in “must win” games. Why can’t we have that every week?

I’ve said for a long time that a team who plays a terrible two months of football should have no chance of making the finals. Right now, with a good run, a team that gets off to a horrific start to the season can make the finals. That is ridiculous!

The thing that worries me above all else is the affect that these long, grinding seasons are having on players. We are seeing every single team in the NRL having to deal with major injuries right now. Every year we are seeing clubs thrown into full scale injury crises, to the point where most of their first grade players can no longer take the field. If that isn’t a giant red flag, I don’t know what is!

I want to see all of our teams at their very best. Right now we are seeing clubs face off with thrown together lineups because of massive injuries tolls, and wild results because no team is actually feeling any good at this point of the season.

Player are not stupid, they know the toll these long seasons have of their bodies and on the length of their careers. Is it possible that the NRL keeps losing players to other sports, not because there isn’t enough money in the game, but because other sports take less of a grinding, physical toll on a player?

Rugby League is a hard enough sport to play as it is. There are very few sports in the world that rely on a collisions, hundreds of times per game, as each and every Rugby League game does. Shouldn’t Rugby League have its own season length based on the demands of the sport itself, rather than following the lead of other sports that take far less of a physical toll on a players body?

If you look at all of our star players in the NRL right now, pretty much every single one of them is carrying some sort of injury. They look worn out, busted, and have more strapping on them than a ute carrying furniture down the Hume Highway.

When the Players Association met with the NRL earlier this year one of the biggest concerns players put to the NRL was the length of the season. Those concerns were simply not listened to at all. I’d love to have known how players reacted when they found out that the season was not going to be shortened at all.

I would much rather a 20 week NRL competition in which every team played games that mattered. I want to see our star players healthy, rested, and at 100%.

When you consider that we have the NRL Auckland 9’s, the NRL All Star Game, The expanded World Club Challenge, NRL trial games, the NRL season, State of Origin and other representative games, the NRL finals, then end of season test matches, is it any wonder a player would look at all of that and consider where their professional sporting career is headed over the long term?

There is simply too much football being played. As a Rugby League supporter I want to see quality, not quantity. I want to see champion players and champion teams playing at their very best. Not just doing their best under the heavy burden of injuries brought on by playing way too much football.

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