Rabbit season!…Duck Season!…Rabbit Season!…Duck Season!…Rep Season!
Given all the commotion we’ve had regarding the start of our representative season, I’m honestly empathising with Elmer Fudd at the moment. Should we play the ANZAC test match prior to the Origin series? Sounds a bit reverse playing a test match prior to a state match? Besides, the game isn’t even played on ANZAC day any more. What, exactly, is the purpose of City v Country? It used to be an opportunity to showcase some unheralded country talent by putting them up against the city slickers. That proved to be “lambs to the slaughter”, so the concept evolved into the origin format it is today. It worked for a short while because there was that passion and hatred which is so crucial to the State of Origin concept. Problem is, I don’t believe there is that hatred or passion anymore. All the while, the dirty, rotten Queenslanders are chuckling at the prospect of seeing potential NSW players belting the tripe out of each other and, at the same time, analysing the strengths, weaknesses and set plays we may bring to the state of origin arena. Why aren’t Queenslanders replicating the city v country concept in their state? I thought Queensland was the heartland of rugby league! Why aren’t they supporting Queensland regional areas?
Is the City v Country game a true selection trial for state of origin? Jamal Idris was awarded man of the match. Do you think he’ll play any role in this year’s origin series? We’re none the wiser for knowing who will wear the number 6 jersey for NSW. No fewer than 11 players pulled out of the City v Country game. I understand that coaches want to protect their most valuable commodity, but how does that legitimise the game? Michael Lichaa had to be plucked from NSW Cup to make up the numbers. Are we benefiting country rugby league by playing this fixture? Coffs Harbour didn’t think so last year. Crowd numbers were up this year because the tickets were nearly given away. I would’ve thought taking some NRL games, where two competition points are at stake, to country and regional areas, would be a more legitimate proposition for the country supporters.
Just as the NRL competition was finally shifting into second gear (with record Easter crowd and tv numbers), we’re summoned to a pregnant pause in the form of rep season. I understand that players need an opportunity for some R&R, but doesn’t that occur during the state of origin series via scheduled Bye rounds? Why do players need more time off? Oh, that’s right, I hear Bali holidays are on special at this time of the year.
Why would the NRL schedule a representative match at the same time as the A-League grand final? Given the success of the A League competition over the past few years, surely, it would’ve made more sense to either shift the city v country game either forward or back 2 hours? The tv ratings for the city v country game reflected the poor decision. So, commercially, the game would not have been viable.
The Samoa v Fiji game had more justification, in my opinion, than the city v country game. At least there was something for both teams to play for – inclusion in the Four Nations tournament. The spirit of the game and, in particular, the pre game national anthems was quite engaging. I think this game is necessary to accommodate the vast Polynesian rugby league supporters. Once again, I question the scheduling and participation of key first grade players who pulled out of the game.
I really enjoyed the Under 20’s state of origin game. It provided the viewers with an opportunity to watch the up and coming stars of the future. The controversy that emanated from the game only added to the interest and spectacle. I know I’m going to be castigated for saying this, but I loved seeing a real punch thrown (as opposed to the girly punches that James Packer and David Gyngell served up the other day) for a change. Call me sadistic, but I miss the occasional fracas. It was harmless yet reflective of the hatred and passion emulating from the senior stars.
So, what do we make of the rep season? For starters, if the NRL is serious about staging a bona fide representative fixture, then the clubs need to buy into the concept and make their players available. Schedule the games differently. DON’T compete with the A-League grand final. Run a double header on Friday night with both international games (ie Samoa v Fiji, followed by Australia v NZ) at ANZ Stadium where a crowd of 40,000+ could be expected. Run the Under 20’s in Queensland on Saturday night (Queenslanders would watch anything) hence City v Country on Sunday afternoon. I understand the NRL needs to support the international game but I would prefer those games be held at the end of the season not during. Personally, I would get rid of city v country, stage the Under 20’s as the opener to the senior origin game hence run the internationals at seasons end. Am I sounding as confused as Elmer Fudd? Was it Rabbit reason? Duck season?