Some ideas for the 2014 NRL season

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    Roosters lifting the crown - history repeating in 2014? (AAP Image/Paul Miller)

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    With the release of the draw for the 2014 season looming, here are some thoughts and ideas that the NRL should consider as the game only starts to grow much bigger and better after what could only be described as a dominant 2013 season by the Sydney Roosters.

    It is now known that the Roosters and Rabbitohs will lock horns in Round 1, as they have done all but once since the Rabbitohs were re-admitted to the NRL in 2002.

    The only time in which there was not a season opener between the two old rivals was in 2003, when the Roosters, back then the defending premiers, opened against the Parramatta Eels.

    Next year, the Roosters will almost certainly receive the first acid test of their premiership defence when they take on the South Sydney Rabbitohs, once again in the first round of the 2014 season.

    That match will kick off the season on the first Thursday night of March, as it did last year.

    It has also been reported that the Brisbane Broncos, headlined by none other than Ben Barba, will kick off what should be a new era in the club’s history against the club he departed in acrimonious circumstances last year, the Bulldogs.

    After a disappointing 2013 season which saw the club out of the finals for only the second time since 1991, the Broncos responded by aggressively recruiting Barba, Martin Kennedy (from the Roosters), Todd Lowrie (Warriors), Daniel Vidot (Dragons) and Stewart Mills (Sharks), among others.

    Anthony Milford could also be headed north, but the Raiders are looking at offering him a lucrative $1 million contract to keep him in the nation’s capital.

    It’s understood though that Milford desperately wants to return home to care for his seriously ill father.

    Here are some other thoughts and ideas the NRL should consider for at least the upcoming season and beyond.

    In recent times, the NRL have taken games beyond the boundaries of league territory, including to Cairns, Darwin, Mackay, Adelaide, Wellington and even Perth’s Patersons Stadium.

    From next year (or maybe from 2015 onwards), the league should start considering taking premiership matches to Tasmania and Geelong for the first time, as they try to combat the AFL and its strong presence in those two areas.

    The Melbourne Storm would be an ideal team for the NRL to feature in their venture to those two areas.

    Simonds Stadium in Geelong has recently been redeveloped, allowing for night games to be played at the venue. The seating capacity of the venue has also been increased to 33,500, which is 3,000 more than the Storm’s current ground, AAMI Park.

    The AFL qualifying final between Geelong and Fremantle attracted 32,815 spectators. It’s highly unlikely though that such a crowd would be achieved at a Storm home game at the venue, unless the Storm and the NRL promote the game in the Geelong area aggressively.

    Aurora Stadium in Launceston has a capacity of 21,000, while Bellerive Oval seats up to 16,200. That’s two good venues which the NRL can use should they venture into Tasmania in the near future.

    It could also prove to be the first building brick towards an unlikely Tasmanian bid to have their own NRL team, though if that were to happen, both venues would have to be redeveloped.

    It would be great to finally see some NRL matches being played in Tasmania and Geelong, so the locals can learn and understand the game of rugby league.

    Potential opponents for this move could include the Bulldogs, South Sydney Rabbitohs, Gold Coast Titans or Canberra Raiders, to name a few.

    Also, in the same manner that the AFL’s Sydney Swans take their blockbuster games to ANZ Stadium and the A-League’s Melbourne Victory host their big matches at Etihad Stadium, the Melbourne Storm should follow suit and relocate some potentially big matches to the much larger Docklands venue.

    Ideal opponents could include modern-day rivals the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, the Brisbane Broncos, and this year’s premiers, the Sydney Roosters.

    There are also some grudge matches that a lot of fans will also want to look forward to in 2014, none more so than the grand final rematch between the Sydney Roosters and Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles.

    The first rematch should be held early in the season, most likely within the first five rounds of the season and held on a Thursday night, where not just the crowd, but also the television audience, will be very high.

    As this would be a grand final rematch, it would be practical to either have it back at ANZ Stadium, just like the Panthers did for their grand final rematch against the Roosters back in 2004, or at Allianz Stadium, the Roosters’ home ground, given how high the crowds are expected to be.

    The Suncorp Stadium Friday night double header, which was notably absent from the fixture this year, should also return.

    The Brisbane Broncos would play the first match, against a yet-to-be-determined opponent, while the second match would be between the Gold Coast Titans and another yet-to-be-determined opponent, likely to be either the Bulldogs or the Sea Eagles, who in 2011 took their home game to Broncos territory for a convincing 34-10 victory.

