Boring NRL pre-season needs spicing up

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    As the meaningless NRL pre-season rolls on, many of us wonder what can be done for excitement. The answer would be some kind of pre-season competition.

    Given that teams only want to play two trial matches, it’s hard to have a real knockout comp. So instead of one comp, let’s have four. Two weeks of trials is more than enough (although some teams do play three).

    Divide the teams into four separate comps. Then with each group of four teams have a two-week knockout comp.

    Offer some prize-money to the winner and runner-up. If teams want to play more trials they could play before this. One thing I like about the current setup is the amount trials in country areas and places without teams. Hobart pulled over 11,000 spectators on the weekend.

    You could group the teams into geographic regions to get a bit of rivalry going.

    The Western Sydney Cup would involve Wests Tigers, Canterbury, Penrith and Parramatta. The Beaches Cup would be Manly, Sydney, Cronulla and Newcastle. Even if Cronulla moves to the Central Coast it still works.

    The Southern Cup could be Melbourne, Canberra, Illawarra, and Souths. The Queensland Cup would be Brisbane, Gold Coast, North Queensland and New Zealand.

    Maybe you could seed the first round by the teams’ ladder position the previous year, though for the Southern Cup you would always have Souths versus Dragons in the first round, which could also double as the annual Charity Shield match.

    Since last year’s premiers have to play the World Club Challenge, you can leave them out and have their comp as a three-team cup, with teams two and three playing the semi-final to meet seed one in the final, and adjust the prize money accordingly.

    The teams that lose in the first week can just play normal trial matches in the second week (like what happens to the eliminated teams in the AFL’s NAB Cup).

    The prize money can come out of the funding the NRL gives the clubs – and split the prize money between the players and the club. As an example, give $100,000 to the winner of each of the four cups and $50,000 to the runners-up. I’m sure clubs that are in financial difficulties would definitely want to play hard to win their cup.

    It would be an easy way to try to get some meaning (and thus more crowds, viewers and excitement) into our meaningless pre-season, without having a pre-season cup that goes on for four weeks and bores everybody.

    Basically, you would have the same number of trial games as normal. Teams that like to play three trial matches can play their extra match on the All Stars weekend as normal trials.

    This system of having four small pre-season cups is easy to implement and if it doesn’t work they can get rid of it after a couple of season with no damage done. The only real cost is having some trophies made up (since the prize money could come out of normal NRL club funding).

    Using last year’s ladder position as seeding, here are the matches for the four cups (seedings in brackets)”

    Western Sydney Cup

    Rd. 1/Semis: (1) Wests v. (4) Parra, (2) Bulldogs v. (3) Penrith.

    Beaches Cup (Manly absent for World Club Championship)

    Rd.1/Semis: (2) Roosters v. (3) Cronulla, winner plays (1) Newcastle (should play final in Gosford).

    Southern Cup

    Rd.1/Semis: (1) Melbourne v. (4) Canberra, (2) Dragons v. (3) Souths.

    Queensland Cup

    Rd.1/Semis: (1) Brisbane v. (4) Gold Coast, (2) New Zealand v. (3) Nth Queensland.

    If you could choose from any and every NRL player in the competition, who would you pick in your rugby league dream team? Let us know with our team picker right here, and be sure to share it with all your league-loving mates.

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    The Crowd Says (40)

    • February 21st 2012 @ 9:07am
      Nevin said | February 21st 2012 @ 9:07am | ! Report

      Great post. The pre-season is first and foremost for the clubs to provide match fitness for their players, work on structures and trial new players. But the pre-season is also critical for the fans and the marketing groups at both the AFL andits respective clubs. A solid pre-season hit out provides a glimpse of what is to come for the season (clearly this doesnt always hold true). A positive display will help drive membership and add to the anticipation for the start of the season. The AFL has had a pre season competition as long as I can remember (21 years) and it has evolved to the point where there are shortened round robin fixtures, new rules and new players being trialled. The games draw good crowds and no doubt most clubs see an increase in membership. The NRL outside of the All-stars and Charity shield matches has an anonymous build up especially in places other than NSW and QLD. Whilst the trial matches are useful I think the NRL would be better served having a pre season competition in the mould of the AFL or having televised trial matches – both of which would assist clubs and add to the buzz for the upcoming season whilst enabling clubs to continue to trial players and game plans

    • February 21st 2012 @ 9:11am
      Charlton said | February 21st 2012 @ 9:11am | ! Report

      Why do we constantly think we need to emulate AFL?

      • February 21st 2012 @ 11:42pm
        Jack Russell said | February 21st 2012 @ 11:42pm | ! Report

        Because it’s worked so well for them in the past?

    • February 21st 2012 @ 9:28am
      Mark said | February 21st 2012 @ 9:28am | ! Report

      Because the AFL is a silly looking sport that is highly successful.

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      • February 21st 2012 @ 10:38am
        mushi said | February 21st 2012 @ 10:38am | ! Report

        Following someone as they walk towards the light only guarantees that you stand in their shadow

    • February 21st 2012 @ 9:47am
      turbodewd said | February 21st 2012 @ 9:47am | ! Report

      The NRL season is already too long. This idea has no legs and will never get up. I dont want to see any players injured in some Mickey Mouse tourney which means nothing and noone will care about. I wonder how many AFL fans can recall who won the NAB cup 2 or 3 yrs ago.

      Chop the NRL season to 20 games – give us quality and see average crowd figures soar!

    • February 21st 2012 @ 9:48am
      bjt said | February 21st 2012 @ 9:48am | ! Report

      Trail matches are fairly pointless for the viewing public, other than getting games out to other regions, such as the great success of Hobart last weekend. A pre-season comp could achieve the same thing, yet make it a bit more interesting for the all the fans and pump up the coming season.

      If they ever go back to a pre-season comp, I’d like to see teams from the QLD/NSW Cup be more involved. Their might be some floggings, but you never know and the NRL really need to start promoting the lower division teams of league in Australia. I dare say more than a few people would be interested in seeing the Bears V Manley, if properly promoted.

      • February 21st 2012 @ 10:01am
        Ken said | February 21st 2012 @ 10:01am | ! Report

        re: Bears vs Manly – not a bad idea regardless of pre-season comps. A trial at North Sydney oval with a little promotion could probably draw a fair crowd. It would likely be a hammering of course, NSW Cup sides can’t be expected to keep up with NRL teams. Exhibit A could be the thrashing the Warriors dished out to the Sunshine Coast on the weekend, with QLD Cup anecdotally considered a half-step ahead of NSW Cup in quality. Still I’m sure the Bears faithful would turn out to the grand old ground.

    • Roar Rookie

      February 21st 2012 @ 11:03am
      Zarlos Karate said | February 21st 2012 @ 11:03am | ! Report

      Two words: WORLD SEVENS. Bring it back. Tomahawks vs Samurais. Bowl Final. Get on it Gallop.

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