Bonus points? Not in rugby league
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Before I start, I have a confession. I’m a traditionalist. I’m one of those dinosaur brains stuck in a young man’s body. I’m not a fan of change.
Whether it be the introduction of golden point or the amendments to the law involving the corner post, my mindset has always been not to fix what’s not broken.
Looking back, I feel I got it right with golden point. Just one of the 16 coaches supports the current system, and there is growing pressure on the newly formed commission to reintroduce the draw.
The corner post rule, ill admit I got wrong. We’ve seen some spectacular tries scored as a result of the rules allowing a player to touch the corner post and not be ruled out of play.
However, there’s one idea I know I’ll never support. It was suggested earlier this week that the NRL adopt Super Rugby’s bonus point system. For those who aren’t familiar with the points structure of ‘the game they play in heaven’, teams are awarded bonus points based on their performance.
Bonus points are awarded two ways, either by scoring four or more tries or by losing by less than seven.
While some may see some sense in it, I hope to put forward an argument to swing you over to my side.
The idea of this bonus point system coming into the NRL was put forward because the average tries per game has been steadily dropping over the past 10 years. In 2002, the average tries per game was at 8.54. After 19 rounds of the 2012 competition, that average has dropped to 7.1.
But is this necessarily a bad thing?
Rugby union is completely different to rugby league. With field goals and penalty goals valued at three points, the idea of the bonus point system was to encourage teams to go for the try rather than the easy shot at goal.
With the amount of penalties given in rugby and the value of a penalty goal, it’s too easy for the captain to point at the sticks and tell the ref, ‘we’ll take three’.
The best thing about watching your team win a game is knowing your opposition got nothing for it. Let’s use Monday’s unforgettable match between bitter rivals the Roosters and Rabbitohs as an example.
The Roosters lost the un-losable. Leading 22-12 with under two minutes to play, they somehow butchered what would have been a morale boosting win over their neighbours. The scenes after the game told the story.
Rabbitohs fans and players celebrated like they’d just won their first premiership since the early 70s, while Roosters players laid on the turf, mystified as to how they’d just let their season slip away.
For South Sydney fans, it wasn’t just a win, but a Roosters loss which made the occasion so unbelievably good.
Now stop there. Imagine if the bonus point system was in play. The Roosters would have walked away with two points. One for the four tries they scored and one for the close loss. Yes, they still would have been upset with losing, but the bonus points would have softened the blow.
It would make the result seem not as bad.
That can’t be good. The fabric of rugby league has always been if you lose you get nothing. This isn’t the under 6′s, we’re you get clapped off the field and given a few lollies for trying your best. It’s a game played by grown men, who shouldn’t be rewarded for coming close.
As for the four tries bonus point, here is an example as to why that would be a farce. In round 15 this year, the Cowboys hosted the Broncos in what was a very tough and entertaining game of footy. With under 20 minutes to play, scores were deadlocked at 0 apiece, before North Queensland scored two late converted tries to win a tremendous derby 12-0.
Brisbane would have received no bonus points, but were brave in defeat.
Now take last weeks Canberra versus Gold Coast game. The Raiders trailed 22-4 at half time and were booed off by their fans at half time. They trailed 38-10 late in the game before the Titans switched off, allowing Canberra to score three very late consolation tries. The Raiders ultimately lost 38-26.
Canberra were terrible and deserved nothing for their performance. They did however score five tries.
So let’s compare games. Two tries scored in an enthralling contest between two sides who gave it their all, against 13 tries scored between two sides outside the top eight, who at stages looked like they’d struggle stopping an under 12′s side from crossing the line.
The Queensland derby was a much better game, and that’s not just my dinosaur brain talking. Newspaper reports and the views of commentators have shared my sentiments.
So does Canberra really deserve a point for an insipid performance?
What about a fan watching a game between two sides he doesn’t support. Instead of hoping for a good hard fought contest like he does now, they’d have to instead hope for a low-scoring contest so neither team walks away with maximum points. Imagine that, watching a game and cheering on the defence.
Rugby league has gradually evolved over the course of history. Mandatory grand finals, limited tackle counts, an eight teams final system, the 40/20 rule, the list goes on. However, the difference in emotion between winning and losing is what makes rugby league as good as it is.
There is no room for bonus points in rugby league, and I’m sure most fans, diehard or not, would agree with me.
As for Roosters fans, you are best to wait a week before you decide.
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