Final Five or Finals Farce?

Why is it that in a competition featuring fewer teams than during the 1988-1994 era, the NRL persists with a Finals System that allows more teams now to have a shot at the Premiership come September? Sure we all know the current format is solely about money but isn?t the NRL cheapening the achievement of simply making the Finals? From memory the key reasoning (again it was all about money but this was the line trotted out) behind starting the whole Super League era was the intent to reduce the number of teams which would then increase the quality of games week in week out. And lets be fair dinkum, that was the same reasoning trotted out by the NRL when they decided to punt a few teams during the early post-Super League years. So why with the teams reduced, did the NRL decide to stick with the clearly inferior McIntyre System, enabling over half of the teams in the competition to qualify for the Finals? again it was all about money. With the Gold Coast Titans entering the competition next season the NRL will mirror the old NSWRL?s number of teams who competed in that that 1988-94 period when the game experienced one of its truly golden eras both on and off the field. This 16th team creates a great opportunity to return to the days of the Final Five and bring some credibility back into simply making the month of September. And with the elimination of meaningless Finals games (which DO exist in the McIntyre format) the crowds and TV ratings (the two biggies financially) will increase and the achievement of making the Finals will be once again meaningful. The beauty of the Final Five is the fact it creates blockbuster games over four weekends and in doing so makes the road to glory as tough as possible ? as it should be. Given the current NRL Table there is a clear cut Final Five and although the media loves to talk up and talk down sides every second week during the year, there is only one side that has had a great season and that is the Melbourne Storm and they will as a result win the Minor Premiership. Incorporating the Byes still to come this would be the table (sorted by Differential): 1. MELBOURNE STORM 34 2. BULLDOGS 30 3. BRISBANE BRONCOS 28 4. MANLY SEA EAGLES 28 5. ST.GEORGE-ILLAWARRA 28 Leaving the following teams just outside the Final Five after good but quite frankly not outstanding seasons: 6. NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS 24 7. CANBERRA RAIDERS 24 8. NTH QLD COWBOYS 22 9. CRONULLA SHARKS 22 Given the up and down nature of the teams just outside the Top 5, the process of sorting the contenders from the pretenders is done before September and the teams that truly deserve to be in a position to win the competition are rewarded with a ticket to the big games. Also in reverting to a Final Five there is no longer the need to have Home Finals because like in the ?good old days? the Finals were a separate animal entirely and only the teams in the Top 3 deserved a second bite at the cherry in the form of any advantage for finishing high on the table. As a result the six games of football could be split between the three best Rugby League stadiums in Australia with no preference to any team and a set schedule to avoid favourable ground draws. ? And for those who argue no one will show up to games featuring out of town sides, check out the crowd figures for the 1993 and 1994 Finals Series in which Brisbane and Canberra featured heavily in the games played. All the games were played at the Sydney Football Stadium (capacity 42,000) and in 1993 a total of 222,288 people attended 6 games at an average of 37,048 and in 1994 a total of 230,383 people attended 6 games at an average of 38,397. With the Final Five decided how about this for a mouth-watering month of football. Week One: ? Friday Night - Minor Preliminary Semi Final #4 Manly Warringah Sea Eagles v #5 St. George-Illawarra Dragons @ Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane ? Saturday Night - Major Preliminary Semi Final #2 Bulldogs v #3 Brisbane Broncos @ Aussie Stadium, Sydney Week Two: ? Friday Night - Minor Semi Final #3 Brisbane Broncos v #5 St. George-Illawarra Dragons @ Aussie Stadium, Sydney ? Saturday Night - Major Semi Final #1 Melbourne Storm v #2 Bulldogs @ Telstra Stadium, Sydney Week Three: ? Friday Night - Preliminary Final #1 Melbourne Storm v #5 St. George-Illawarra Dragons @ Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane Week Four: ? Sunday Night - Grand Final #2 Bulldogs v #5 St. George Illawarra Dragons @ Telstra Stadium, Sydney * Friday Night games are far bigger events than Sunday Afternoon fixtures and are the perfect way to end the working week and the Preliminary Final in particular must be a Friday Night so there is truly a Grand Final week and the team who plays in the Preliminary Final gets enough rest to take on the well rested team which won the Major Semi Final. If a lineup of games like that can?t get the fans off the couch and to the stadium then they are just too hard to please. A Final Five has to return as the game needs to bring the glory back to the month of September when the best of the best fought for the Premiership.

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