Actually, NRL is in the shape of its life

MG Burbank Roar Guru

By MG Burbank, MG Burbank is a Roar Guru

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71 Have your say

    The Sharks looking dejected during the round 25 NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Cronulla Sharks. AAP Image/Action Photographics, Colin Whelan

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    I recently sat down with my father and watched the 1981 NRL grand final between Parramatta and Newtown. While it certainly provided rich nostalgia (place-kicks for touch, the old SCG, Rex Mossop’s mind-numbing commentary), I got up from the couch in awe of how far rugby league has come as a spectacle.

    In short, it’s now the most entertaining sport in the world.

    Not to take anything away from the Sterlings, Kennys and Prices of the 1980s, (had they been raised in today’s league environment, they’d be just as dominant), but the game today has travelled light years; it is now the perfect blend of legal violence, skill, speed and theatre.

    League leads the sporting world in self-correction, with rule changes the norm at the end of every season.

    So, in the words of Axl Rose (and I’m not even a Gunners fan), where do we go now?

    Let’s assume the NRL does land a billion-dollar-plus TV rights deal, which it absolutely should, given the way it dominates the top 100 broadcasts every single year.

    Concerning the product we see on the field every week, not far. The game is fantastic as it now stands. It is our work off the field which must be near-perfect for the game to grow significantly.

    In terms of expansion, Perth must round out the national aspect of the league. And the team must be properly supported by the NRL, unlike the Reds, who were never given a chance.

    Forget the Central Coast; the greater Sydney area is too congested as it is. Instead, there must be two Brisbane teams – the current situation is absurd. And we shouldn’t wait very long to introduce another Kiwi venture.

    New Zealand is ripe for the picking. Remember, Benji Marshall played rugby at one point – let’s keep siphoning off more teenagers just like him.

    Where there’s expansion, there must also be contraction. Cronulla should relocate to Perth. The team simply doesn’t have the appeal, corporate support, or fan-base to add much value to the comp where it is. Goodbye, Sharkies.

    Salary cap exemptions should have been made more broadly available decades ago (think Canberra, 1991). Any player developed within a club’s own system should get a massive exemption from the cap. Champion teams are great for the game, as are one-club, franchise players.

    Then there’s junior funding. With a billion clams in the bank, the NRL should go for broke on juniors. Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia, country regions, Pacific Islands. Just flood them with cash and quality administrators. That investment will reap huge rewards down the line.

    Mid-season signings have to go. Folks, if Major League Baseball doesn’t have players signing with other clubs for the following season before their current year is over, there’s no reason for NRL fans to tolerate this farce. Make it illegal for players to negotiate. Period.

    These are just a few things we can do to strengthen the game. But make no mistake – our game is special right now, and in good hands. The trick from here is to know when to act and when to sit back and just enjoy it.

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    The Crowd Says (71)

    • March 2nd 2012 @ 7:30am
      oikee said | March 2nd 2012 @ 7:30am | ! Report

      Your not part of the IC are you. Look, i agree with you 100%. Shark fans wont be happy, but we have to sacrafice someone for the good of the game.
      One thing i noticed last night’s game was how beautiful it flowed, Perfect, even the scrum was narly.

      • Roar Guru

        March 2nd 2012 @ 8:40am
        MG Burbank said | March 2nd 2012 @ 8:40am | ! Report

        Yes it did, Oikee- a terrific start. No, I’m not a member of the ARLC. But I think it’s the greatest development in the game since the advent of the 10-metre rule.

        • March 2nd 2012 @ 11:36pm
          June's said | March 2nd 2012 @ 11:36pm | ! Report

          As a true fan of this great game it’s refreshing to read your well weighted and insightful comments. As a long time suffering (magpies) and now fully fledged tigers supporter, the games evolution as a whole has been a treat. Bravo to David Gallop for the overall professional guidance he has offered the game, throughout constant off field dramas and despite his unwarranted criticisms from certain high profile commentators. He has put the game first and not his public persona or “celebrity status” which can not be said for his detractors. But as David and other true fans would agree, no time for pats on the back, onwards with the continual evolution of the game. Perth yes, NZ YES as there is no bigger talent pool, even if it takes time to win them over. Like life itself let’s keep it moving forward whilst taking time to remember our rich history… Perhaps by even taking in the the 81 grand final.. It still would have been nice to see Raudonikis be carried from the field victorious in 81.

