McIntyre System to live in dark recesses of NRL history

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The bittersweet realisation that a grand final win can only be followed by a slide down the ladder. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

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Kenneth Gordon McIntyre OBE was a man of many talents: author, lawyer, politician, historian, mathematician. It is with some shame, then, that his legacy in Australian popular culture appears to be inextricably linked with that of a maligned rugby league finals system.

And by maligned, I mean intensely despised.

Much like the night time Grand Finals that sent millions of small children to bed in tears at half time, the McIntyre finals system was a phenomena that appeared to only have the support of a powerful minority.

Here was a finals system so unloved that in its demise it had become the flatulent, native fauna eating, one-eared tom cat that nobody in the neighbourhood wanted to claim ownership of.

This can be seen by the press reports this week, all seemingly flick passing and handballing ownership of the system.

The papers have spoken of the NRL from 2012 adopting the ‘AFL’s final system,’ by which of course they mean the 95 ARL finals system.

In turn the NRL has dumped ‘it’s’ McIntyre system, despite the fact that the AFL and the VFL had in the past used versions of McIntyre previous to the NRL adopting it. For the casual sports fan, it’s all a bit confusing.

Fitting, as confusion seemed to be the overwhelming reaction to the McIntyre system. Many a frustrating September was spent rehashing the finals framework to inattentive work colleagues, trying to explain what next week’s games would be.

To which the only true answer was that ‘you’ll have to wait and see’.

This was an annoyance for spectators, but must have been a logistical and psychological nightmare for players and coaches.

Even the most cynical fan would have to feel sorry for the 3rd-6th placed losing sides, sitting around a TV at the leagues club following their match not knowing whether they should be ripping into training, or ripping into a carton of cold beers and fancy dress clothes.

Sports fans, by and large, crave simplicity, and rugby league can lay claim to being one of the simplest games of all. But, to be simple is to be great, and taking your finals system from a former mathematician who liked to explore Portuguese naval history in his spare time is probably over complicating things a little bit.

This is not to say intelligent minds should be driven away from rugby league. It’s just that, as lifelong Manly fan and world renowned author Thomas Keneally learned after the lukewarm reception to his ‘Blow that Whistle’ television ad, sometimes you just have to give the proles what we want.

So Mr McIntyre, on behalf of the rugby league fraternity, I would like to acknowledge your very successful life and crazy Portuguese conspiracy theories.

You were indeed a man who succeeded in many fields.

However, for mine, your finals system will serve a special place in the dark recesses of my rugby league memory, and will keep good company their with unlimited interchange, the 1997 NSW Origin jerseys and Wollongong Showground greyhound track.

And it looks to me like this time, the fans have beaten the system.

Chris Chard is a sports humour writer commenting on the often absurd nature of professional sport. A rugby league fan boy with a good blend of youth and experience taking things one week at a time, Chris has written for The Roar since 2011. Tweet him @Vic_Arious
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