Some suggestions for the Independent Commission
Now that the State Of Origin series is out of the way and the NRL season enters the “home stretch” in the lead up to the finals, it’s time to draw breath and give the still-squeaky clean Independent Commission a few things to ponder.
Let’s hope they aren’t too busy picking out Mal Meninga wallpaper for the new office and hiding the “Lockyer For Immortal” placards under the Bobby Fulton Coaching Manuals.
Peter Sterling doesn’t like it and that’s good enough for me. Get rid of it. A draw is a result. Forget this warped notion of “golden try”, it’s really quite simple: After 80 minutes, the game ends, no matter what the score.
Cronulla and the Roosters extended a frankly turgid affair on Monday night by 10 more barely interesting minutes, when all that could have happened in normal time. Save the golden point for when it is really needed; in the finals, where the stakes are really high. As it is, a team loses in golden point in the regular season, shrugs a bit, mutters about lack of field position, and goes around the following week.
Why oh why does the NRL distract itself from its on-field action by having players announce their playing intentions for seasons outside of the current one? Is there a league in the world where that happens? This is what the off-season is for. It keeps the game in the news for reasons other than Mad Mondays gone wrong or end of season trips that come a cropper. I know that salary cap issues make it difficult for clubs to be able to finalise their playing rosters but surely October and November can become “bean counter” time where the coaches and the CFOs put their heads together and develop a shopping list for the following season.
In fact, they can do the groundwork during the season but there seems to be no need to announce that half the current Manly pack will be at the Eels and Canterbury next year, or that Parramatta have bought another halfback to bolster their Jim Beam Cup squad. By all means, if a player moves clubs mid season – hello Sam Perrett – then all well and good, but if you were Darcy Lussick and you were facing your future team mates in a game, would you have maybe just the slightest niggling little doubt before you stampeded over one of them? Insert any other name you wish there, Lussick just popped up because I’m sorry to see him go.
The rugby league representative season is like the episode of Seinfeld where everything happens in reverse order, and we saw the end at the beginning. First off, the concept of the ANZAC Test is pretty stupid. Australia and New Zealand haven’t actually played each other on ANZAC Day for as long as I can remember. It’s the day the Dragons and Roosters have classics at the SFS. Secondly, Australia and New Zealand were on the same side when the ANZAC legend was born. Why commemorate this historical alliance by playing against each other?
But that’s the tip of the iceberg. I seem to remember that the rep season used to have a fairly logical sequence. First off, there was City versus Country. From there, the NSW side was selected to play State Of Origin. At the end of the series, an Australian team was picked for a Test against New Zealand. Nowadays, the Test match comes first, then NSW insist on a City-Country farce while Queensland laugh at the concept of their upcoming opponents belting each other in a meaningless game while their squad has been picked in the minds of the coaching staff for a month.
Get rid of City-Country, move the test away from the proximity of ANZAC Day to the end of the season, and stop pretending State of Origin isn’t the pinnacle of rugby league.
Three seasons ago, rugby league had a huge image problem when it came to players and drinking. Without doubt, it wasn’t the only sport that encountered the issue, but with every person nowadays armed with an instant recording device that they sometimes use as a phone, player indiscretions became instant public news fodder. To their great credit, the league tackled the issue and all clubs have adopted alcohol management strategies which have gone a long way to curtailing the PR disasters of the recent past.
But the cancer that will eventually eat away at the game has insinuated itself. Gambling on the game is now so rife that no half time analysis is complete without Glen Munsie or Jamee Rogers getting air time in the same segment as the game analysts, and even they now seem duty-bound to give us the odds on just about anything you could dream up to put a bet on.
I know it’ll never happen because the gambling industry is now the golden-egg laying monster that has grabbed rugby league like a parasite, but so called “exotic” bets need to be wiped out completely. It is just too easy to manipulate, and even easier to convince players that “it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t affect the final result.”
The greater underlying problem is the bombardment of betting options to attempt to part a punter with his/her cash (but usually “his”, my admittedly haphazard observations don’t turn up many women with gambling problems, they just cop the aftermath when hubby loses the family home on a sure bet). Make no mistake about it, gambling is addictive, and the social issues go far deeper than a bloke slapping his forehead at the local betting agency because his team didn’t beat the points start.
Two sides have a gambling agency as their major sponsor, and one famous ground is now named after the same agency. In an era where the game has done much to present a positive community face with links to the Children’s Hospital, the Women In League round and breast cancer research, getting into bed with the gambling industry won’t get the game respect in the morning.
The Commission has been a bit quiet lately. Time to tackle these meaty subjects and get them to earn their keep. Now is the time for action.