    • March 2nd 2012 @ 7:53am
      Ian Whitchurch said | March 2nd 2012 @ 7:53am | ! Report

      Again, I will never understand the fascination of many rugby league fans with which clubs to kill and when.

      Yes, make it clear to Cronulla that if they relocate to Perth, then the Sharks will still play 4 games a year at Cronulla, they will get an extra million on the cap as “reloation allowance” and so on, and if they dont then they stand or fall on their own two feet. But do these things *with* the clubs, and not by imposing it on them.

      As far as juniors, agreed – but that means more and better support for the various country leagues and feeder competitions as well, as they are where players learn the game.

      Finally, the price of all this is not giving the clubs money to hand to elite players as the salary cap goes up. Expect major, major whines if the TV money is used for things other than making clubs chief executives lives easier.

      • Roar Guru

        March 2nd 2012 @ 8:03am
        peeeko said | March 2nd 2012 @ 8:03am | ! Report

        agreed, yet another expansion article about kicking out the sharks. they have a decent support base their crowds are down in recent years due to poor form on the paddock. 5 years ago when they had a good team and were averaging 16k to a home game. And i am no fan, i have the pleasure of living in cronulla and being a dragons fan. i would love to see the size of melbournes crowds once their team has a bad year which inevitably happen due to the cyclical nature of the NRL

        • Roar Guru

          March 2nd 2012 @ 8:33am
          MG Burbank said | March 2nd 2012 @ 8:33am | ! Report

          Of course you’re right about the Storm, Peeeko- this isn’t an issue of whether or not crowds fluctuate in relation to a team’s form. This is about UPSIDE. Cronulla will NEVER go far beyond where they’ve already been. Clubs like the Storm, however, and potentially a West Coast team, can be enormous and add huge value to the game in the long term. That’s what we need to focus on.

      • Roar Guru

        March 2nd 2012 @ 8:38am
        MG Burbank said | March 2nd 2012 @ 8:38am | ! Report

        It’s not ‘fascination’- it’s simply wanting the game to be the best it can be. I agree with everything you said about how one might go about relocating Cronulla (except for 4 games a year at Toyota Field- I think 2 at the most; Perth fans need to feel that this would be their team at that point), but we’ve tried the ‘let them stand or fall on their own’ strategy- remember Ken Arthurson and Quayle in the early 90s saying the same thing? IT DIDN’T WORK. We eventually had 20 teams in the comp and no one budged. As you said later in your reply, clubs are self-interested; the ARLC must impose itself on clubs for the betterment of the game overall. And however the player payment issue is resolved – maybe the NRL can guarantee contracts to elite players, like the ACB does, for example- players must be able to earn more if their talent demands it.

        • March 2nd 2012 @ 8:49am
          Ian Whitchurch said | March 2nd 2012 @ 8:49am | ! Report

          MG Burbank,

          I dont see any problem at all with a 20 team competition – it means more games to show up at, more TV content, and more first-grade slots to see players develop into stars.

          In fact, that era’s structure plus a team in Melbourne is pretty much how I think rugby league would be most prosperous.

          • Roar Guru

            March 2nd 2012 @ 10:37am
            MG Burbank said | March 2nd 2012 @ 10:37am | ! Report

            Then you must have a short memory Ian. The standard of football in the years 95-98 was poor. Every season featured 6 or 7 teams that had absolutely no chance to make the playoffs, which a meant a proliferation of dead, meaningless games in the last third of the season. We should never go back to 20 until we have a strong enough spread of talent and juniors to make it work.

            • March 2nd 2012 @ 11:06am
              Ian Whitchurch said | March 2nd 2012 @ 11:06am | ! Report

              Mg Burbank,

              This is the inevitable result of expansion – expansion teams have troubles on the paddock, and thats all there is to it. After a couple of years, teams find a style that works for them, players adapt to the opportunities on offer, we find new stars and the quality goes up.

              That said, I certainly support putting more money into the seconds, the Queensland and NSW Cups and so on, to allow more opportunities for more players – especially ball distributors – to learn their trade.

