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Friday, November 19, 2004

NRL 2005 Season Length 

Bit early perhaps to be bringing up the 2005 season but then again the news that they will stick with the 24 game, 26 week season plus four weeks of playoffs news has only just come out a few days ago.

I've mentioned in the past that a season of that length is not only too hard on the players, but it also produces sub standard performances and the defences show it. Here's a small part of what I wrote with the stats slightly updated after a series of final round massacres.
In the first half of the season there were many more close games than in the second half. Rounds 1-13 saw 48 of the 90 games decided by 12 or fewer points with the vast majority in the 0-6 point range. In the second half however there have been just 40 of the 90 games in that 0-12 range with more than half of them in the 7-12 point range. What's more the first half of the season yielded margins of 30 points or more on just 7 occasions, compared to the 20 in the second half...

To add to all this, on 40 occasions in 2004 (34 last year) the victorious team has scored 40 or more points.

Teams are more attacking these days than say they were a decade ago and the speed of the game combined with the referees cracking down on slowing the play the ball type tactics doesn't do defences any favours, but as it's the same for both teams the scorelines shouldn't be blowing out so much should they?

Look at the distribution of scores of 40+ over the seasons:
11 in the first half of last season (13 weeks) and 23 in the second half (13 weeks).
13 in the first half of this season and 27 in the second half of the season.
I've always wanted to blockquote myself!

Anyway, on with the 'fresh stuff'...

In the lead up to the NRL making their decision on next seasons length and draw there were a few comments from the likes of Newcastle Knights coach Michael Hagan.
Newcastle coach Michael Hagan is leading the chorus for the NRL season to be shortened but he's frustrated rugby leagues power brokers aren't listening.

Hagan wants the NRL season reduced from 26 rounds to 22 to ease the demands on elite players, whose bodies are still being punished in the Tri Nations tournament.

The Kangaroos' international schedule for 2004 doesn't end until December 1 when they play a tour match against the USA in Philadelphia.

Asked at Newcastle's first pre-season training session today whether the NRL season was too long, Hagan said: "Yeah probably, but we don't seem to be listening or taking much notice of the coaches or the players.

"People don't understand how hard this game is and what the players are putting themselves through every week. Twenty-two games would be fine."

A jaded Danny Buderus called for a 22-match schedule in the lead-up to Australia's opening Tri Nations clash with New Zealand in Auckland last month.

The Knights hooker was forced to carry a stress fracture of his foot and a nasty toe infection into the last month of the regular season as the Knights unsuccessfully tried to qualify for the finals series.

Buderus was inspirational but the mental and physical drain of a gruelling year left him in dire need of a break...
what's worse about it all is that there have even been whispers that the Tri-Nations may not go ahead next season.
The Tri-Nations tournament has been hailed as a re-birth of international rugby league, but there's no guarantee it will be played again next year.

The Australian Rugby League has an in-principle agreement to participate in the Tri-Nations over the next two seasons but chief executive Geoff Carr said they would be guided by the NRL clubs and Australian players.
So the ARL has said they will listen to their NRL clubs about whether they feel their players can cope. To me that's a load of horse shit for several reasons. Firstly why is the Australian Rugby League (responsible for running the game right across Australia and internationally) essentially being dictated to be the NRL (a domestic competition)?

Secondly the team that is hurt the most by having it's players playing on late in the year in their international side most years is the Warriors [check the bottom of the blog for the numbers]. But do you ever hear them calling for international games to be scrapped? No, in fact it's quite the opposite.

The remainder of my reasons can be found later.... (suspense is killing you right?)

The tournament, the brainchild of Australian coach Wayne Bennett, is certain to return in 2006 but may be replaced by an Ashes tour next year....

"It's certainly been a huge success," Carr said.

The tournament has attracted sell-out crowds and unprecedented interest in England, with the final between Australia and Great Britain in two weeks expected to be played before more than 35,000 spectators at Elland Road in Leeds.

The three competing nations and the international game are set to reap financial windfalls as a result.

The players and coaching staff of all sides have also praised the concept.
So please explain how rugby league is in a position to fuck over a "huge success" then Mr Carr?
However, the impact on the players and, as a result, the NRL clubs is always in the background.

"I can see it from both sides," Australian assistant Craig Bellamy, the Melbourne coach, said.

"It's very hard on the players. They have a long NRL season."

The easy answer would be to alternate the tournament between the northern and southern hemispheres but the ARL remains concerned with its financial viability if played in Australia.

"The issue is more than that," Carr said of the tournament's success.

"We always have to consider the welfare of the players and the position of the clubs. Can they keep doing this every year?

"If the players come away and say it's been too long and the clubs say we don't want to have our players playing until December, it may be better having it every two years.

"If they come away and say they're tired we'll have to listen to them. You can't kill the goose that lays the golden egg."
So international games may face the ax simply because a few teams lose a few players until early December? [test players by club is at listed at the end of this blog] The season doesn't start until around March so give them a bleeding rest until Christmas. I don't see why they are that crucial to what is essentially fitness and conditioning work that early in the season. And besides, the trip through America is basically a bloody holiday. They are playing a test against the United States which should be a massacre. On a side note, they were trying to get it played at Yankee Stadium but that all fell through when the ground owners wanted too much money.

Basically it once again comes down to the big boys in NRL circles deciding that their competition is more important than international football. This despite the fact that international games draw bigger crowds than your average NRL game EVERY SINGLE TIME for about.... oh, say.... ONE HUNDRED YEARS!!!

Great Britain and New Zealand both have ALL their players playing either NRL seasons or Super League seasons and they want to play so shut the fuck up, shorten your ruddy season, aim to get bigger crowds to the NRL and get on with some serious promotion of the game at international level. I'm not sure how they can get away with saying that the international season is too hard on the players, and the NRL season is too hard on the players, but we should leave our competition at a tortuous length and get rid of the more popular success story.

The NRL just had it's highest average crowds ever. Next year I would expect them to beat this years crowd mark again. If they actually cut the season to the suggested 22 weeks with 20 or 21 games, and thereby made it more cut throat, and more competitive then they will surely see the crowds increase markedly more than the measly 1% rises they have seen in the last 2 years. They'll also do State of Origin players a favour.

Then with increased gate receipts we may be able to realise all our dreams come true.... YAHOOOO!!!!

Anyway, here's the latest comments on the whole deal from Kangaroos captain Darren Lockyer

Since I have selective reading I'm only going to highlight this part from the rather lengthy article...
"I think I said it last year, if you want to do this (Tri Nations series) there has to be a reduction in the number of club games," said Lockyer.
Bracketed is players in the Kiwis...
Bulldogs: 4 (3)
Brisbane: 6
Sydney Roosters: 4 (1) + Morley with Great Britain
Warriors: 5
Penrith Panthers: 2 (3)
North Queensland: 2 (1)
Newcastle Knights: 2
St George Illawarra Dragons: 2
Melbourne Storm: 1 (1)
Parramatta Eels: 1 (1)
Sharks: 1 (1)
Raiders: (1)
and 2 teams have nobody in the test side.

So who the fuck should care about what those 2 teams plus arguably the Raiders, Sharks, Storm, Eels, Cowboys, Knights, and Dragons have to say?

Let's face it, the teams hardest hit by having players missing will STILL be sitting at the top of the table come next August. But no, we can't have these international games because um.... I forgot.

Right, I'm off to sit on the couch and annoy the wife.


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