If I was Dave Smith- How to fix the NRL

Gargy Here; This site is typically an NFL betting blog/Pod cast that a mate and I use during the NFL season, however the NRL is my favourite sport and I feel the NRL could learn so many lessons from the NFL with regards to how to run a professional sport, so here is my take on what problems the NRL has and what it needs to address to fix it-

  1. Free Agency. Ok full disclose I am a Manly Fan and the timing of this point given the all the DCE and Foran stuff is questionable and could be perceived as sour grapes- it isn’t. I don’t like the fact Merrin is leaving the Dragons, I didn’t like it when James Maloney left the warriors and still played out the season for the Warriors. Now please note I am not criticizing the players, they are doing what the governing body allows them to do, but it needs fixing.
  • Free agency should open on the Thursday after the grand Final in the first week of October; no player should be able to sign with another club before then. Some of the excuses I hear why this is a bad idea include; players need time to move house, find new schools for the kids, it’s not enough time for the clubs to start planning or clubs will sign players in secret anyway, so here I will present my counter arguments
  • The new house/School argument. What happens in the real world when someone moves interstate for a new job? Typically they get put in an apartment or hotel for the first 4-8 weeks to find accommodation to help with the relocation. NRL players should be no different.
  • Kids/schools argument- How many NRL actually have kids and what is the actual percentage? It’s a young man’s game I would hazard a guess and say it’s fewer than 15%? Pre-season starts in the first week of November and as mentioned above, the player can move into the hotel in his new area whilst the wife and kids finish school until December and at which time when school finishes for the year the wife and kids join the NRL player. They can enrol the kids at the new school, so that they can start at their new school in the January.
  • Not enough planning? Give me a break, if a club cannot sign someone in the early October and not put together a pre-season fitness program for that player they are in the wrong industry, what’s next?
  • They will do it anyway. Anyone remember when Glen Hall left the bulldogs and signed with souths on the 1st of July in the early 2000’s- absolute malarkey.! The old rule was no signings before 1 July and all the deals were done in the background. Well to counter “the its going to happen anyway argument” how about any club found to be negotiating before free agency starts is hit with a fine of $500k and any manage caught shopping their players around before free agency will lose their NRL accreditation. Very harsh penalties to deter clubs from breaking the rules.

A couple of the benefits with making a free agency period-

  • If a player does leave their current club, it’s in the off season and much easier for the fans to swallow
  • It will stop the ‘DCE type tours’ which is a terrible look for the game and plays out in the media in season.
  • It gives the NRL an extra week or two of headlines in the media in the off season, and typically the only headlines in the offseason is poor player behaviour, so it will be a nice change.
  • For clubs who didn’t make the semi-finals it gives them something to look forward to without waiting for a ball to be kicked off in March.

2. Media Access the NRL provides each club with a $7.1M grant, I believe the NRL needs to insert a few clauses to go with the grant whereby if clubs cannot meet a few agreed points their grant decreases; availability to media is one of those criteria points. All players in the top 25 must be available to talk with the media every week, no media bans/hiding players, if they are in the top 25 they are open to everyone and they have to be available to speak with the media for at least …say 5 minutes each week (no beastmode ‘”I’m here so I don’t get fined” type answers). When players and coaches do with meet the media no Darius Boyd type “yes” /“no answers or the NRL will fine the club $50k and also the player.

The broadcasters money almost funds the game, therefore if they want a camera in the dressing room to see the coach talking- no covering it up, show the viewers what happens inside the dressing sheds. The NFL had access to Pete Carroll during the last minute of play during the superbowl and heard exactly what he was saying to his fellow coaches and players, can you imagine Des Hasler or Geoff Toovey allowing that type of access? NO CHANCE. It was amazing to hear what instructions he was giving in the biggest game of the season. The fans want to see and hear what the coaches say when their teams are under immense pressure when the game is on the line- give them access to it, wire up the coaches, have cameras in the coaching boxes. It all helps to sell the game and get the fans more involved.

