Last week, I went through my original 10 point plan and determined if there was any progress made. Some were adopted, while some had no progress made on them whatsoever. I did say that I would come up with an updated 10 point plan this week, however I’m not feeling like my usual visionary self, so I’ve only come up with 5. All of these are derived from my original plan but include updates in accordance with the current state of the game of rugby league. I should also note that my points are all well achievable and easy to implement. For example, a point that I would have liked to ad would be to play only one game on Friday night and remove Monday night games but I know that this won’t happen anytime in the near future.
Before I start with my new 5 point plan, I must mention that when you read this, I will be either on my way or in Europe. While there I will go to the Rugby League world cup final as well as an Arsenal premier league game. I’m very much looking forward to both experiences and my next article for Blindside Sport will be a recap on the trip, especially both games that I will attend.
Point 1. Scrap Golden Point
Seriously, when will this farce end? I absolutely can’t stand Golden Point. In fact, I find it quite boring. I watch rugby league to see tries, strong tackles and skilled players. I don’t want to see each team march their way down the field to try to kick a field goal. In some cases, it takes away from a highly competitive game. It also changes the way the game is played as it becomes a field goal shootout instead of a rugby league game. Part of this is because the referees are under too much pressure to blow a penalty as a decision could decide the outcome of the game.
While it is easy for me to be critical of golden point, I do have a better alternative. In fact, I have two. Either call it a draw at full-time or play a fixed period of extra time. I don’t understand why the additional play has to be sudden death. If a fixed extra time period is used (as it was for the 1989 Grand Final, which has been rated as the best Rugby League game of all time), there is less pressure on the referee as a decision will be less influential in the outcome of the game. Also, the teams will be looking for tries as a field goal may not decide the game. It adds an element of strategy to the extra time period.
Point 2. Shorten the time between Origin games
Yes, Origin is the big cash cow of Rugby League. Yes, it is the greatest rivalry in the sport at this time. However, it is making too much damage to the NRL competition. It impacts the competition for 8 rounds and affects the chances of certain teams who have a high number of players who play in the series. The Brisbane Broncos may have more than 6 premierships if not for Origin. In my opinion, 3 weeks between each game is far too long. The balance isn’t right and I think a 2 week gap would be better. This would mean that the bye rounds would be closer together, to allow sides to deal without their star players and it would mean that more rounds would have a full schedule of games, with all players available. In turn, this would add more integrity into the outcome of the NRL premiership rounds as Origin would have less of an impact into the competition.
Point 3. Test series over Four Nations
I know that there are only three strong rugby league nations at the moment. Yet, I do believe that other nations can be stronger and could possibly challenge these sides in the future. However, if the Four Nations is set up again after the World Cup, then I can’t see this happening. I believe that a more structured international schedule will lead to a narrowing of the gap between the big three and other nations. If every nation had a test series that they played every year, then this would help them develop and would encourage more players to represent their nation rather than to commit to a more powerful nation as a result of the residency rule.
For example, in one year Australia could play New Zealand in a 3-test series, Papua New Guinea could play Tonga in a similar series and Fiji could play Samoa in another series. In the northern hemisphere, England could play France in a 3-test series, Scotland could play Ireland in another series and Italy could face Wales in another series. If the current World Cup is any indication, then these series would be quite competitive for the most part.
Point 4. Reduce interchange to 6 with 2 reserves
I probably should explain this further. There should be 4 players on the interchange bench. Two players can be interchanged while the other two are permanent replacements.
My pet peeve in the game of rugby league is that there is not enough opportunity for smaller, more skilful players to have an impact on the game as there are too many interchanges and bigger forwards are allowed too much rest. While I understand that the days of replacements are probably behind us, I think that there are still far too many interchanges. Sure, this means that there are only 2 fewer changes but I also believe that it adds an element of strategy to the game.
With the two replacements, teams can choose when they inject an impact player into the game. Coaches may bring them on after 20 minutes when a big of impact is taken out of the game or they might bring players on after 60 minutes when the players on the field are more tired in order to have the greatest impact. Currently, there is too much pressure on coaches to play all of their bench players at various stages in the game, which leads them to having 4 forwards on the bench instead of including an exciting attacking player. Also, it limits the impact of injuries as teams don’t have to waste an interchange on an injured player which means that a team is less disadvantaged by having a player out for the game as a result of an injury.
Point 5. Call held earlier
This is another part of the game that bugs me. Referees allow far too much time for attacking players to be able to get an offload away, which puts the defensive team at a great disadvantage. This is a reason why teams have resorted to wrestling tactics and to get multiple players into tackles, as these both slow down the speed of the ruck. If referees call held earlier, then defenders will be more likely to use more conventional tackles which are far less dangerous than the gang tackles and wrestling tactics. It will make the game far more attractive as there will more focus on attacking play rather than on methods to control the speed of the ruck. The ARLC is also aware of this issue as they have introduced stronger suspensions for players found guilty of dangerous tactics in the ruck, namely the crusher and cannonball tackles. As said in last week’s article, here’s hoping that they stand by their word.