What the NRL can learn from the Super Rugby draw
The previous draw used by Super Rugby was my favourite for the sole reason of its fairness. For the uninitiated, a team played everyone once.
The following year they played everyone once, with the home grounds reversed.
If you played the Waratahs at home in ‘08, you would be heading to Sydney to play them in ‘09. Simple.
I make note of this exceptional draw because I am sick of the shambles that is the NRL draw. The NRL draw is a self-serving mess, helping no one other than Channel Nine.
26 rounds, random bye weeks, some teams playing the Storm twice but Eels once. Maybe your team will strike it lucky and play the Broncos during the Origin period? Maybe your team is the Broncos and you play anyone during Origin?
Maybe your team is a constant feature on football-unfriendly Monday nights? Friends are in town in two months, maybe I can show them a good time at the footy if we play that day? Maybe, maybe, maybe…
The draw is as predictable as the video ref, when the fans are crying out for Queensland winning Origin levels of predictability. These issues are not new and here is my solution, along with a few ideas on international league.
18 teams for 17 rounds of club rugby league. Of course, the scary word ‘expansion’, that many are afraid of, must be confronted here. Perth, Central Queensland, Central Coast, Papua New Guinea a second New Zealand team?! I don’t care.
For those that argue the depth isn’t there I suggest you watch the NSW cup grand final. 13 players had over 300 combined games of NRL or Super League experience. The Queensland cup grand final had six players with NRL or Super League experience for over 400 games experience. They are just the four teams in the respective grand finals. The Toyota Cup also featured players with NRL experience.
Only 18 rounds? Where will the TV networks get their money from? The All Star game.
Great game, and a great way to whet the appetite that a long season of cricket and tennis just hasn’t been able to satisfy. I would love to see a rugby player come over for the All Star match, as it would generate great interest and add another dimension to the game.
I sure know I kept tabs on the Barbarians games that Sam Tomkins and Willie played in. Of course I know the possibility of the ARU releasing any of their players is slim to none, but definitely worth a try.
ANZAC test stays, split round of course. The ANZAC game has been around since the dark days of 1997 and was one of the few good concepts to come out of ‘the war’. However I believe we can tweak the concept to include an under-20s Test too.
I believe an under-20s Test could be a tiny step to alleviating some of the confusion around eligibility. Had Tamou and Papalii been playing for New Zealand in under-20s, perhaps they would have embraced the team and as a result be lining up in black and white on Saturday night?
City Country stays. I think with the reduced length in the regular season, the game may develop into a genuine selection trial, with more players willing to prove themselves and not succumb to suspicious injuries. Michael Ennis and the ever injured-around-country-selection-time Matt Cooper, that was aimed at you!
Split rounds for State of Origin. This may be tricky, as league will be virtually surrendering to other codes on the TV and the grounds, except of course when it is game time. So, in conjunction with Origin, we stage a New Zealand Origin, Auckland against the rest of the country.
If both games were played at 7:30pm and with the time difference, this could be top pre-game entertainment for Australians or a great post match game for the Kiwis to enjoy. This New Zealand Origin concept has the ability to help players torn over allegiances, being paid handsomely helps too.
The grand final format can stay as is, bar the entertainment. Three games of footy, what more could you ask? How about some entertainment that appeals to the masses in the crowd! Good Charlotte appeals to 12 year old girls. While I encourage all ages and gender to support rugby league, 12 year old girls probably account for less than 5% of league fans.
With that proposed draw, the broadcaster(s) would be receiving 153 games of club rugby league, with no players missing throughout the year due to representative commitments. This year, they were given 180. I would argue that the difference of 27 games featured many watered down games, with players being rested after Origin or missing because of it.
With a full strength product and the added international and New Zealand Origins, this draw is worth just as much as the current one, except it’s fairer and more functional.
International eligibility rules and scheduling are frustrating to say the least. It may smack of double standards, but players that have represented Australia, New Zealand or England should be able to represent countries outside the top three, under one condition.
If a player like Uate decides to represent Fiji, he cannot play for Australia for two years. While that may not seem like the wisest move for Uate, a player of immense experience like Tuqiri could pass on so much knowledge to the Fijian team. Someone like Tuqiri could give the game great exposure and get more Fijiians into League.
So while the four Nations are on, we could have another tournament running at the same time featuring a sprinkling of NRL and English Super League talent. Presumably this tournament would be featuring the likes of Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and, at a stretch, the Cook Islands.
Players available would include Neville Costigan, Lote Tuqiri, Joe Gualavou, the Naqiama brothers, David Mead, James Segeyaro, Paul Aiton and Richie Fa’aoso. I’m sure they would relish representing their countries on a more frequent basis.
I know not all of these ideas are going to be proven viable, but it’s something!
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