Off the Wall

Sunday's Grand Final is a sell out - the first time in recent years it has been a sell out early in Grand Final week.

That is good news for the NRL and the game. It also helps confirm the pre-eminent position of the Grand Final in the rugby league calendar.

The argument that State of Origin is more important than the Grand Final has to be rejected. But it is true that media interest in State of Origin, and arguably public interest, has had an impact on the grand final, and the premiership generally.

It is not just in recent years that the status of the Grand Final has been challenged in some quarters.

And it is not the first time its status has been challenged or undermined. When it became a night time fixture it was apparent that television dictated timing, not the fans, and especially fans who for years made the Grand Final a great event in their club, pub or home, with the backyard barbeque and so on.

As a reader rightly pointed out, the 1978 grand final replay was held on a Tuesday afternoon, and attracted a poor crowd, and it was held then because the Kangaroos had to leave for the UK before the following weekend!

That was an appalling decision by the then ARL/NSWRL administration - but it was a reflection of the state of mind of administrators, and many players, at the time.

We should not underestimate how important wearing the green and gold meant then, and still means today. Many players regard it as the highest individual honour they can attain in the game - others rate Origin representation as highly or almost as highly.

But the whole basis of our game is the NRL premiership - supported by the Toyota Cup premiership and so on.

The Grand Final always deserves to be a sell out.  And it deserves to be shown live nationwide.

And it MUST always be held in Sydney.

The idea of playing the grand final in Brisbane or even Melbourne was floated again this year by a money grabbing ARL. It should not have taken a lucrative deal with the NSW State Government to secure Sydney as the home of the Grand Final.

That is why I am very happy that fans have given Sunday night's Grand Final - and a Sydney Grand Final - a resounding vote of confidence.

Now that Kangaroos tours no longer happen on a regular basis, we have to hope one of the first tasks the Independent Commission will undertake is to review the length of the season, and the pressure it puts on players.

For a player in the Grand Final who gets selected in the Four Nations Kangaroos team - such as Nate Myles, Darius Boyd and a few more of their team mates are likely to be - then their season will have started with  trials in early February, and won't end until the Four Nations series concludes in November.

It is OK if that happens every four years or so - as occurred when there were scheduled Kangaroos tours every year...but we now seem to have end of season international matches annually.

The Grand Final should generally be that - the Grand Final, of the premiership, and the season.

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