NRL Off-Season Report

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After analysing the Cronulla penalties earlier in the week, rugby league writer Daniel Boss takes a look into the other issues that have arisen in the NRL.

Response to Roman’s article

Last week, my colleague Roman discussed the chances of the St George Illawarra Dragons. He stated that thought the purchases that the Dragons made over the off-season had the club headed in the right direction and that they would be in contention for a place in the finals. I agree for the most part, with this and I will provide a detailed analysis of the Dragons’ (and all of the teams in the NRL) chances for 2014 in the new year.

Further addition to the Cronulla article

I would just like to mention that all comments related to the penalties issued to Cronulla were related to the actual penalties themselves and not any further penalties. I am well aware that there could be players served with infraction notices and the club is facing a court case, which would mean that the impact felt by the club and the team would be greater. I’m no legal expert, so I feel that I am not the right person to comment on such matters. Like everyone else, I’m just waiting for the investigation to finalise.

NRL Draw

A couple of weeks ago, Roman also wrote an article which stated that the NRL draw was unfair and not equal. After reading this, I researched the method of determining the fixtures of the draw. Prior to the introduction of the Gold Coast Titans in 2007, the draw of the 15-team competition was determined by the position of the ladder from the previous season. This led to an even and fair draw. I’m not entirely sure what was used in the early years of the 16-team competition, but I do know now that each team requests the NRL for teams to play at home, in order to maximise attendances and revenue. From these requests, the NRL decides the draw. Of course, all requests can’t be accepted but most are. This does result in unfair draws but this is what the clubs currently want, so please stop taking pity on them (for those who were).

Aside from this finding, I have a couple of thoughts on the draw. I am disappointed to see that there will again be a three week gap between each game of the origin series. During this time, the NRL competition will again suffer from a diverted focus and the withdrawal of star players from club games. I know I’ve made this point before, but I can’t see why the series can’t have a break of two weeks between games. Again, I know it is better commercially to currently space out the series over an almost two-month period but I hate what it does to the premiership, as do a lot of other people.

There are a couple of positives from the draw. The first is that there is more day football, in particular Saturday afternoon football. With more day football comes more attacking football, which is definitely a good thing. Plus, it attracts more families to the game which is a key demographic to attract when considering the future of the game. Another positive was less Thursday night football. Sure, it did attract new viewers who had nothing else to watch on Thursday nights but it diluted the product in the early part of the season. I know that I was hard pressed to watch games on Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday night, Sunday and Monday night for the first 4 rounds of last season. This will now result in less burnout for the fans of the game, which is a good thing in my opinion.

New jersey designs

Both the Gold Coast Titans and Wests Tigers have come out with new jersey designs for the 2014 season. Both are much simpler designs and both use a v-shape pattern on the front. I am a fan of simpler jersey designs as it gives a team more of an identity. It works for the Dragons as they are the team with the big red v. It also works for South Sydney as they have cardinal and myrtle bars and have since day dot of rugby league in Australia. Hopefully these two teams stick with these jersey designs for years to come. As a Tigers supporter, I really like the look of their new jersey and I will be getting one for myself in the new year. I may even get two, as the orange alternate also looks pretty good.

Bad behaviour

Former Canberra player Blake Ferguson was found guilty of indecent assault for his actions at a Cronulla bar following his selection for the second State of Origin game (which he was later stood down from). The NRL made a statement following this ruling, which mentioned that the NRL had to determine that a player must be “a fit and proper person”, in order to be registered. Further to this, the NRL has refused to register the contract of Newcastle signing Russell Packer following being charged with assault.

This stance on Packer differs from previous years, where a player had to be found guilty before being sanctioned by the league. Personally, I think it came in ten years too late. The NRL has been damaged by the bad behaviour of its players for the past decade. In this ever competitive sporting environment, the last thing the NRL needs is negative headlines and any players found damaging the reputation of the league should be punished.

More games to the country

It was announced earlier this week that the Penrith Panthers would play one home game a year at Bathurst’s Carrington Oval from 2014 to 2018. I applaud this move for the Panthers, as the Central West is passionate about rugby league. Having played in junior football in Group 10 (which includes Bathurst), Carrington Oval was my favourite ground to play on as it had the softest  playing surface and it had a tunnel to run out from. Even if there were only 20 people watching the game, just running out of the tunnel gave the game a big-time feel to it.

For the Panthers, this is a good move. It gives them a chance to extend their supporter base outside of the Penrith district and have even stronger links with Group 10, which provides them with another source of talent to select from.

On a more personal level, this is big news as well. As some of you may know, my younger brother Matt is currently in the Penrith Holden Cup squad for next season. He may get an opportunity to play a game for Penrith in front of all of his mates. This would be big for him and to be able to witness something like this would be pretty special for me as his brother. Of course, we’re still dealing with possibilities here but one can only hope.

Thank you

To everyone who has read anything that I’ve written over the past year, I just want to thank you. I hope that I provided some intelligence and insight into the NRL. To you all, have a Merry Christmas and a safe and happy new year. Bring on 2014!

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