So the stand alone rep weekend has come and gone and I for one am excited to see some NRL matches this weekend. The past ten days has seen a lot of debate whether or not we should have the weeks break for rep fixtures. I must admit I'm a bit of a fence sitter on this issue, I didn't have much interest in any of the weekend's fixtures (besides Australia v New Zealand) but I don't have any ideas on what could provide an alternative.
The annual Trans-Tasman Test Match always gets my interest and like most people I owe New Zealand an apology. In my piece last week I wrote them off as easy beats but that wasn't the case at all. With Isaac Luke and Kieran Foran to come back into the side Stephen Kearney has a good squad to work with for this years Four Nations tournament.
Outside of this game though I didn't view any of the other three. The Under 20's Origin seems out of place to me as I see it as a better fit for a curtain raiser for one of the three Origin games. If we do persist with the stand alone rep weekend, why not an Under 20's Australia v New Zealand match instead? This could be played before the Test, with the whole fixture moved to the Saturday night. I'm sure this Double Header played on an easier night to go out could attract more than the 25,000 that we saw at last Friday's game.
At the risk of being ridiculed like Paul Kent was last week, I too didn't have much interest in the Samoa v Fiji game. I acknowledge the need to boost the game internationally and I also like how the match was a playoff for this years four nations but I just didn't see it as essential viewing. While Kent could in no way be considered racist for his comments on Fox I do believe he did go a bit far in criticizing players (like Jorge Taufua) in his article last Saturday.
Finally I get to the last game from last weekend, City v Country. This game makes no sense to me despite some players and game officials continually stressing that it is an important fixture. Frankly it's not. Look no further than the 11 players who dropped out of the game due to injuries. I bet if it was an NRL game many of them would've made miraculous recoveries. This issue isn't new, who can forget Matt Cooper dropping out of the Country team due to injury before playing for the dragons the following day. Also, how as fans are we supposed to care about the game when Channel 9 doesn't even care? Having this 'important' rep fixture on one hour delay is ludicrous. I knew the result from the radio so I opted to watch the A-League Grand Final instead, which proves the rep weekend only helps boost interest in rival codes.
While I don't like the current format of the rep weekend I don't really know how to fix it. I didn't mind the rep games on Friday night with club games the rest of the weekend but I, of course, don't have to deal with the burnout that players do. Maybe the rep weekend can move to later in the season so Origin is used as a selection trial for the Australian team, or maybe the Test can become a midweek game like origin is? While I don't know if either of these options provide the best solution, what I do know is that it's good to have club footy back this weekend!