After blindsiding its rival with an earlier competition restart, the NRL can again lay claim to being Australia’s number one code after overtaking rivals AFL for boofheaded bubble breaches.
Figures show rugby league has surged ahead of the Victorian code in the key metric, mainly on the back of a record week of illegal liaisons, dangerous haircuts and drinking, and that was just Allan Langer’s third schooner at the Caxton.
While the spike in breaches has disappointed the current boss of the NRL, Annastacia Palaszczuk, the rare win is almost certainly being celebrated privately by league bosses, probably in a group of 25 over lunch at Grappa.
Not only is the result a prodigious blow in the trivial code wars, it also places the 13-man sport in the box seat to beat the AFL to the punch again, this time on an earlier second shutdown.
The race for biosecurity blunders has been neck and neck between the codes, but the NRL has gained ultimate ascendancy in recent weeks with counting widened to include part-time staff like assistant coaches and the Broncos.
However, the AFL could dispute the figures as flawed data, especially considering its recent trend of rewarding dissenting journalists reporting on breaches with indefinite holidays on full pay or one-way flights to Siberia.
While the AFL has admirably battled throughout COVID restrictions to produce a handful of alcohol-related incidents and Eddie McGuire’s ire, most breaches are of a shamefully innocent nature that have no realistic chance of jeopardising their season.
This is in stark contrast to the NRL, where players are routinely endangering the exemptions granted by the Queensland government, which currently allow teams into the state on the strict proviso they beat up on local teams and leave.
While NRL players and staff are allegedly consorting with underground figures like bikies and Braith Anasta, the only delinquents frequented by AFL figures are shonky pedicurists and an Aussie tennis star, and it wasn’t even a Tomic.
The NRL’s triumph is the latest chapter in Australia’s insufferable code wars, a practice many fans blast as petty, pointless and childish, except when their code is winning.
It has left the AFL reeling as it grapples with the shame of employing less COVID clowns, the latest setback for a once-great code that has fallen to a sport played in low-rating midweek spots before dwindling attendances.
While it is difficult to highlight the reasons for the national code’s meagre breaches, many credit the grave error of not leaving enough players to their own devices at home. This was due to an entire state of AFL players being transplanted from Victoria to controlled hubs interstate, leaving the streets of Melbourne the safest they’ve been since the war.
The AFL will be desperate to rebound with similar growth in foolishness to that achieved by the NRL, not only for bragging rights, but to also recoup lost TV revenue with monolithic fines.
Suggestions have already been made to improve ill discipline, with calls for the code to appoint a COVID task force committee incorporating members like Wayne Bennett to break his own rules for a $155 carbonara.
Additionally, scouts could begin canvassing junior ranks for players like Dragons enforcer Paul Vaughan, who dined at a café under a fake name believed to be Paul McGregor.
While the NRL remains with its nose in front for the time being, bubble breach supremacy will remain in the balance until final numbers are received following October’s grand final (Mad Monday).