It's that time of year again. No, not Origin time.
I'm referring to the time when Craig Bellamy complains about the scheduling of Origin and uses his lack of star players to argue for stand-alone rep weekends.
Everyone rightfully goes after Bellamy and his comments and says "well my team has had to do without player(s) as well."
But Bellamy does raise a very valid point and one I have publicly championed in the past. The NRL is the most prolific club competition in the Rugby League World. This is a power that they should use to help promote the game and spread it further.
In order for this to happen though, the NRL season needs to be shortened. Currently it is carried out over 27 weeks, each team playing 24 games, having 2 byes each and an extra week off for the Trans-Tasman test.
I suggest the removal of bye rounds. Cut the season down to 22 games per side. Three stand-alone weeks for Origin and one stand-alone week for the Trans-Tasman match. That saves a week and gives every team 4 weeks off per year. More importantly, it allows all teams to play their full strength side every week.
The rep weekends could be used to have Test matches played between Pacific Island test sides, in a tri series. The winner could play the victor of a European Cup competition to determine the fourth team in the 4 Nations tournament at the end of the year.
It could also be used to televise a women's Rugby League test match. Games showcasing talent in rural Australia could also be played. Matches between other states is another option. Matches between clubs hoping to be in an expanded NRL could also be played.
There are so many great options available and so many games could be played, that fans would not be left wanting for content. The chance to see new teams and other players not in the NRL competing could be a huge drawcard.
Sadly though, it seems the NRL is content with the parameters it has erected around itself. So we'll all just go back to bagging old Bellyache instead…