Off the Wall

The 2010 season ended mercifully, and rather unhappily, at around 9.10PM (real time) at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.

Today, also in Brisbane, the 2011 season will effectively be launched when the Indigenous All Stars for the match against the NRL All Stars on 12 February next - three months from now!

If anyone needed evidence that we have a season far too long that surely provides it.

Three days after the season ends we launch the next season!

But the best evidence is surely to be found in the performance of the Kangaroos, and the referee and touch judges, last Saturday night.

Let me take you back two weeks exactly - Melbourne Cup Day. If you backed a horse that finished in the second half of the field there were probably two reasons for it. Either your horse "could not run the distance" or its campaign had gone one race too long.

The Kangaroos looked like the latter on Saturday night - and so did Tony Archer and his "sideline officials".

Hopefully, in a matter of weeks, the "independent commission" to run the game will be in place.

It will have a full in-tray when it starts. The length and structure of the season, including the premiership and representative seasons, must be close to the top of the pile.

Getting the balance right will not be easy. The premiership is the foundation on which the season is built, Origin is a major money spinner and trounces the other codes when it comes to viewing audiences, and the international section of the season needs to be nurtured.

Saturday night will do the game in New Zealand enormous good. The next targets must be PNG and England.

Stand alone Origin weekends would not benefit representative players.

Shortening the premiership would cut club revenues...and it would make it harder to maximise television revenues.

What the independent commission should do is promote and facilitate a wide ranging debate on the structure of the season - a wide ranging debate not the stage managed, handpicked ones the NRL has been running in recent years.

The game on Saturday night drew a crowd of around 35,000 - very respectable by recent international standards. It also rated well on Nine in Sydney and Brisbane.

But is the season now so long, year in year out, that it is taking an unjustified toll on players and officials?

That is a question that the incoming administrators ought to be forthright in addressing without delay!

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