It can be revealed that Nick Politis had a cunning plan for his Roosters this season: lose the opening two games.
It was a top-down order from the chairman to his first-grade coach and team, the logic of which would become apparent as the season wore on.
But let there be no mistake, it was a brilliant idea that the Bondi boys executed flawlessly, heading into Round 3 of the season on zero points.
As was their plan all along – sitting at the bottom of the table, right where they wanted to be.
And then this bloody pandemic came along, turned the entire comp on its head, and now Uncle Nick’s plan has been undermined.
Losing the first two games doesn’t make sense anymore. Not like how it had previously.
“If you change the draw, you’ve got to start again. If the current points are to stand, we have to play over a full season,” the Chooks boss told the Daily Telegraph last week.
“It’s like changing the race from a Melbourne Cup (two miles) to a Doncaster (one mile) after it’s already started.”
Right. Because the ideal way to start a Melbourne Cup is for your horse to pull a Chautauqua and just stand still when the gates burst open.
“We have been preparing all along for a 24-round season. That’s why we rested Boyd Cordner for the first two games,” Politis said.
And with his timely complaint, Politis suddenly reopened the door which Peter V’landys had apparently closed when he declared, “There is no way we are taking anyone’s points away.”
The thing about the NRL – and I know this flies in the face of Politis’ apparent plan – is that there is never an advantage to losing a game.
Take 2016, when the Knights won a grand total of one match all season. As for 2017, Newcastle took out the wooden spoon again.
Tanking isn’t worthwhile in the NRL, because there’s no draft. Losing just means you’ve got far less chance of signing decent players, attracting large crowds or getting a fat sponsorship deal – because no one likes a loser.
The closest you’ll get to having a ‘plan to lose’ is in the last rounds of the regular season, when your spot in the top eight or top four is already settled, so you give players a rest ahead of the finals.
But that’s simply not the case in the opening two rounds. No one wants to start the year with a loss – let alone two – because it makes getting back into the eight all the more difficult, especially for a team like the Roosters that is guaranteed to do it tough through the Origin period due to their high number of representative players.
They’re full strength, apart from Cordner missing (and let’s be honest, who buys that the NSW and Kangaroos skipper was ‘resting’, rather than injured).
They gave it their all and they lost. It wasn’t a brilliant plan that has since been upended.
They didn’t play as well as their opposition in the opening rounds and thus they have zero points. That’s also the case with the Dragons, Bulldogs and Titans. They lost fair and square.
The competition may look different when it resumes, but it’s not like any of those winless teams planned to lose their opening matches, nor have they been any more disadvantaged by COVID-19 than the likes of the undefeated Eels, Knights, Raiders, Storm, Broncos and Panthers.
The outlier is, of course, the Warriors, who had to play their Round 2 ‘home’ game on the Gold Coast and down on troops who had flown home, subsequently losing to Canberra.
I’m not going to discount that but the Warriors are a whole different kettle of fish – if they are going to be relocated to Australia for the entirety of the 2020 competition, certain dispensations and consolations may be in order. That’s a discussion for another day.
But for the rest of the clubs, there is no argument to be made that the opening two rounds were an injustice. Because everybody went into their games with the outright intention of winning.
“This isn’t just about the Roosters. It’s about the integrity of the competition and giving every club and their fans a fair chance.”
Truer words were never spoken, Mr Politis. And it’s exactly why the points earned thus far must stand.