    This initiative, first launched in 2009, would earn Channel Nine a knockout victory in the ratings in Queensland and New South Wales, and also possibly sell-out.

    With Queensland hosting two State of Origin games this year, it could be a post-celebration to what could potentially be the Maroons’ ninth consecutive State of Origin series, should the double-header be played after the third (and possibly deciding) Origin match.

    Traditional rivals should also meet twice during the season – but the best matches should be saved for well away from the dreaded State of Origin period.

    As an example, this year’s Bulldogs versus Roosters match at ANZ Stadium was robbed of its star power due to Origin, although the match saw Sonny Bill Williams step foot onto ANZ Stadium for the first time since walking out on the Bulldogs in 2008.

    The match attracted only 20,275 spectators, though it could so easily have been more than double than that had the match not been played in an Origin-affected weekend.

    To add more spice, if there were to be two meetings between the two rivals in 2014, the first should be held within the first seven rounds of the season, with the second to be held in the final round, to possibly serve as a finals warm-up for both teams.

    That said, the Brisbane Broncos and Melbourne Storm should meet at Suncorp Stadium, either as the first match of the aforementioned double-header, or two days after the first State of Origin match, which will be held in the Sunshine City this year.

    It would serve Queensland fans a double-dose of their favourite stars, ranging from Sam Thaiday to Corey Parker to the Storm’s spine that is Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk.

    The city of Brisbane would also still be in celebration mode after the first State of Origin match, regardless of the result.

    And finally, as ANZAC Day falls on a Friday next year, it would be practical for Channel Nine to televise both the Dragons versus Roosters and the Storm versus Warriors matches on the same day.

    This year, the network televised this year’s edition of the Roosters versus Dragons showdown despite the match being played on a Thursday afternoon, in which case Fox Sports would have the rights.

    However, as part of the new television rights signed off last year, the free-to-air station picked up the broadcasting rights to the match for the next five years in order to combat Seven televising the AFL fixture between Essendon and Collingwood, which also sells out and rates highly.

    As Nine also have the rights to two further matches across a standard round, it would also be practical to televise the Storm versus Warriors in the evening, with the match starting later at 7:45pm (from its traditional 7:00pm) to meet the contract.

    This would give league fans a double-dose of ANZAC Day action, as the NRL combats the AFL and their recently launched ANZAC Night match in New Zealand, which involves St Kilda.

    Ratings-wise, ANZAC Day next year could prove to be a spicy one in the battle for ratings between Nine and Seven. Nine, though, may have the upper hand in Sydney and Brisbane, as the AFL is televised on 7mate in those two cities, while it’s the reverse in the southern states – whereby the NRL is televised on GEM and the AFL on Seven.

    Those are many of the thoughts and ideas the NRL should consider as they look to expand the game in the near future.

    Roarers, what do you think?

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    The Crowd Says (21)

    • Roar Pro

      October 31st 2013 @ 4:51am
      Football United said | October 31st 2013 @ 4:51am | ! Report

      Some awful ideas in here tbh. Melbourne fans are perfectly happy with our rectangular and appropriately sized (unlike nearly every sydney venue) stadium. There is absolutely zero reason to move to any games to an inferior ground and especially none to Geelong or even worse to Tasmania when members expect full value out of their season tickets and any home game outside of Melbourne is just simply unacceptable.

      And ANZ should just be avoided full stop, it’s ridiculous that regular season games are even played there in the first place when that dump of a ground doesn’t even get a quarter full half the time. For me it doesn’t matter how good the standard might be for a homebush game, the total lack of atmosphere makes them dull enough to be unwatchable. NRL teams moving games all over the place and not sticking to one ground are not doing Rugby League any favours, they should be taking a leaf out of the Wanderers book and seeing how the lower supply of available tickets at Parramatta has left fans absolutely clambering for Season Tickets this year, a scenario that would never have happened had they even played just a couple at homebush.

      • Roar Pro

        October 31st 2013 @ 5:01am
        Football United said | October 31st 2013 @ 5:01am | ! Report

        And Gold Coast Titans are called Gold Coast for a reason, there is no good reason for them not to play home games at Suncorp. They should be focussing on ways to make Robina a better match day experience.

      • Roar Guru

        October 31st 2013 @ 6:36am
        peeeko said | October 31st 2013 @ 6:36am | ! Report

        ANZ has gotten better crowds than all other sydney grounds over the last few years. bulldogs and rabbits crowds have been the standard for sydney crowds of late. i would say that most sydney gronds are retangle and approriate size.

