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 @ 10:49am
      oldfart said | March 2nd 2012 @ 10:49am | ! Report

      Burbank is spot on. But still the game can be greatly improved by ridding itself of the idiotic golden point. Sometimes a draw is the best result. Two equal teams slugging it out for 80 minutes followed by a totally random point does violence to the game’s essence and insults the so-called losing team. Follow me and turn the TV off after 80 minutes – you’ll live a longer and more fullfilling life.

      • Roar Guru

        March 2nd 2012 @ 11:56am
        MG Burbank said | March 2nd 2012 @ 11:56am | ! Report

        Extremely well put, even for an Oldfart. And I generally agree- Golden Point is asinine. If you want a result, make it either 10 mins each way and/or make it Golden Try but ultimately I agree that 1 point each for a draw is an appropriate reflection of the contest. That said, anyone who walks away from a gripping battle still being waged is just being stubborn- a quality of which I suspect you have in abundance.

        • March 5th 2012 @ 5:00pm
          Tangles said | March 5th 2012 @ 5:00pm | ! Report

          Agree – golden point doesnt work. Invariably puts too much pressure on referees who are invariably not upto the task. Golden try for 2 x 10 mins, then 1 point each.
          at least one rule modification still required – the stripping rule does my head in and is an absolute lottery.. makes me cringe just thinking about it.

      • March 2nd 2012 @ 12:01pm
        Pete75 said | March 2nd 2012 @ 12:01pm | ! Report

        ” Follow me and turn the TV off after 80 minutes – you’ll live a longer and more fullfilling life”

        Especially if you’re a Tigers fan. I think the first time we managed to win one was last year….

    • March 2nd 2012 @ 11:15am
      Nathan of Perth said | March 2nd 2012 @ 11:15am | ! Report

      Uh, about the relocation…

      Let me put it like this, unless the relocation includes transfer of control to the WARL and its bid team with the ability to run a chainsaw through the back-room staff, football department, player contracts, marketing, name, colours and logo…

      I just don’t see it being accepted. Particular when trying to drop a “Sharks” name in is going to spark a massive backlash out of the Fremantle area with the current existence of the East Fremantle Sharks. It would be, in effect, your Karmichael Hunt poach, in terms of aggravating the locals.

      • March 2nd 2012 @ 11:59am
        Pete75 said | March 2nd 2012 @ 11:59am | ! Report

        I agree Nathan,

        I think Perth deserves it’s own identity.

        Funny story – I called ahead to “The Boat” at Mindarie last night to see whether they’d be showing the game and I was duly informed that they would be. I showed up about ten minutes early and caugfht the end of the A-League which had a couple of people watching. Next up on Fox was a celebrity poker competition and I apprached the staff and asked if they could change it to the Newcastle-Dragons game.

        I received a blank look from the barman. So I told him “NRL”.

        More blank stares.

        “Rugby League”

        “I’m not sure it will be on mate, we don’t get all of the foreign sports”.

        I explained that NSW was still in Australia and definetly not foreign. After much discussion he agreed to discuss it with the manager. I waited for fifteen minutes before he emerged. Nothin had happened. So I approached him again “How’d you go mate, any luck getting it changed”.

        “Oh, yeah, the manager will change it shortly”

        I waited some more. Finally, twenty minutes into the match, they changed to the game. I sat there and watched as three separate people inquired as to why the poker had been changed for “Rugby”.

        Rugby League still has a long way to go in this state….

        • March 2nd 2012 @ 12:07pm
          Nathan of Perth said | March 2nd 2012 @ 12:07pm | ! Report

          Oh dear…

          Well, if he doesn’t watch Sports Tonight or run in the right circles I could see how it happened…

        • March 2nd 2012 @ 12:08pm
          Nathan of Perth said | March 2nd 2012 @ 12:08pm | ! Report

          PS. The idea of televised Poker just bewilders me.

          • Roar Guru

            March 2nd 2012 @ 12:18pm
            MG Burbank said | March 2nd 2012 @ 12:18pm | ! Report

            Almost as bad as televising the AFL. Look, the expansion states (VIC,SA,WA) are always going to be challenging because they haven’t had a popular local rugby league competition for a century like Sydney and Brisbane have had. Perth has always produced reasonable crowds when League has gone there (forget the last couple of Western Reds seasons- the Super League war killed that club, literally). It doesn’t even matter if the entire crowd is comprised of expat NSW and Queenslanders; with a competitive team on the field (and that is key), the game will grow there. We can’t wait until conditions are perfectly favourable.

            • March 2nd 2012 @ 12:22pm
              Nathan of Perth said | March 2nd 2012 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

              No seriously, code wars and “oh I hate that game” and “this is the best ever” platitudes aside: Poker on TV. Cannot fathom it. Was the most perplexing part of the FoxSports package.

              WARL is a fairly alright competition; it routinely wins the affiliated states competition over Victoria and SA, so there is an influence here. And yes, the team will grow the game – the grassroots has taken the game as far as it can go without a link to the professional tier.

              Not to sound trite but Who Dares Wins.

            • March 2nd 2012 @ 12:25pm
              Pete75 said | March 2nd 2012 @ 12:25pm | ! Report

              I’ve cottoned on to Optus TV Now.

