The 10 Point Plan to Improving the NRL

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Since the Roosters took out the decider a little over a month ago, I have thought very little about the game of Rugby League. It was partly because I was writing so much during the season or partly because my Tigers had such a damn awful season. Otherwise, it had to do with me having other priorities. I was best man for a wedding and have been currently exploring my options in regards to my career. No, I don’t do this for a living. This is only a hobby. If you can convince Roman to pay me $50,000 a year to write articles, I’ll write 2 or 3 a day. I just don’t think he has that kind of money… yet.

To give you all some context, two years ago I wrote up a list of ten points that I thought would help the game of rugby league. Some have been adopted, while some have not. I’m going to review this list, before following up with a new list next week.

Before I start, I should make a few comments about the world cup, of which I will be attending the final in two and a half weeks. Woo! I think it has been a very competitive tournament, much more competitive than the previous world cup. Sure, there are plenty of players who are just playing for these nations in this world cup but the experience earned by the “local” players for nations outside of the big 3 will help grow the game in the future.

However, I can’t see there being too many games being competitive this weekend though. The Australia v USA and New Zealand v Scotland quarter finals will be floggings. Australia will coast into the final and play the winner of New Zealand and England, which is a surprise to no one. It should be kept in mind that international rugby league is still developing (and needs to if it is to be taken seriously) but I think there are signs that it is going in the right direction.

Review of 10 point plan

Point 1. Get rid of the McIntyre System. Within months of this post, the McIntyre System was axed in favour of the system used by the AFL and the ARL in 1996. Over the past two seasons, I think the two best teams have played in the Grand Final. While the 2012 decider was a letdown, the 2013 Grand Final was one of the best in recent history. One good decision by the ARLC here.

Point 2. No more golden point. This isn’t quite there yet but it is getting momentum. Over the past two seasons, there have been many great games ruined by the boring field goal-a-thon that is golden point. It’s pretty clear to me that golden point does not add excitement to a game. In the regular season, it just drags out a game and in the finals, I think that a fixed extra time period would provide as much excitement and tension to a game, if not more.

Point 3. Reduce ticket prices. Sure, membership packages do reduce the cost of going to a game. However, that will only satisfy the die-hard fans. To get more casual fans through the gate, prices need to be lower. The Canberra Raiders have listened to me as they have reduced the cost of their tickets for 2014, following ‘achieving’ the worst home crowd average in 2013.

Point 4. Have no NRL games during the weekend of the Anzac Test and City-Country and add more Test matches. This is one that has come to fruition. In addition to the Anzac Test and City-Country, there is now the Samoa v Tonga test and Under 20s state of origin. Samoa’s form in the world cup has shown that the Samoa-Tonga game has merit (Aside: Tonga were probably the best side in Group C and were unlucky to miss the quarter finals). My other suggestions included Queensland City v Queensland Country, Auckland v Rest of NZ and Papua New Guinea v Fiji. All of which would please fans and TV companies who have more games to show.

Point 5. Replace the four nations with Test series. It is yet to be seen what will be done in 2014 in international rugby league. I would like to see test matches. Not just for the strong nations, but for the other nations as well. Most nations are lucky to play one test a year. If they were to play a test series every year, then they would be much stronger for it and that would result in more competitive international rugby league in the long run.

Point 6. Reduce interchanges from 10 to 6. No movement in regards to this point yet. I’m still of the belief that there needs to be more of a fatigue factor in the game. There needs to be more of an opportunity for the smaller and more skilled (and more exciting) players to be able to take advantage of tired big forwards. I’d rather see a Ben Barba or Shaun Johnson looking for opportunities to attack than to see more hit ups and dummy half running.

Point 7. Reward good tackles. This is another point where no real movement has been made, aside from the banning of the shoulder charge. It has led to more good tackles in the 2013 season but the main defensive tactic at the moment is to get as many players around the ball to slow everything down. This is plain boring and while we are seeing more good tackles, these are still rare when compared with most of the defence in the game at this point.

Point 8. Penalise wrestling. This week, Todd Greenberg announced that there would be more severe suspensions for ‘crusher’ and ‘cannonball’ tackles. Not to take too much credit, but I did suggest that a way to take these grubby tactics out of the game was to suspend guilty players for longer. This worked in the 1980s when suspensions of a year and even longer were given to players who committed acts of foul play. It worked as the game is a lot cleaner today. Let’s just hope that the ARLC follow through on Greenberg’s statement from this week.

Point 9. Call held earlier. I can’t see this point being implemented any time soon as referees will allow players every opportunity to get an offload away. This is a reason why defences are having multiple players in tackles and resorting to using grubby tactics, as defenders have no advantage. They need to be given more of an advantage, which will result in more better tackles as defenders won’t need to use the boring and grubby tactics mentioned above.

Point 10. Bring back the 5 metre rule. I honestly can’t see this happening. I just think that having the defence back 10 metres provides too much of an incentive to play conservative, boring tactics as the play goes from one side of the field to the other way too easily. There is also too much of a reward for a penalty or opposition error as these will provide a significant field position and possession advantage to one team. This means that teams are more focused on not making a mistake rather than playing football.

As I mentioned above, I will publish a revised list next week. Any feedback would be more than welcome in the comments section below.

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