It’s time to improve NRL reserve grade
I think the time has come for the NRL to launch a new, combined NSW and Queensland Cup competition that takes over as the main curtain raiser to first grade every weekend.
Since 2008, the Toyota Cup (NYC) has been the primary second-tier competition for the NRL. While I am a big fan of the concept, I just don’t believe it should be the only game to precede first grade each week.
Since the NYC’s inception five years ago, the NSW Cup has been pushed to the side and has been largely forgotten about by league fans. It now draws low attendances and receives little publicity.
The NSW Cup is now a very unstable competition, with clubs forced to fold every season due to economic loss.
In a time where viewers demand a more exciting brand of sport we have seen the rise of experimentations such as Rugby 7s and Twenty20 cricket. The Toyota Cup’s high scoring, fast tempo and hard-hitting play certainly meet all the criteria for a successful competition.
However, although the under 20s concept is a vital part of the future development of young talent, I believe there needs to be a better funded and newly restructured reserve grade system that takes over as the main curtain raiser to first grade.
Under the current NSW and Queensland Cup format, clubs like Melbourne and Canberra have a team in both feeder competitions, while Brisbane and the Gold Coast are forced to spread their talent across 3 squads each. This results in a reduced standard of football.
I would like to see the National Rugby League inject funds into a joint competition, where each of the 16 NRL clubs are represented. It would become the main second-tier competition where those over the age of 20 who don’t make first grade could play each weekend.
I believe that if the NRL and the Independent Commission want to get serious about improving the quality of rugby league in the future, this needs to be their first port of call. By creating a more competitive feeder competition, the flow on effects will improve all levels of the game.
Currently, the New South Wales Cup receives very little media coverage, with only a few local radio stations calling games, while a weekly program on Fox Sports broadcasts the game of the round every Wednesday night.
The Intrust Super Cup (Queensland Cup) does have their match of the round televised live every Sunday on Channel 9, this is still not enough for a competition that puts on highly entertaining games each week.
With many fans baulking at the rise in ticket prices, particularly over the past couple of seasons, I believe the cost would be more justified if a family could spend the whole afternoon at the footy. Fans would be able to see the best up and coming players their club has to offer, followed by a curtain raiser with fringe first graders taking the field.
I for one would be much more likely to make the trek up to fortress Brookie knowing that I could enjoy Manly battle it out against Cronulla in all three grades.
I believe coaches would also be behind these changes. The likes of Hasler, Bellamy and Toovey would be able to watch both the under 20s and reserve grade matches, getting a better feel for those who are performing well and deserve a call up. This surely has to be better than relying on a poor quality recording of a game played interstate.
For the 5:30pm saturday and 2pm sunday game on Fox Sports, it would be great if instead of just showing the Toyota Cup game prior to the NRL kicking off, the reserve grade was also telecast.
What NRL fan could say no to two more live games of football per weekend?
Finally, while the NSW Cup grand final gets to share the big stage with the NRL, the Intrust Super Cup is confined to holding theirs a week earlier at Suncorp Stadium. Under the new ,combined fixture, they would both share centre stage with first grade.
What do you think Roarers? Do you like the current separated state based system, or would you like to see a combined reserve grade competition where every club is represented?