In 2003 the NRL implemented arguably the biggest change to the rules in rugby league history by adopting the ‘golden point’ system to decide drawn games.
This change was sold as a way to ensure more games ended with a result rather than a draw and was designed to be a gift for fans who would have the opportunity to devour more high-stakes rugby league than ever before throughout the regular season.
There were few initial critics of golden point after its inception and even fewer critics in the media, who pushed (and continue to push) the company line about what a wonderful innovation it is and that rugby league is so much better because of it.
Ultimately, however, anyone with even a basic understanding of rugby league should see golden point for what it is: a sideshow that has systematically undermined the fabric of rugby league for the entirety of its history.
Arguments as to the truth of this comment are abundant and easily proven, but all are moot at this stage as golden point has spawned a ratings bonanza for broadcasters, created unlimited fodder for journalists and provided increased cash flor for the league, who have been able to leverage this ‘lucky dip’ method of deciding games in negotiating massive television and radio broadcast deals.
So entrenched is golden point now that media personalities and former NRL players can finally speak freely about the negative aspects of golden point without fear of it being removed. Cries by fans to have games end in draws will forever go unheard as the regulation-time te has permanently been relegated to the scrapyard of rugby league history, a remnant of a bygone era with unlimited tackle sets, three-point tries and a single referee.
As such, any argument for removing golden point is a fruitless one, with only two relevant considerations remaining: firstly, how can (or should) a team win in golden point and, secondly, what should a golden point win or loss be worth?
Both arguments are based on the fairness or unfairness of winning or losing in extra time. This fairness or unfairness impacts not only the teams competing in the match but also more broadly the entire competition ladder.
With respect to the consideration of how a team can win in golden point, there has been a multitude of opinions alluding to changes that should occur. Systems including golden try and ‘right of reply’ have been argued along with several of other possibilities and the various benefits or imperfections each system may have compared to the current field goal-a-thon golden point system.
There are so many possibilities that each option could be an article all to themselves, so I will leave that for others debate, although I have plenty of ideas.
For the second consideration, however, of what a golden point win or loss should be worth, there is only one fair solution. We have all heard the very legitimate questions asked about why teams winning in golden point get the same reward of two competition points as a team that can ice a game in regular time. Similarly teams that lose in golden point get the same big fat duck egg – zero competition points – as a team that gets 50 points put on them in regular time.
Simply put, the current point system is unfair and unworkable if golden point continues to be part of the game in whatever iteration it exists. Therefore the only workable solution is for the NRL to change the current pointscoring structure.
For the uninitiated, the current system is as follows.
For and against is calculated based on a team’s full-time score.
Instead of the above, the following system should be adopted by the NRL immediately to address the imbalance in the current scoring structure. This system would give maximum reward to those teams that win in regular time. Teams that win in golden point would also be significantly advantaged, yet it would reduce the imbalance for those teams not beaten in regular time.
For and against would still be calculated using only a team’s full-time score.
If the NRL are serious about addressing the inequality caused by the golden point system, the first step they must take is implementing the above competition point structure. This is a walk-up start for the NRL and one that nobody could reasonably argue is unfair to any team.
As the NRL continues to strive for equality on and off the field it is time the imbalance caused by the introduction of golden point some 17 seasons ago is addressed. Adopting this competition pointscoring structure is as fair and as simple as it gets. Let’s hope they can get it done before a ball is kicked in 2020.