Predictions, Rule Changes and Burgess – Welcome to NRL 2014

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A new addition to this year’s NRL coverage on Blindside Sport is the NRL viewpoint, written by rugby league writer Daniel Boss. In these articles, Daniel provides his opinion on various events that have occurred recently. In the first viewpoint article, various issues that have come up over the off-season are mentioned and commented on.

The NRL season is only a mere number of sleeps away, but a lot has taken place since the start of the new year and I will provide my input into some of the events that have taken place in the rugby league world in this time.

Ladder Prediction

For those who haven’t been my 2014 NRL ladder prediction, here is what I have predicted as the ladder for the 2014 NRL season.

  1. Sydney Roosters
  2. South Sydney Rabbitohs
  3. Canterbury Bulldogs
  4. Manly Sea Eagles
  5. Melbourne Storm
  6. Penrith Panthers
  7. Newcastle Knights
  8. North Queensland Cowboys
  9. Cronulla Sharks
  10. Gold Coast Titans
  11. St George Illawarra Dragons
  12. Brisbane Broncos
  13. New Zealand Warriors
  14. Wests Tigers
  15. Parramatta Eels
  16. Canberra Raiders

Trials

I know that trial form is not that important, however there were a few takeaways to come from the trials, in particular from some of the games last weekend. It appears that the Roosters and South Sydney will again be strong, following strong wins against Wigan and St George Illawarra respectively. As for the Dragons, I believe that they will struggle early in the season as new combinations develop. The same may also be the case for the Panthers. Brisbane is another side that may struggle early, as they look to find for a new five-eighth.

In regards to other sides that impressed, the Warriors really looked good in their big win over Brisbane. If they do play to their potential, then they will make the top 8 however they are the Warriors and they showed in the nines that they are vulnerable when any pressure is placed on them. Parramatta was impressive in a tight loss to a nearly full strength Manly. If they can get Jarryd Hayne fit for the entire season, then they should finish higher than 15th.

As the ladder prediction suggests, I believe that not a lot will change this season in relation to the strong teams and the weak teams. The trial results further confirmed my thoughts and I am even more confident of my predictions following them. Of course, I could be completely wrong and have been in the past.

Auckland Nines

I thought that the Auckland Nines was a huge success. However, I also believe that in its current form, it doesn’t have any long term sustainability. The reason for this is the too many injuries were incurred by key players, such as Lachlan Coote, Jarrod Mullen and Luke Keary. This will force teams to put weaker sides in as the NRL premiership is by far the title that all clubs are aiming to win. Part of the reason for this is that there were too many games played by each team over the course of the weekend. I believe that more teams need to be added. I think all of the English Super League clubs should be included, as well as sides from Papua New Guinea, the Pacific islands, other European nations and other nations such as the USA and Canada. This has the potential to be a huge event and the NRL needs to be open-minded and think about the good of the whole game rather than just the domestic league.

The main positives that came from the weekend were the ability to see players play instinctively and the general carnival nature of the event. Rugby league has become more structured over the past decade, so it was particularly good to see players use their natural ability rather than relying on structure. Hopefully more of this type of play is seen in the NRL this season. As for the nature of the event, it is good for fans to go to a game and not take it so seriously. Rugby league doesn’t need to be serious all of the time and this is a good way to get some light hearted entertainment, while still seeing a high level of skill.

Rule changes

The NRL announced some rule changes in late January and I am approving of most of the changes. In recent years, clubs have shown that they do not want scrums to be competitive as sides not feeding the scrum place backs in there so that they can get into their defensive structures more quickly. Also, teams who fed the scrum are not using attacking moves off the scrum and as a result, the scrum is becoming less and less relevant in the game. As a result, I am glad that they are reducing the number of scrums in a game by awarding a handover if any kick goes out on the full and after a 40/20. They should do it for any kick that goes over the sideline and for any handling errors. In my opinion, the scrum no longer has a place in rugby league.

I also particularly like the zero tackle off a 20m tap. This will increase the risk of putting a kick in play, which I think was making the game more boring. I want to see tries scored through the hands, not through kicks. I also like the permission of quick taps from a penalty. However I am sceptical about the awarding of quick taps if the trials are any indication, as referees refused quite a few of these.

The one rule change that I do not like is the rule that the clock stops following a conversion or a penalty kick in the last five minutes of play. This means that the game is different in the last five minutes than for the rest of the game. I believe that they clock needs to be stopped either throughout the entire game or not at all. This is a half-assed approach in my opinion. Does this rule mean that teams up by 12 points with 8 minutes to go will waste time because they know that they won’t be able to if the opposition scores a quick try? This situation shows that this rule change is certainly flawed.

And still no change to golden point….

Sam Burgess to Rugby

Like all rugby league fans, I was disappointed to see Sam Burgess announce that he was leaving the NRL to play Rugby in England after the end of the season. After this feeling of disappointment dissipated, I came to a realisation. If the NRL is to retain superstar players, then it needs to increase its global presence. The Rugby World Cup offers a level of competition that the Rugby League World Cup can only dream of. Prior to 1995, rugby players were attracted to rugby league as they could earn money in league and not in union as union players were strictly amateur. This no longer exists and financial security is no longer an issue for the superstar players. As a result, players are looking to earn as many accomplishments and participate in (with the aim to win) as many competitions as they are physically able to.

It can be argued that in Dave Smith’s first year as NRL CEO, that he was mainly focused on the domestic game. However, he (and the rest of the ARLC) will need to realise that the global exposure of the game is the key to retaining the star players. Right now the biggest rugby league competition in the world is State of Origin. For players outside of NSW and Queensland, they do feel left out and it is no surprise that the majority of players who have moved to union (Benji Marshall, Sam Burgess, Sonny Bill Williams) are all players who are ineligible for Origin. My solution to this problem is more test series, which will increase the rivalry of the Nations competing in these series. Series like the Four Nations and one-off tests are only short-term fixes, which will not solve this long-term issue.

I’m Daniel Boss and those are my views.

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