            • March 2nd 2012 @ 11:12am
              turbodewd said | March 2nd 2012 @ 11:12am | ! Report

              The main problem with 20 teams is actually all about revenue. It would spread the TV contract dollars too thinly across too many teams.

              We need quality – not quantity.

              It would be ideal if the NRL could stick to 16 teams by adding Perth but encouraging another Sydney merger. The last 2 mergers have been successes. If Easts and the Sharks would merge that would be ideal! One team has money, the other has juniors. Both have modest fanbases and u could play most games at the SFS.

              • March 2nd 2012 @ 11:26am
                Ian Whitchurch said | March 2nd 2012 @ 11:26am | ! Report


                It isnt that hard. More games = more content = more TV dollars.

                You missed merging the sponsor-short, dirt poor, uncompetitive, cant pull a crowd Canberra Raiders into the stupid merger.

                Oh, you’re squealing like a stuck pig now it’s *your* team getting cut ?

              • March 2nd 2012 @ 1:19pm
                Fivehole said | March 2nd 2012 @ 1:19pm | ! Report

                One of the last 2 mergers was the northern eagles – if you consider that a success, i consider the raiders to be premiership favourites!

      • March 2nd 2012 @ 1:34pm
        DumpStar said | March 2nd 2012 @ 1:34pm | ! Report

        Sharks had one season where they averaged 16K. They had many good season in that period, and the rest where under 13K. If anything, the Sharks were much more consistent crowd wise 10-15 years ago than they are now. Even if the development gets up, I can’t see anything changing much for the Sharks, because in that time, the Sharks have been enclosed by the Dragons.

        Hopefully ARLC has the foresight to put up some relocation financial carrots to entice a team from Sydney to move.

    • March 2nd 2012 @ 8:27am
      Rough Conduct said | March 2nd 2012 @ 8:27am | ! Report

      In short, it’s now the most entertaining sport in the world.

      Um…no it’s not. If it was, the Australian sporting landscape would look much different. It always amazes me how Rugby League fans honestly think this.

      • March 2nd 2012 @ 8:42am
        Crosscoder said | March 2nd 2012 @ 8:42am | ! Report

        The i.C has already stated the financial stability and security of the current 16 clubs is paramount.Relocation of Cronulla would only happen,though their own inability to move forward with their development.
        I am amused the ones who continue to recommend Sharks moving are of course those who follow clubs not involved.Not in my backyard and b….you Jack I am all right mentality. So MG I have to suggest you are a tad premature with your assessments.The sharks actually grew their crowds last year,despite their position and heartland club crowds fell.A bit of soul searching needed.

        Rough Conduct fans of every code in this country think their code is the best in the world,we read and hear about it often.If you believe it hasn’t been asserted by your code’s fans,then you didn’t post on this thread.So it doesn’t amaze me at all.I have heard it from union and AFL and soccer fans.

        The code is doing more than alright both here and overseas,with new participants taking up the game in growing numbers and new clubs foming.

      • March 2nd 2012 @ 8:51am
        Ian Whitchurch said | March 2nd 2012 @ 8:51am | ! Report

        Rough Conduct,

        Just leave it alone.

        In the words of the song “Me, I like football, but theres a lot of things around”

    • March 2nd 2012 @ 9:36am
      Go warriors said | March 2nd 2012 @ 9:36am | ! Report

      Agree with just about everything you say especially the part In short, it’s now the most entertaining sport in the world. That part I could not agree more. No other sport comes close.

      The only thing I dont agree with is getting rid of the Sharks. The AFL are going to do whatever it takes to take over Sydney and you want to decrease the amount of Sydney teams. This would be playing right into the AFLs hands. The Sharks have a lot of fans and if you take their team away you are losing a lot of fans.

    • March 2nd 2012 @ 10:28am
      paulmerlo said | March 2nd 2012 @ 10:28am | ! Report

      Teams and players are porbably going to talk to each other before. But I agree about MLB – this is a sport where players sign 9-figure contracts and they have no problem in stopping deals being done during the season. At least at some level they the NRL should make a rule that you can’t sign anything binding until after the season – that way you can talk and do handshake agreeements and all that but nothing is binding.

    • March 2nd 2012 @ 10:48am
      Radiant Heart said | March 2nd 2012 @ 10:48am | ! Report

      Splendid writing!

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