As a kid, nothing was more fun than watching all three grades on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Under 23s at 12pm, reserve grade at 1.30pm and first grade at 3pm.
You certainly got your bang for your dollar. It was a chance to see any up-and-coming stars, returning injured first graders breaking in slowly or your favourite journeyman who was just outside that elite group.
Things have changed quite a bit and we’ve now got U20s and a reserve grade which doesn’t always carry your team’s colours.
For example, my team Easts, have had affiliated reserve grade teams such as Newtown, Wyong and currently Norths in the last decade or so.
There’s also been a lot of ink about expansion and conference systems.
How about we combine all of these and turn it into a mid-week contest like the good old days?
Since everyone else has done it, here are my thoughts. But a couple of disclaimers first.
Number one disclaimer
Don’t ask me about the money. This will be the first comment, I guarantee. Just assume a very generous benefactor will cover it! An Uncle Nick or that Souths supporting computer geek with a company called Atlantis or something. Ok? Finance – done and dusted.
Number two disclaimer
For the purposes of this article, I’m just going to look at the big picture. I’m going to miss the trees for the forest.
Now that the disclaimers are out of the way, here goes.
We will have 32 teams over eight conferences. That’s four per conference.
It will include 16 current NRL teams and 16 invited/expansion teams.
As the 16 current NRL teams would be much stronger, use the Olympic soccer rule of U23s with three open players allowed. For the 16 invited/expansion teams, they can field their first-grade side.
The prize for winning the whole thing?
If you’re an expansion team, then $500,000.
If you’re an NRL team, then four competition points in next year’s competition. This will ensure they send their best U23 team and three open players and take the comp seriously.
Each conference will contain two NRL teams and two expansion teams.
I’ve tried to build some rivalries in there. Also, the geographical names are loose and more for categorising rather than exactness.
Here are the teams.
Australian League Conference (ALC)
Cabramatta Two Blues
Papua New Guinea Cutters (their national game)
Fiji Silktails (green shoots)
St George Illawarra Dragons
Illawarra Steelers (Payback on the Dragons)
Tasmanian Devils (Is there a better name for a Tasmanian team?)
National League Conference (NLC)
Auckland Warriors (ditch the New Zealand name)
Wellington Orcas (Warriors need a close by rival to give them a kick up the *^&)
North Sydney Bears (bring them back. Bring back the Manly versus Norths rivalry. Payback time!)
Perth Western Reds (No second Perth team just yet. Just use the Perth versus Adelaide rivalry)
Adelaide Rams (ditto above)
Gold Coast Titans
Burleigh Bears (Should replace Titans as they have lots of history)
Tweed Heads Seagulls (Even more history. They are the oldest sporting club in Australia and have a great rivalry with Burleigh)
Redcliffe Dolphins (very loose geographically)
Ipswich Jets (extremely loose geographically)
So we have all the states of Australia covered except the N.T, four international teams in Papua New Guinea, Fiji, and two from NZ. Common mascot names – Bears (North Sydney and Burleigh), Tigers (Wests and Balmain), Jets (Newtown and Ipswich).
Similar colours – Maroon and White (Burleigh and Manly), Red and White (St George and Illawarra). Lucky I didn’t include the Western Suburbs Magpies – that would have done even my head in.
Format can be like the NFL – 16 rounds which includes playing your conference teams twice, followed by the round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals and the Super Bowl.
I deliberately tried to avoid using the Americanism ‘play-offs’ but couldn’t avoid the last one.
If this is too difficult, then use this as a pre-season tournament. Round Robins, then round of 16, quarters etc then final. Done and dusted in seven weeks.
All games to be played on Wednesdays across eight ovals.
Sydney: North Sydney Oval, Henson Park, Lidcombe Oval and Leichhardt Oval (televised match of the round)
NZ: Mount Smart Stadium
Melbourne: One of the suburban VFL grounds
North Queensland: Cowboys stadium
SE Queensland: Robina Stadium or Pizzey Park
Each oval will have two games each Wednesday.
Make it four times 20 minute quarters.
White balls with brown stripes (like the old Penrith jerseys). Black shoe polish under the eyes is mandatory.
The name of the comp? The Amco Cup.