        • Roar Pro

          October 31st 2013 @ 12:25pm
          Football United said | October 31st 2013 @ 12:25pm | ! Report

          800000 at ANZ is not appropriate for any team and the sfs is never filled for any game, i’d say that makes them inappropriately sized. Homebush is not rectangular, it’s a horrible in between and it doesn’t matter if they get better crowds because it still makes for extremely boring viewing.

          • Roar Pro

            October 31st 2013 @ 2:32pm
            Dylan said | October 31st 2013 @ 2:32pm | ! Report

            I think you mean 80,000. Dont think there is a stadium in the world that holds 800,000 mate. And ANZ is one of the better stadiums in the country. And if you find the game boring then simply dont watch it. Very easy

      • October 31st 2013 @ 10:56am
        cowelly said | October 31st 2013 @ 10:56am | ! Report

        I agree with your comments mate. Expanding to Geelong is like the AFL expanding to Townsville; people in Geelong are AFL mad! They would never turn out to a RL game. Tassie’s the same. And expansion there is totally unnecessary, even the AFL sees that.
        NRL supporters are too obessed with AFL’s crowd figures and believe we should be achieving the same as the AFL. However, the AFL has one of the higest crowd averages out of any sport in the world, it is simply remarkable. This is due to Melbourne being the easiest city to navigate in the country and AFL’s culture in crowd attendance. However, the ARLC needs to work in closer with the state and local government to have stadiums built closer to train stations and bars & restaurants. The days where we built stadiums in the middle of nowhere for parking purposes are completely outdated.. we’ve learnt this from Football Park in Adelaide. Supporters today need to get somewhere easily, have a beer before the game and a meal afterwards. Melbourne has this sorted, NRL does not.
        I believe, however, the Roosters v Souths game in round 1 should be played at SFS – the atmosphere would be absolutely electric. It would leave the Sydney Derby for dead.

        • November 9th 2013 @ 3:30pm
          Tim said | November 9th 2013 @ 3:30pm | ! Report

          “They would never turn out to an RL game, Tassie’s the same”.

          You are aware that Melbourne took a pre-season match there in 2012 and got a crowd of almost 12,000 (near capacity at North Hobart Oval), aren’t you?

          The amount of uneducated and ridiculous comments from people who haven’t done their research yet have the “pro” label under their name is astounding.

          • November 26th 2013 @ 10:08am
            cowelly said | November 26th 2013 @ 10:08am | ! Report

            Why would you bother with Tasmania, honestly? If the AFL can’t be bothered, why would the NRL. Victoria and WA are the NRL’s main focus. NT, SA and Tasmania (in that order) matter after that. Actually, Indonesia matters more than Tasmania from a sporting point of view.

      • November 16th 2013 @ 12:41am
        Wanderer said | November 16th 2013 @ 12:41am | ! Report

        Hi Football United, you obviously do not live in NSW. Further you obviously do not have any bloody idea about the state of play in NSW. Firstly its not called Homebush, look it up.. Typical outsider mentality. I will just say that I do not support the NRL, but if I did it would be the Parramatta Eels, they have the same heart and drive that the WSW do. Further it is a pleasure to share a home ground with them and one day a double header??? I have done my research and the Parramatta Eels have nearly doubled the membership after conceding the wooden spoon, lets see your club do that. Historically the Parramatta crowds are some of the best! Lastly you refer to a dump of a ground, that playing surface is world class, the venue and staff is world class.

    • Roar Guru

      October 31st 2013 @ 6:36am
      peeeko said | October 31st 2013 @ 6:36am | ! Report

      has milford been offered 1 million per year or over several years?

    • Roar Pro

      October 31st 2013 @ 9:43am
      Dylan said | October 31st 2013 @ 9:43am | ! Report

      ANZ is a great stadium. They pull very good crowds. The Roosters Rabbitohs minor premiership decider was the highest crowd of any regular season game. Plus its just a very comfy, easy to access stadium that now even includes wifi. Traffic is good getting to and from there unlike Allianz. Im a Roosters supporter and member but I hate going to Allianz. I would love to see Roosters play more games at ANZ. granted I know that they cant play home games there but games against teams like Rabbitohs, Bulldogs, Panthers and even Tigers shoud be played there.

      As for playing games in Geelong and Tassie, whats the point.

