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Manly legend Steve Menzies’ career is the perfect example of how an NRL amalgamation can give a false impression.
Menzies would never have left Manly under any circumstances, but he’s been denied one-club status by the enforced amalgamation with North Sydney, which was ill-advised and lasted only three seasons. It was a waste of time.
Menezies’ career stats read 150 games for Manly from 1993 to 1999, 69 games for the Northern Eagles from 2000 to 2002, and another 130 for Manly from 2003 to 2008 – so he’s third on the all-time list behind one-club Bronco Darren Lockyer’s 355 and Terry Lamb’s multi-club 250. Menzies’ 180 tries is second only to the greatest winger of all-time Kenny Irvine’s 212 for Norths and Manly.
So Menzies was denied the record for one-club status. I have never agreed with amalgamations, and especially not for foundation clubs North Sydney, Western Suburbs and Balmain.
The NRL showed those clubs no respect and never took into account their hard-won culture and tradition honed over 92 years. With the stroke of a pen the NRL wiped out all those assets for the future and left thousands of tortured fans with half a club at best.
But it’s never been the same – no clubs should ever be amalgamated.
Let’s say that the NRL never amalgamated any teams and that there are 20 teams in the current competition, with the addition of a second club from Brisbane. I have ignored the push for Perth for two reasons: visiting clubs to Perth would be disadvantaged with the extra travel and Perth would be disadvantaged with 11 hours minimal travel for all away games, plus why take on the AFL in a two-club state?
The powerhouse NRL clubs would hate extra clubs with a lesser annual grant from the NRL, but that would be a plus, with far less being offered to the top players compared to some of today’s stratospheric numbers.
Let’s say the 20 teams finished in this order in 2016.
18. North Sydney
Based on that ladder, the odds go to the green group and the evens go to the gold group:
|Green group||Gold group|
There’s a danger using that format that one group would have more distances to travel than the other, but that’s where the cards fall; each club plays home and away within their group for 18 games.
No games are to be played in Origin week, which would be played on a Saturday afternoon to encourage family support, and after 18 games and three Origins the groups meet each other home and away in the following format:
1 (Green) vs 10 (Gold)
2 vs 9
3 vs 8
4 vs 7
5 vs 6
6 vs 5
7 vs 4
8 vs 3
9 vs 2
10 vs 1
That accounts for an extra two games each, taking the season to 20. The ladder would then show the 20 in order. The top eight would contest the finals series in the same format that is currently operating over four weeks.
I don’t pretend the suggestions are perfect, but they are a lot fairer and more level a playing field than the current format – and the lost respect for foundation clubs would be revived.