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After two rounds of the 2015 NRL season, rugby league is clearly in trouble.
With a terrible on-field product, the NRL’s finances in a deep hole, a mass player exodus and crowds and television viewers down, there needs to be some changes if the code is going to survive into the next year.
We must take action. Here are some proposed rule changes that would enhance the greatest game of all.
Unlimited tackle count
All these tries from kicks are getting boring! Remove the dull five hit ups then a bomb by giving teams all the tackles they want in their attempt to get up the field and score a good old fashioned, through-the-hands, four pointer. Or a penalty goal if the opportunity arises. Oh, hang on…
The structure of the game is making it too good a television product and it’s having a negative impact on crowds. We aren’t using enough of the field to make seeing the game at the ground trump watching it on the box.
We need to combat the AFL in the fight for bums on seats damn it. Let’s open up the entire field by removing the need to be behind the player with the ball. Bring Israel Folau and Karmichael Hunt back to the game, give the middle finger to the AFL by stealing Buddy Franklin and Gary Ablett, and embrace their skills by letting them stand 40 metres downfield and let the ball be kicked to them.
Add a stipulation that you can’t score a try from such a ‘kick pass’ and presto, the crowds will flock back to the stadiums.
Allow forward passes
While we’re at it, let’s encourage more try scoring opportunities and get on the front foot against the NFL stealing all our superstars by letting teams score by throwing the ball forward.
We can then have a hybrid international game against the Americans, boosting the profile of the newly named NF(r)L (National Football Rugby League). Jarryd Hayne can return to the Eels with his new skills and be even more of a celebrity, boosting his ego to a level he finds satisfying enough to keep him in the game.
Unlimited bench and interchange
We need to speed up the play as much as possible, because as that fantastic season of Super League taught us, the faster the game the better. Obviously the only way to do this is by eliminating the wrestle through the refereeing interpretation of the ruck, as we know fatigue has no place in the modern game – players not getting set for defence or missing tackles creates a lacklustre spectacle.
Allow a team to bring on as many fresh players, as often as they like, to ensure no player is forced to play more than two minutes and risk missing a tackle that might result in a, *gasp*, try.
Height and weight restrictions
The fans don’t want to see skills or, god help us, a small and nimble man taking advantage of tiring forwards to make a break. They want to see big bodies running into each other. To totally eradicate the un-entertaining little guy from the game, let’s add a rule that stipulates all players must be over six foot in height, and weigh in at over 100 kilograms. That way, the game can evolve to the point that every team is made up of back rowers, as we all know that would provide the best entertainment.
Outlaw the tackle
The game is getting too violent, way more than back in the 1970s and ’80s, so we need to think of the mum’s and kids. Any physical attempt to stop the attacking team that is considered a ‘tackle’ is prohibited and will result in an immediate send off and life ban.
Defending players must stop the opposition by touching their belly button, getting in their way, putting them off their game with sledging, pre-approved by the NSIU (NRL Sledging Integrity Unit) of course, or forcing a knock-on by tickling them.
Open the war chest to keep the stars
Hundreds of our best players are leaving the code to go and play rugby, AFL, NFL, football and hockey in what can only be described as a mass exodus. Don’t let the small number of players leaving since Wendell Sailor and co. made the switch fool you, the three superstars that left at the end of last season are definitive proof it’s becoming an epidemic.
It’s a #crisis you fools. We have to do something about it, as obviously there is never any young talent coming through, and we’ll be left with teams full of players like Beaver Menzies and Freddy Fittler. Use the discretionary funds Mr Smith, I beg you, so that every time any representative player comes off contract their agent can spruik offers from rival codes and we can pay them well over the top to keep them in the game.
Ditch the cap
And speaking of player wages, get rid of the salary cap. It’s broken, so let’s just scrap it altogether. Let clubs pay players what they want, then use the discretionary funds to keep the best players in the game and playing for only those rich clubs who could afford them in the first place.
If clubs can’t afford players and go broke, leaving just a few wealthy Sydney teams plus the Broncos, then perfect, a more streamlined comp. And supporters from the other teams will definitely support another team they previously hated anyway.
Dessie as referees boss
The referees are not a problem, they are the lifeblood of the game and need protection. Dump Tony Archer and appoint Des Hassler as the referees boss. Let him have a press conference after every game to use his wit and guile to abuse coaches and players for every stuff-up, turning the tables so their performances are the ones dissected and cross examined to the nth degree.
The result will be that players and coaches are crucified for every knock-on, forward pass, poor set move or unsuccessful game plan, putting the pressure back on them to be held accountable for results of games.
Hadley for NSW Origin
Pick Ray Hadley in the front row for the NSW Origin team. Let him bask in the glory of being called upon as the saviour of his state, let him talk up his skills from playing in the Under-10 Bs, hell, even make him captain-coach to entice him to play. Hopefully after one hit up, we never, ever have to hear him comment on the game again.
Rothfield to run the game
Replace Dave Smith with Phil Rothfield, a man who clearly has the vision, strategy, and credentials, but more importantly is composed, calm and rationale in the face of a scandal. Phil has all the answers and only he can take the game to the next level. He will also have the NRL media at his disposal to sprout his wise words of wisdom to the masses.
Roarers, what other changes are required to pull our beloved game out of the dark depths of despair it is currently in?