3a State of origin Schedule. This is a tough one and very hard to come up with a solution that suits everyone, there are several options, including-

  • Continue the three week cycle on a Wednesday night. It’s a ratings bonanza for Channel 9 to have it on midweek and rates close to 4 million viewers each game, I personally feel the 8 or 9 weeks that SOO is on, is too disruptive to the competition and often the games played before/after SOO are often really poor standard. Plus it makes the competition very unfair as the difference with playing say the Storm in the first 8 weeks, is very different to playing them whilst origin is on.
  • Continue every 3 weeks on but switch to a Monday night, this would give the elite players an additional 48 hours to recover and be available for the clubs. Personally I don’t think this suits the broadcaster and the 2 days doesn’t really help the players, either.
  • Craig Bellamy proposed Origin is structured so that the first game is played on a Wednesday, then 10 days rest and game 2 is played on the following Sunday and then another 10 days rest and then a final game on the Wednesday. This does have merit however I think unless they reduce the number of games (which isn’t a good option) the season simply becomes too long. Plus it isn’t ideal to stop the comp for 3 weekends without footy, so I am proposing
  • SOO to be played within 21 days on consecutive Wednesday nights and over this time there will be only two weekends with no football. There would be some teams who have a Bye on the weekend before the first Origin game and some teams would also have a bye at the end of the series. I would scrap the Anzac test and City vs Country weekend (where there is no club football between round 8 and 9), I would also reduce the 2 x bye’s team receive to one, (thus this is where we keep each club with 24 games and don’t make the season any longer) and therefore the season would start and finish on the same weekends. The SOO coaches could name squads with 23 players for the series. Under my schedule Round 14 would commence on Friday 5th (round 13 for the NRL) and there would only be 5 games played, SOO 1 would be on Wednesday 10thof June,  game 2 on the 17th of June with game 3 being played the 24th of June. Round 15 of the NRL would be commencing on Friday the 26th of June and there would only be 5 games for this round, with 6 teams having a BYE. Of the remaining four teams to have their bye’s, two have them in round 16 and two in round 13. I feel the biggest problem with my schedule is the fact the elite players won’t get a break and if injury free could play 29 straight games every weekend which is extremely taxing on their bodies. However it is up to the clubs to manage their players and not allow them to burn out.

3b* Expansion and creation of two conferences

  • It is a rip off of the NFL and NBA where there are conferences in place, but I believe the competition would work best with 20 teams and 4 conferences with 5 teams in each conference. Obviously this is a number of years away but it could work where traditional rivals in the same conference play at home and away and once against all other teams for a total of 23 games. 11 home game, 12 away games as all teams would be required to play a game in the bush- Mackay/Tamworth/Wagga etc..So as an example- Souths, St George, Roosters, Bulldogs and Wests Tigers could be in a one conference and by grouping tradition rivals particularly the Sydney teams you would get more “block buster type games” along the lines of Manly v Parra or Roosters vs Rabbitohs. Its also a no brainer for the 4 or 5 Queensland team to play each other every year at home and away.  Re expansion I would bring in Perth, a second Brisbane team, NZ would get a second team and I unsure of the 20th team; PNG or Central Queensland would probably be preferred over the Central Coast or Adelaide where I think we have missed the boat.

4. Rule changes. I want less stoppages and more excitement and I would propose the following-rule changes-

– The game should be played over 2 x 35 minute halves

– When the ball rolls out of the field of play or is grounded in goals the clock stops until play resumes

– When a try is scored the clock does not re-start until the kick off.

– I think there should only be 8 interchanges; however an under 20’s player is available to be an emergency replacement when a player is the recipient of foul play and cannot return to the field and this replacement does not count towards the 8 interchanges

5. Last point Two players in each NRL squad should be able to pay an unlimited amount of money and their salaries do not count towards the salary cap. The NRL cannot continue to lose players like Hayne, Williams & Burgess- and while these guys all had different reasons for leaving the NRL, but they are superstars, the game needs superstars. It also might see superstars from other sports joining the NRL

One comment on “If I was Dave Smith- How to fix the NRL

  1. ive watched a few games when i was down there… fun to watch. but hard to write haikus!

    i’ve gotta get you guys into lacrosse… its springtime here in the states!

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