Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
4 days ago
That time of year again - where player fatigue is an issue and the representative calendar is the hot topic. Interesting to read Cameron Smith's comments recently about shortening the season and scheduling Origin matches on a stand alone weekend.
Perhaps we go one step further. Perhaps we include a bigger representative 'month' that showcases country/ international rugby league, as well as highlighting the NRL and includes the origin series played over 3 consecutive Monday Nights? Similar to soccer's approach to World Cup qualifying, or the NBA's approach to its midyear 'All Star' match. The competition proper simply shuts down and to avoid having too many players with 3 weeks off, we incorporate some more games into a celebration of league including some old traditions and some new, successful initiatives.
This suggestion also responds to the issue of a season too long and subsequent meaningless matches at the beginning of the year. Many league supporters know that teams only need to start winning around June to make the top 8 and this takes away from some performances in early rounds. Shorten the season and every match will mean something - bigger crowds will come. Stop the season during origin and you won't have matches played with a skeleton 17 that barely resembles the NRLs best players, and you minimise player burnout.
So - to my suggestion. The NRL shuts down on a Sunday afternoon, origin players are selected and go into camp and a 3 week festival of football begins.
Friday Night - Tonga v Samoa
What a spectacle in 2009 during the Rugby League World Cup!! A passionate game of football attended by a huge crowd at Penrith Stadium. This was an instant success and a great advertisement for the islander population of our great game. Marketed properly it could continue as a great tradition.
Saturday Night - City v Country
Play this game as a genuine showpiece of young talent in the NRL, but also use it to gauge players' performance against the best in NSW. This still makes it an origin trial - but for future series or possibly for games 2 and 3 of the series. If not an origin selection trial, this match still has a link to history and will help keep country rugby league alive.
Monday Night - Origin 1
Friday Night - Indigenous All Stars v New Zealand.
This gives both teams more time together as preparation for their respective 'other' matches. The Indigenous team now have the February All-Star' game as a highlight, and NZ will use this match as a warm up to a possible post origin series (or one off test) or end of year tri nations, which probably should be held every 2 or 3 years - not every year. Admittedly, the Indigenous team would be missing troops on origin duty, but this puts more onus on development. A great opportunity for young talent to learn at a higher level and a good earner for a worthy charity. This match could also be moved to Saturday or Sunday to accommodate the large number of interstate and rural league fans in attendance.
Saturday Day/Night - Rugby League 7s tournament
With a number of players who could be 'on holidays' during this month, include them in the 7s and bring back an entertaining concept. Marketed well, this could be a highlight. That brings us to a relevant issue. The NRL is currently owned and marketed by a media company. When this finally changes, the successful marketing of a representative