18 teams, 25 minute quarters and no more delayed telecast on Sunday afternoons. It’s about freakin’ time!
As the NRL looks toward 2015 and beyond, changes are on the horizon but it remains to be seen how much resistance there will be from the players association with regards to players playing longer minutes for the same rate of pay. Personally, I don’t see it happening. More minutes equals more $$$ and rightfully so. Extra minutes will also equal extra ad revenue for the broadcasters, which should mean more money in the players pockets at the end of the day.
The NRL are looking to the mechanics of the NFL and how they manage their game day experience for the fans and it looks to be having a trickle down effect here. Presently, the game runs for just on two hours including half time and the pre match and half time “entertainment” leaves a lot to be desired. Sure, we don’t want a three and a half hour spectacle with constant stoppages like they do in the NFL, but the fans need to feel like they’ve got their money’s worth from a day out at the football.
Then there is the reaction of the rusted on fans, who are resistant to change and after reading some comments online, many would prefer a return to the five metre rule, contested scrums and an unlimited tackle count…Seriously though, the game, like all sports needs to evolve to stay profitable as this is not an amateur sport (well, not in terms of player salaries) but it seems as though fans are still comfortable to sit on wet grass in the middle of winter and sink piss all afternoon. It’s got to be about more than that folks.
We’ll see more ads during the telecast which is fine so long as it’s live. But the product has to improve and by adding four additional players to the interchange bench to eight replacements, I question whether we are moving in the right direction. Skill, stamina and endurance will again be removed as a crucial factor in the outcome of games and it may increase the high incidence of serious, season ending injuries.
Do we have the depth to cater for two more teams? To me, that’s the biggest unknown. The previous flood of players heading to the U.K. is nothing more than a trickle these days due to the higher rates of pay available in the NRL and apart from the departure of Jarryd Hayne and SBW (which were unavoidable in my opinion), is the game producing enough elite talent to fill eighteen teams of 21 players per team (if we extend the interchange)?
Has grass roots development caught up to the aspirations of NRL management? The game in the bush seems to be still vastly underfunded and that means we are limiting ourselves to the potential talent available. The road to expansion has to be a grass roots movement that will pay dividends down the track, but no sooner than five years.
What about a draft? It’s a must for the sake of parity and talent equalisation and to ensure the long term viability of the NRL’s farmers, which in include Canberra, St George Illawarra, Newcastle, Parramatta and Penrith. All provide a disproportionate level of talent compared to clubs like the Bulldogs, Storm, Roosters and Manly. It’s no surprise that in the last ten years only St George Illawarra have won a premiership of those “farmer” clubs whereas the Storm, Roosters and Manly have won six of the last eight premierships. If Souths, an inner city club can continue to develop and keep their juniors then there is no reason the other big guns can’t do the same.
Dave Smith and John Grant certainly have their work cut out for them but this change is needed as we continue to drag the game, kicking and screaming into the 21st century.