Trials or pre-season cup, which is better for the NRL?

Chris Chard Columnist

By Chris Chard, Chris Chard is a Roar Expert

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    NRL player Danny Buderus during a press conference with ACT Brumbies head coach Jake White in Canberra. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

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    Rugby league sceptics are always quick to label the game as being ‘predictable’.

    While a few Youtube clips of Benji Marshall and more or less any Origin match are quick to dispel this myth, there is a part of the NRL more predictable than Jason Ryles giving away a penalty at the crucial moment of a match.

    The pre-season.

    2013 may have just ticked over, but already the headlines between now and early March can be written. Any fan knows the run sheet.

    Player X is training the house down (who or what house in particular we’re never told). Team Y has a good blend of youth and experience (or in other words, ignorance and apathy). And Canberra has been tipped to come last again.

    Aside from these though there’s another issue that’s on the repeat cycle, the argument over whether the NRL should put into place a pre-season tournament or continue its scatter gun trials method.

    It’s a hard argument, and one that is probably tainted by nostalgia.

    Ask any rugby league fan who stayed up to watch the 94 Kangaroo tour and they’ll go misty eyed talking about the Tooheys Challenge, and if you are talking about the 92 series won by the Illawarra Steelers over arguably the team of the decade in the 1992 Broncos, then I’ll happily join in with you.

    This was a different time however, and whether the feel good vibes would exist for such a tournament today are questionable.

    The AFL has run its pre-season cup for over 20 consecutive years, and every year it still needs to defend its legitimacy to its own fans as people moan about travel, favoured draws, player burnout etc.

    On the other hand though… trials.

    Every couple of years I think I’ll try KFC again. Yeah I know last time it made me ready to call the priest for my last rites, but I’m desperate and a weak man. Inevitably it ends up being just as terrible as it was previously.

    That’s how I am with trials.

    I go, promise I’m never going to another again, only to a couple of season later find myself paying full price to watch two teams of 40 players drop the ball and jog into the defensive line. For the spectator who can attend a season-proper NRL match, they really have no redeeming quality, save for an easy way to get autographs for the kids.

    One or two like the Charity Shield are a bit more fair dinkum, but most contain a level of play painful to watch. Which is ok, I guess, considering the stage of the season, but why am I paying full price for half the quality?

    As far as solutions go I don’t really have any, and would be more than happy to have the All Stars match as the only sanctioned pre-season game to get all the wacky rule experiments and new tattoos out of the way.

    Those not involved can just play against their NSW Cup/Queensland Cup reggies affiliates at the training ground and let members come down to watch for free.

    But if the NRL and the clubs really do want to go the more commercial route and make the pre-season a financial and development mechanism, they may as well go the whole hog by doing a proper draw, getting a naming right sponsor and a shiny trophy for the thing.

    Because right now all we’ve got to lose are the half-arsed trial matches which, let’s face it, aren’t exactly up there with what the Colonel’s offering in the temptation stakes.

    Follow Chris on Twitter @Vic_Arious

    Chris Chard
    Chris Chard

    Chris Chard is a sports humour writer commenting on the often absurd nature of professional sport. A rugby league fan boy with a good blend of youth and experience taking things one week at a time, Chris has written for The Roar since 2011. Tweet him @Vic_Arious

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    The Crowd Says (31)

    • January 21st 2013 @ 8:02am
      oikee said | January 21st 2013 @ 8:02am | ! Report

      Have a couple of points to make Chris, your right about the AFl pre-season comp, and it will defend itself for the next 20 years if it keeps running this fluff comp. They might as well not bother stopping for Xmas, just play right through. 😉

      Look, there is a very small gap, extremely small for maybe a nines comp which is being looked at in NZ. I think i read it could be setup for early Feb.
      The trial matches, now i dont know if you have paytv, i read somewhere that fox will be showing a few trail games, and the Broncos are playing the Warriors i think in Duniden in the inclosed Stadium, (you reading this Canberra).

      The whole idea of trails is to take the game to the people who cant get to games in the big cities, remember not long ago we had the backlash about the game not looking after the bush. ? Geez.

      I love the trails, and people in country love trails, yes and the kids who get autographs, it’s not all about you Chris, autograph’s, boring. 🙂
      Let the kids see their idols, let the bush areas and the smaller areas have their day in the sun, lets stop trying to take away from them. I can see the next headline now, “why have we deserted the bush areas, the grassroots.” by Chris Chard. 🙂

      I like the nines idea, that will give us a fast open pre-season warm-up. And from NZ, so this will help the game grow. We also need trails for the kids in outer areas and the bush. And for the big kids (players) who wont get a run in the nines.