              $6.99 / month and I can watch the games on a two minute delay.

              There’s been a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth from NRL rights holders about Optus’ TV Now. I’ll say for the record – I’d have never used it had anyone deigned to televise RL live into Perth. As it was I had to watch it on a 3 hour delay in a pub with no commentary.

              Is there any reason I wouldn’t sign up????

              • March 2nd 2012 @ 1:41pm
                DumpStar said | March 2nd 2012 @ 1:41pm | ! Report

                Bah, you have to be an Optus customer already.

              • March 2nd 2012 @ 3:15pm
                Boomshanka said | March 2nd 2012 @ 3:15pm | ! Report

                Make sure you supply a Sydney address when signing up.

                I used the NRL’s new home;

                Entertainment Quarters,
                Lang Road,
                Moore Park,
                NSW 1363

    • March 2nd 2012 @ 11:50am
      Pete75 said | March 2nd 2012 @ 11:50am | ! Report


      I largely agree with you’re column but I’m not sure Perth should be saddled with a relocating Sydney team. I think Perth deserves it’s own identity and ought to be given that chance.

      Having said that, if the Sharks volunteered to move (doubtful) I wouldn’t have a huge problem with that. I believe that the Sharkies are best placed to relocate to the Central Coast, who should not get a team otherwise. This would give the entire southern districts of Sydney and the Illawarra to the Dragons which would have to be a good thing.

      Subjectively, to my eye, Rugby League is the “Greatest Game of All”. I’ve said on many occasions that I think we as RL supporters should feel more secure in our game. It could be argued that out game has more growth potential than the AFL, which has representation in every major capital, whereas our game doesn’t.

      Now the we have an IC, I think we can all feel a bit better about the future direction of our game. The early signs are encouraging.

      • March 2nd 2012 @ 12:40pm
        JVGO said | March 2nd 2012 @ 12:40pm | ! Report

        If the Sharks did relocate to the CC you could not give the Shire juniors to the Dragons. The Sharks football club virtually gave the shire its identity and all local junior representatives in all sports play out of the shire as the Sharks using the colours. There would need be moe thought than that put into a merger relocation than this. The Sharks with the redevelopment apporoved would be capable of standing alone anyway.

      • March 2nd 2012 @ 2:01pm
        Beowulf said | March 2nd 2012 @ 2:01pm | ! Report

        The Sharks have been told ‘no’ re the Coast, as it wouldn’t reconnect with the north shore and would thus fincially struggle, like the Mariners. You’d just be causing upheaval in one area for no gain in another.

        • March 2nd 2012 @ 2:14pm
          DumpStar said | March 2nd 2012 @ 2:14pm | ! Report

          Why wouldn’t the Bears throw there support behind the Sharks moving if they missed out? North Sydney Bears would be the NSW Cup feeder club, the Sharks just the top level. You could still sell it that they were representing that region. The Bears don’t have a mortgage on that, if it gives the area a team to represent them, then residents should support the club.

        • March 2nd 2012 @ 3:00pm
          The Truth Hurts said | March 2nd 2012 @ 3:00pm | ! Report

          If the upheavel is small as the one from the CC then I guess there would be nothing to worry about. I mean the NRL has been going along quite well/succesfully without the CC so why worry about another set of whingers. After all the CC would get a team they want so much.

          But then again if you reject this Idea maybe you’re not the hardcore RL fan you make out to be and don’t want a CC team after all.

    • March 2nd 2012 @ 12:16pm
      King of the Gorgonites said | March 2nd 2012 @ 12:16pm | ! Report

      “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”

      So in your opinion the NRL should just keep stealing players from NZ. that wont do much to help develop Australian talent.

      What is needed is not more young kiwis re-locating to Australia, but a 2nd NZ side. And it needs to happen now or the chance will pass.

      • Roar Guru

        March 2nd 2012 @ 12:27pm
        MG Burbank said | March 2nd 2012 @ 12:27pm | ! Report

        King, obviously you had trouble reading my article. I ADVOCATE a second NZ team- that’s my whole point about Marshall: there are many others like him who could end up playing for a South Island or Wellington team. As for your comment about the NRL ‘stealing’ NZ players… maybe you haven’t noticed but the NRL already HAS a Kiwi team. I believe they’re called the Warriors; that means New Zealand is part of the NRL and any player who ends up playing league has not been ‘stolen’. I’d be happy for every Kiwi player to play for a Kiwi NRL team if it meant the game could continue to grow there and attract champions like Benji Marshall.

    • Roar Guru

      March 2nd 2012 @ 12:17pm
      peeeko said | March 2nd 2012 @ 12:17pm | ! Report

      Just a thought but I would say that AFL has made an impression on the north shore is because the bears disappeared. I’m continually surprised how many people assume that an Adelaide or Perth team would automatically successful. There is definitely a decent chance that it could be a dismal failure, then again nothing ventured nothing gained

    • Roar Guru

      March 2nd 2012 @ 12:29pm
      MG Burbank said | March 2nd 2012 @ 12:29pm | ! Report

      The bears disappearing had squat to do with AFL. The original agreement between the ARL and News was that the comp had to be reduced to 14 teams. There were several victims of that rationalization.

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