Thursday, 30 April 2015

Hypocrisy (2015)

The NRL for a number of years now, has been working tirelessly to try and improve the image of the game to make it more appealing to women, and subsequently, families.

So much so that they now have on their calendar every year, an entire round dedicated to the women involved in the game, a women's round.

Only one round out of 26.

This Friday, the Australian Jillaroos will play against the New Zealand Ferns in the curtain raiser to the test between Australia and New Zealand.

Yet despite there now being 5 separate Fox Sports channels as well as Channel 9's main and GEM channels, it seems there is no way it is at all possible to show this game.

Tomorrow night, Fox Sports 1 (which tends to host nearly all the Rugby League content out of their 5 channels) will instead show between 6pm and the replay of the Test match:
*The second repeat of NRL 360 and the irrelevant Matthew Johns show in the space of 6 hours,
*90 minutes of two ageing boxers talking about themselves and their upcoming payday, err fight,
*An hour long package of the greatest UFC fights.

Channel 9 will show
*The alleged journalism of A Current Affair prior to the Test
*Over an hour of boxing hosted by the NRL Footy Show

GEM will show
*a 3 hour long Clint Eastwood movie
*the 1967 Bonnie and Clyde movie

A lot of this could be forgiven to an extent. But one thing in my mind can't.

A 75 minute slot after the Test match dedicated to an NRL program and that program isn't even doing anything remotely attached to Rugby League, it's boxing!

Why not have a replay of the Women's Rugby League Test match played then? It's got a hell of a lot more Rugby League content than the NRL Footy Show does even on it's best nights, but even moreso on Friday when it will be showing boxing, not Rugby League.

If the NRL is truly passionate about properly recognising the involvement of women in Rugby League, the most basic of first steps would be to ensure that the National Women's side is shown some level of interest.

As it stands, the Jillaroo's can't even get a link to their website (which I might add is hosted by Fox Sports Pulse, not even an official Rugby League body can be bothered to look after this task) from the NRL website.

If the National women's side can't get airtime over the NRL Footy Show boxing night and cannot even have the NRL give them web space, just how appreciated can the rest of the women involved in the game truly feel?

I believe if the game wants to recognise a group of people, then either do it properly and thoroughly, or don't do it at all. At present it looks half-arsed and somewhat patronising.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

The Finals Need An Overhaul (2015)

The current finals system is quite simply designed to keep as many fans still invested in consuming right up until the last few days of the year. It makes good marketing sense, clearly.

But is it at the expense of the competition?

In the early days of the game, there was no set system for finals. Different variations of finals were used to determine the premiers. Sometimes, finals weren't even played.

It wasn't until 1938 that a dedicated finals system became mandatory, the mechanics of the system was altered a few times.

From 1938 til 1972 the top 4 teams made it to the finals. In 1973, an extra team was added to the finals system. The top 5 remained in place until 1994.

With the competition having expanded from 12 clubs in 1967 to 20 in 1995 due to expansion in 1982 (2 extra teams), 1988 (3 extra teams) and 1995 (4 extra teams).

In 1995, the game moved to a top 8 system, which remained in place the following season. When the game split in 1997, the ARL had a top 7 in a 12 team competition while the Superleague had a top 5 in a 10 team competition.

When the NRL took over it employed a top 10 system in 1998, before permanently moving to a top 8 system in 1999.

From 1908 til 1972 (4 team finals period) there were just 16 times where a team made the finals having won less than 55% of their regular season matches (over 64 seasons)

Comparatively, the NRL has had 44 occurrences where a team has made the finals with a regular season success rate under 55% (over 17 years)

Furthermore, never has a team won a Premiership with a win % in the regular season less than 57%

In fact, the teams who have won a title with a pre-finals win% of less than 60% are:

St George (1941) - Won 8 of their 14 games to finish 4th
Wests Tigers (2005) - Won 14 of their 24 games to finish 4th
Brisbane (2006) - Won 14 of their 24 games to finish 4th
Melbourne (2009) - Won 14 of their 24 games to finish 4th

There have also been 13 occasions where a team has participated in a finals campaign having won less than 50% of their regular season games. What is concerning is that this occurred 6 times prior to 1998 and 7 times during the NRL era.

Given that no team has ever won a title from 7th or lower on the ladder, it would appear that to ensure a better finals campaign, the NRL should reduce the number of finalists from 8 to 6 at the very least.

A simple finals system could look like this:

Week 1
Game A - 3 vs 4
Game B - 5 vs 6 - loser eliminated

Week 2
Game C - 1 v 2
Game D - Loser A v Winner B - loser eliminated

Week 3
Game E - Loser C v Winner D - loser eliminated

Week 4 - Grand Final
Game F - Winner C v Winner E

If the NRL wants to keep teams and fans interested, then a simple idea could be to bring back the City Cup competition.

From 1921 til 1923, the City Cup had a very intelligent and unique format. All of the return games played by clubs would also count as the City Cup fixtures, adding extra meaning to those games for the clubs who were out of the Premiership contention. Under the NRL draw, there are some teams who only play each other once in a year, so under those circumstances, that one result would be the City Cup game as well.

At season's end, a City Cup final series of just 4 sides could be played. It would essentially give the NRL two Grand Finals every year. It would mean an entire competition could be played but only 3 extra games are played to determine the winner.

Week 1
A - 1 v 4
B - 2 v 3
Week 2
C - Winner A v Winner B

These two ideas could see a stronger competition and a more closely fought premiership race that rewards the very best teams without giving out token finals appearances to a few sides.