      That my 2 cents worth.

    • January 21st 2013 @ 8:18am
      oikee said | January 21st 2013 @ 8:18am | ! Report

      I had a quick look Chris, and apart from that Dunedin match which is a first for this city, you have the Rabbits playing a trail against PNG and Newcastle Knights will travel to Coffs Harbour and Tamworth where they will take on the South Sydney Rabbitohs and Cronulla Sharks as part of their pre-season schedule.
      That was a quick 2 minute look at LU. Other clubs all do the same, i knoe the Titans have a trail game at Burleigh heads.

      • January 21st 2013 @ 8:32am
        oikee said | January 21st 2013 @ 8:32am | ! Report

        Wow, quite a good mix of areas Chris, the Storm have the game in Leeds. Evem Mt Isa got a game.
        http://www.triplem.com.au/sydney/sport/nrl/news/full-list-nrl-2013-pre-season-trial-games-/

        • Columnist

          January 21st 2013 @ 1:05pm
          Chris Chard said | January 21st 2013 @ 1:05pm | ! Report

          Ho Oikee

          Thanks for all the comments

          Agree with you mate that the idea of taking any NRL matches to regional areas or capital cities in the Affiliated States is a good idea.

          But we shouldn’t treat these people as mugs by giving them a second rate product. A Broncos trial in Mount Isa? Great stuff. I just feel sorry for the poor kid who goes along to see Justin Hodges play and ends up seeing a bunch of blokes he’s never heard of go round. If it was a pre-season comp with something actually on the line ($$$) would not the sides have more incentive to play stronger sides?

          Of course the answer is to take competition NRL matches out to these areas in addition to trials, which is thankfully beginning to happen more frequently.

          And don’t get me started on the GC vs Warriors Burleigh heads trial. If people want to see the Titans play they can go to Skilled Park during the year, not to mention Pizzey Park can fit less people than the Thirroul Butchers’ home ground. Take the match out West, or maybe have it at the new Coomera Cutters Juniour footy club if it’s to be on the Coast.

          Cheers

          CC

          • January 21st 2013 @ 1:15pm
            oikee said | January 21st 2013 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

            🙂 Justin will be signing autograph’s Chris, Geez whiz, dont you read anything i say.
            No worries Chris, keep up the good work.

    • January 21st 2013 @ 8:37am
      Will Sinclair said | January 21st 2013 @ 8:37am | ! Report

      The problem with the Pre-Season Cup is that Souths won it.

      Which makes it hard to take seriously.

      • Columnist

        January 21st 2013 @ 12:57pm
        Chris Chard said | January 21st 2013 @ 12:57pm | ! Report

        Craig Field having a blinder!

    • January 21st 2013 @ 8:40am
      turbodewd said | January 21st 2013 @ 8:40am | ! Report

      Oikee somehow makes the first THREE replies to a thread. Wowzers!

      I will lump myself in the majority and say no matter what occurs before round 1 of the NRL regular season, it wont grab my interest and I wont watch it. I just dont want to see players injured in meaningless games.

      • Roar Rookie

        January 21st 2013 @ 1:59pm
        Hez said | January 21st 2013 @ 1:59pm | ! Report

        Potential injuries are the only thing that I am really interested in.

    • January 21st 2013 @ 9:15am
      Matt Moule said | January 21st 2013 @ 9:15am | ! Report

      Yeah mate but that thing with the trial game is they take them to the country! Cowboys play in cairns every pre season so cairns gets to see a game and other teams take the games else where as well! I bet you if there was a pre season comp with money involved that they would play in the normal ground witch would rob the Contry fans of seeing an NRL team.

      • Columnist

        January 21st 2013 @ 1:09pm
        Chris Chard said | January 21st 2013 @ 1:09pm | ! Report

        Hi Matt

        No relation to Aaron mate?

        Agree trial games are good for the country, but when there was a pre-season comp they still had games in Parkes, Dubbo, Bundaberg, Broken Hill, Alice Springs….there was in fact more regional games than there is under the current ‘choose your own trial’ system! Mainly because venues were dictated by the league so no club could wimp out and just have a game at their regular home ground.

        http://www.rugbyleagueproject.org/competitions/tooheys-challenge-cup/venues.html

        Cheers

        CC

    • January 21st 2013 @ 9:22am
      Pot Stirrer said | January 21st 2013 @ 9:22am | ! Report

      A pre season comp instead of Trial Matches is a great idea imo. Problem is though clubs would not take seriously as the games are only about trying to get some sort of match fitness and seeing how new players will fit into the team.

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