Off the Wall

There is no harm in enthusiastic club CEO's such as the Wests Tigers  Stephen Humphreys, proposing radical changes to the way rugby league is played.

But the most radical - which has naturally received the most media coverage - deserves to be considered with the greatest caution before it is taken any further.

Reducing matches to 60 minutes will have superficial attraction to some players and coaches. But it risks alienating the fans who remains the heart and soul of the game and its future.

Attending an NRL match these days in not cheap - even if you are a season ticket holder or you take advantage of admission concessions, and especially family packages, clubs offer. The cost of transport, parking, food and drink is a burden for family groups in particular.

If an NRL premiership match is reduced by 25 per cent, will admission fees be reduced by the same amount? That is just one question which needs to be answered.

But the real question is this - is an 80 minute game, with numerous stoppages for injuries and video referee decisions too long? I really don't think so.

And is the accompanying proposal to extend the season by four weeks really in the best interests of players - and fans?  A premiership running from mid-February to mid-October is really stretching things, and would limit pre-season trial matches.

The answer to my mind is to have more flexibility in the salary cap - so that when a player is ruled out for the season by injury incurred in the first half of the season, a replacement can be recruited outside the salary cap restrictions.

And the alternate proposal for the game to be played in four quarters merits serious consideration.  That would reduce the fatigue factor. Though it would allow those who go to the game just to get as full as state school hat racks to top up even more!

However, it is surely a better proposition than a 60 minute game.

When compared with soccer and AFL matches, it can hardly be said that rugby league matches are too long.  They are being lengthened not by the game time span, but the time video referees take and the time referees take to issue cautions etc.

I believe we have it just about right with an 80 minute game - but one which might be divided into four quarters.

The proposal to restrict coaches to using players in 25 of rounds of a 30 round competition is just not practical...but I don't think a 30 round premiership is either.

The area which simply has to be addressed is early season, season ending, injuries.

There are a couple of clubs every season who are effectively ruled out of the premiership race by injuries to key players.

Flexibility in salary cap arrangements would go some way to addressing that problem.

The proposals that Stephen Humphreys have advanced are clearly designed to maximise the attraction of the game to broadcasters.  He deserves credit for developing proposals, even if I for one don't like some of them!

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