How to improve the greatest game of all
The NRL video referees are back under scrutiny (AAP Image/Chris Hyde)
Rugby League is a passion of mine and has been for as long as I can remember. I had the pleasure of playing the game from the age of five up to 17 and my on-field feats have stood the test of time, at least in my own mind.
Nowadays, as I am approaching a mid-life crisis, I marvel at the way the game has developed into one of the globe’s most respected and physically demanding contests.
The game will always have its critics. Fans of other codes will always want to knock rugby league, but many don’t take the chance to understand the game before they knock it.
I love rugby league, the collisions, the pace and the skill demonstrated in the modern game is breathtaking. There are so many attributes and good things the game has going for it. However, there are also areas that I’m sure many other lovers of the game have a reason to gripe about.
Even though I love rugby league, I do think there are areas where it could be improved. Some of these are:
1) Mid-season transfers
The game is a profession nowadays and players have the right to take care of themselves as best they can. Loyalty is not a term of endearment in any profession. The career span of a player is short. Notwithstanding that, it is difficult to accept a player can be committed to his team mates and jersey when he is focused on where he may be playing next season, next month or next week. Perhaps a transfer window deadline could be considered.
2) Scheduling of games
The Brisbane Broncos played a good portion of their early 2012 games consecutively on Friday nights. This allowed them consistency in their preparation for each week, a considerable advantage. Whereas other teams had to back up from Monday night games and play on Saturday, etc.
In addition and more importantly, the scheduling during the representative season is a dog’s breakfast. Teams who provide the bulk of rep players are often disadvantaged with byes during this period. It’s been mentioned constantly, however I firmly believe that representative matches should be standalone fixtures. If you disagree, have a look at the NRL crowd numbers the weekend after an Origin game.
3) Refereeing decisions
This gripe harps way back to when that Pommy bloke picked up the soccer ball in England and started to run and palm his chasers in the face. The video referee is in my opinion necessary for the game. The use of the video referee, though, needs to be refined. No penalties for head shots which should be the responsibility of the on field referees.
This will discourage players from lying down when there has been contact with the head. The on-field referees need to also be accountable for making decisions in the first instance rather than rely on the bloke upstairs. More often than not, the on field ref is in the best position and close enough to make a call on a try, however lacks the conviction to do so.
Are they worth persisting with? They are no longer a genuine contest. The benefits are an opportunity for the attacking team; however it is hard to adjust seeing fullbacks packing in the second row, front rowers feeding the ball in the scrum and so on. They seem to be a debacle and a bit of a blight on the game.
The wounds are still raw for many Bears and Jets fans and I can’t recall speaking to too many excited Steelers, Magpies, Saints and Tigers fans for clubs who have merged. There is a certain purity I believe when traditional clubs oppose each other, in front of their parochial followers.
While the game has broadened its horizons in places like Queensland and Melbourne, we need to consider at what cost. A lot of life long supporters have given the game away in recent years due to mergers or altogether axing’s of their teams
There are a multitude of changes and enhancements possible for the game; they are debated regularly on footy shows and in print. For instance there is the current Origin eligibility and among others interchange rules, 40/20′s etc.
On balance, the game itself has never been more exciting and breathtaking to watch. It is a great way to spend a Saturday night snuggled up next to a meat pie and a cold tinny.
But, Roarers, over to you. What would you like to see improved in the NRL?