What is the best format for a national comp?

sheek Roar Guru

By sheek, sheek is a Roar Guru

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    Is the Big Bash League format the best for a national comp? (AAP Image/Rob Blakers)

    The Australian sporting landscape is becoming incredibly crowded, especially with national women’s comps starting in most of the major sports.

    Let’s look briefly at the major sports and the number of teams and types of comp they have.

    Cricket (Sheffield Shield) – six clubs, state team configuration.

    Australian football (AFL) – 18 clubs, national club team configuration.

    Association football (A-League) – Ten clubs, trans-Tasman club team configuration.

    Rugby league (NRL) – 16 clubs, trans-Tasman club team configuration.

    Rugby union (Super Rugby) – five clubs, provincial team configuration.

    Basketball (NBL) – eight clubs, trans-Tasman club team configuration.

    Baseball (Claxton Shield) – seven clubs, state team configuration.

    Hockey (AHL) – eight clubs, state team configuration.

    Netball (NNL) – eight clubs, mix of state and national club team configuration.

    Basically, there are three types of comps – state, provincial and national club. Four, if you also include New Zealand teams participation. No type of comp is better than another, it comes down to each sport deciding on which avenue is best for them.

    Keep in mind though, that a state-based comp works like the Senate and a national club comp works like the House of Representatives.

    That is, the state teams provide an equal number of teams across states, irrespective of population. So the big population states, NSW and Victoria, have the same number of teams as the smallest population state, Tasmania.

    The national club teams provide more teams where the population is greatest. So on that basis, national club comps would make more sense.

    But which is better is not a hard-and-fast rule. Cricket, despite its popularity across the country, is unlikely to ever have more than ten first-class teams anyway.

    Cricket also has three formats it has to try to fit into one season, so each format is limited by the number of teams it can field due to crowded scheduling.

    The exception might be the BBL, which will possibly prevail in the not-too-distant future as the only form of cricket played.

    But for the present, CA might consider a provincial style Sheffield Shield by adding both ACT (Canberra) and Eastern Australia (Newcastle).

    In the bygone days of long tours, Southern NSW (Canberra/Illawarra) and Northern NSW (Newcastle/Hunter) were usually part of a touring team’s itinerary, and outside the Tests and state fixtures were the next most important matches.

    I like the provincial format of the Australian rugby teams. Realistically, like cricket, rugby union will unlikely ever have a comp exceeding ten teams. But an eight-team provincial comp of NSW (Sydney), Queensland (Brisbane), ACT (Canberra), Victoria (Melbourne), WA (Perth), SA (Adelaide), Eastern Australia (Newcastle) and North Queensland (Townsville or Cairns) is attainable. Tasmania (Hobart) might make nine.

    Indeed, both cricket and rugby could work very well with a nine-team provincial comp.

    The NBL is a salutary lesson for a comp that grew too quickly. The current number of clubs is half what it was in the heyday of the NBL during the 1990s.

    Both baseball and hockey flirted with a national, club-style comp before returning to a state-based comp.

    Netball has gone through several rebirths. Firstly, there was an Australia-only comp that was quite successful, before partnering New Zealand teams in a trans-Tasman comp.

    Now netball has returned to an Australia-only club format.

    I don’t mind New Zealand participation in Australian dominant comps, but I oppose the one-team philosophy. If you’re going to have New Zealand participation, it should be two teams. But it’s a horses for courses approach.

    In rugby union, New Zealand would consider participating wth Australian teams in a provincial style comp as a last resort.

    The three big footy codes comps, AFL, NRL and A-League, work very well as national club comps and I can’t see them ever regressing back to a state or provincial style comp.

    However, for the smaller state-based comps, there is an opportunity to develop a top-tier comp in each major city below the state team. For example, the Sydney Shute Shield in rugby and Sydney grade cricket.

    Each sport then, needs to develop the type of comp that best suits their needs. In most cases, rugby union being a glaring exception, they seem to be getting it right.

    Of course, the world is changing. In the future, nines might be the only rugby league played, sevens or tens the only rugby union, T20 the only cricket and – heaven forbid – Australian football might reduce to 12 a side! All with time reductions as well.

    That’s the world we live in, time poor and attention poor – probably intellect poor as well!

    A former rugby lock, cricket no.11 bat and no.10 bowler, and surfboat rower. A fan of the major team sports in Australia.

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    The Crowd Says (9)

    • February 14th 2017 @ 7:55am
      Onside said | February 14th 2017 @ 7:55am | ! Report

      Interesting ideas Sheek. An immutable common to every sport, is that Television networks
      will tell all organisations where to develop new clubs , when best to schedule matches,and
      every viewer how to think about what they are watching.

      • Roar Guru

        February 14th 2017 @ 5:29pm
        sheek said | February 14th 2017 @ 5:29pm | ! Report

        Thanks Onside.

    • February 14th 2017 @ 11:03am
      Brian said | February 14th 2017 @ 11:03am | ! Report

      Tradition aside should cricket just align the shield teams to the existing BBL franchises.

      • Roar Guru

        February 14th 2017 @ 4:41pm
        sheek said | February 14th 2017 @ 4:41pm | ! Report


        I would be horrified if that happened. But BBL will probably sign the death warrant of Sheffield Shield anyway.

        • February 15th 2017 @ 11:49am
          Sydneysider said | February 15th 2017 @ 11:49am | ! Report

          Apart from the development of players and statistical data keeping, Shield cricket is dead. Once the BBL was over, cricket finished for the summer. Now they are playing a 3 game T20 series against Sri Lanka (who cares?). So Sheffield Shield is basically a developmental league that is subsidised by other forms of cricket.

          I still believe Cricket Australia are delaying the inevitable by not expanding the BBL. Once they expand the competition to an 8 week comp (all of December and January), then it will take over the summer from all forms of cricket.

          • Roar Guru

            February 15th 2017 @ 9:07pm
            sheek said | February 15th 2017 @ 9:07pm | ! Report


            Unfortunately I think you’re right. CA & the players say all the right things about how test cricket is still the ultimate. And as a consequence, so is Sheffield shield.

            But I think unless BBL falls over, & that doesn’t look like happening anytime soon, then test cricket & first class cricket are doomed.

    • February 14th 2017 @ 9:05pm
      Tom of Brisbane said | February 14th 2017 @ 9:05pm | ! Report

      Baseball is actually a six team competiton and is city (franchise) based

    • February 14th 2017 @ 9:07pm
      Tom of Brisbane said | February 14th 2017 @ 9:07pm | ! Report

      • Roar Guru

        February 15th 2017 @ 9:05pm
        sheek said | February 15th 2017 @ 9:05pm | ! Report

        Thanks Tom,

        You are right!

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