      You will only make the game look even worse in those places. I’ve been to Geelong numerour times during the NRL/AFL season and they dont care about NRL. They have a team that absolutely everyone in the largely populated area follows. A team that does well and has been doing well for the better half of a decade. The NRL would be lucky if they got more people at the game then GWS get at Homebush. And Tassie already follows certain teams in the AFL that are contracted to already play there as it is. This is the reason why the AFL won’t bring in a Tassie team. It would be too hard to market as no one will want to really see them get up as everyone already has a team that they follow. Much the same way that many Swans fans see the Giants as an ambomination invading their territory. The NRL would be better off not invading AFL Territory and really buckle down and focus on the game in Sydney (there is no threat in QLD yet). I predict the AFL having a big rise in Sydney this year. The Swans have recieved a big X factor in Buddy Franklin that will draw crowds, and IMO they are a big chance for another flag this year if they dont get any injuries. While the Giants look set to make a statement in the AFL this year by grabbing some more wins, and as every Sydneysider knows when the teams are winning the crowds will come. NRL needs to think about this and figure out a way to maintain the current fans they have rather then start trying to wage the code war in places where AFL will always win.

      It will do nothing but waste money and annoy fans.

      • October 31st 2013 @ 12:45pm
        rl4eva said | October 31st 2013 @ 12:45pm | ! Report

        The Storm got 16,000 for a preseason trial game in Tassie not so long ago. They could definitely get more for 1 regular season game a year.

        For what it’s worth NRL fans and non-AFL fans in Sydney really don’t know who Buddy Franklin is. It doesn’t matter if he’s in the paper 10 times or 100 times. Getting Franklin will only sell the game to those already converted.

        What you might see is former Swans fans wh converted to GWS abandoning the Giants and going back to the Swans. That’s about it.

    • October 31st 2013 @ 9:55am
      bbt said | October 31st 2013 @ 9:55am | ! Report

      We want Storm games at AAMI park. Not Geelong or somewhere else. Lets just get the numbers up there, first.

    • October 31st 2013 @ 11:31am
      oikee said | October 31st 2013 @ 11:31am | ! Report

      I think Brisbane should have a Anzac Day Clash to combat AFL.
      Nothing will be bigger than a Brisbane Anzc day clash, so that is what they really need to be looking at first up.
      You mentioned Suncorp and double headers, i agree, but i also think Suncorp and Rugby League in general in Brisbane is under-utilised and they need to promote, what must be considered the best league stadium, more. It sits their idle for half the year.
      Now imagine a packed, full house at Suncorp on Anzac day. ??
      Have you imagined that yet. ??

      Yes, fantastic.

      As for the Storm taking games to Etihad? , no, have you not been watching the world cup. At Warrington, in a boutique little 15 thousand rugby league stadium, yes a proper rugby league stadium, left for dead anything we can throw up as in atmosphere wise.

      What the Storm need to do is pack that lovely little 30 thousand boutique stadium to the rafters. We dont need to be going bigger until we are bigger. Keep it cosy, build a must see event, then worry about bigger stadiums.

      The Storm should take a game to Geelong, yes i agree with you. And they took a trail game to tassie, so maybe take a proper game to tassie would be next step. As for the games around Origin, yes this year was not real good, they played some blockbuster games with no stars because of Origin . They need to fix that, the double headers should be on Saturday nights and earlier start. Just a little thing i know, but it makes a world of difference if you allow families to attend.

      I agree with alot you have said, some things not so much, but yes, exciting times for Rugby League.

      • October 31st 2013 @ 12:51pm
        rl4eva said | October 31st 2013 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

        Broncos vs Rabbitohs/Tigers or Bulldogs 1:00 – 3:30pm in Brisbane
        Dragons vs Roosters 3:30 – 6:00pm in Sydney
        Storm vs Warriors 7:00pm – 9:30pm in Melbourne

    • October 31st 2013 @ 12:33pm
      John Fahey's hat said | October 31st 2013 @ 12:33pm | ! Report

      Why should the draw be rigged to maximise TV ratings???

      The draw should be done as evenly and fairly as possible so EVERY team has the same chance of success as every other team.

      Why should a team like Easts play against Manly twice, Souths twice, Canterbury twice and Melbourne twice so as to maximise TV ratings and then only play the deadbeat teams like Parramatta, Wests Tigers, Canberra, St George once because it doesn’t suit Channel 9???

      The real fans (ie those that go to the games to support their teams) don’t give a stuff about ratings blockbusters, they want to go and watch their team win and when the draw is being rigged in a way that makes that harder to do (and gives lesser teams an advantage), then something is seriously wrong with our game and, especially, those running it.

      • October 31st 2013 @ 2:24pm
        cowelly said | October 31st 2013 @ 2:24pm | ! Report

        Mate, unfortunately that is the way of the world – if it ain’t making dollars it ain’t making sense 😉

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