My Suggestions to Improve Rugby League

INTERNATIONAL LEVEL

• Introduce a 4 year cycle for the international season:

Year 1 – Four Nations
Year 2 – Kangaroo tour to GB and France / Lions tour to AUS & NZ
Year 3 – Four Nations
Year 4 – World Cup

A Kangaroo tour could be held every 8th year including tests against PNG and USA on route with about 6 or more games against Super League clubs / Wales / Scotland / Ireland.

Alternately the 4 year cycle could be:

Year 1 – Four Nations (Southern Hemisphere)
Year 2 – Kangaroo tour to GB and France (inc games against Wales, Scotland & Ireland)
Year 3 – Lions tour to AUS & NZ (October Test against NZ before we play GB)
Year 4 – World Cup

• Expansion of World Club Series to a 2 round competition over 2 weekends involving top 4 teams from NRL and top 4 teams from UK Super League.

Two NRL teams to the UK and two UK Super League teams to Australia. Teams placed 1 and 4 from each in comp play in one country and teams 2 and 3 in the other.

Each of the 8 teams would be involved in 4 games on one weekend and 4 games on the next weekend. The winner would be the team who wins both their games with the best for and against. The last game in the series would be the World Club Challenge which should alternate each year between being held in Australia and the UK.

NRL LEVEL

• Expand the competition to 18 teams with a second Brisbane team and a Perth team. Alternate between the Broncos and second Brisbane team for the Friday night TV slot (or maybe 60/40 to the Broncos) with most of the non-Friday night Brisbane games played on Sunday afternoons. This would result in a NRL game in Brisbane every week and a Sunday game in Brisbane every fortnight.

A Perth team would open up the possibility of two live Friday night games on some weekends due to the time difference. If there is a Perth team it would be great if they could take at least a couple of their home games to Adelaide each year. Perhaps a financial incentive from the NRL might encourage them to do this.

• Implement Phil Rothfield’s two conference idea if/when there is 18 teams. Have a Sydney conference and a National conference. Sydney clubs play each other twice and National conference clubs once. National conference clubs play each other twice and Sydney clubs once. This idea promotes more Sydney derbies and more non-Sydney derbies (eg. Broncos v Cowboys). Top four from each conference go into the finals.

• If the above-mentioned international cyle is implemented I don’t see any need to persist with a mid-season test match against New Zealand given how often we play the Kiwis in the Four Nations and World Cup. That weekend could be used to hold the Nines tournament or the Indigenous game.

• If the Indigenous game continues to be held, contest the game with different opposition each year. Such different opposition could include NZ Maori (recall their classic game during the 2008 World Cup), Polynesian All Stars (Tonga, Samoa, Cook Islands) and Melanesian / South Sea All Stars (PNG, Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands).

• Introduce at least 2 stand alone State of Origin weekends.

• When the new Townsville stadium is completed reward the faithful fans of North Queensland with a State of Origin game. Remember Townsville is a lot further from Brisbane than Sydney so perenially it has been very difficult for them to go to Origin games.

• Introduce a Trans-Tasman Challenge game at the end of the season between the winners of the State of Origin and a New Zealand test team.

QLD CUP LEVEL

• Introduce a salary cap and provide a grant to each club to the equivalent of the salary cap. Returning the U20’s competition back to state competitions rather than the current national Holden Cup could provide savings towards such a grant.

• Introduce a short 4 round pre-season competition at the start of the season. It could have 4 pools of teams from the QLD and NSW statewide competitions plus WA, SA, VIC, NT and PNG and representative NSW and QLD country teams from areas not represented in the statewide competitions (eg. Toowoomba, Wide Bay, NSW Country divisional teams) similar to the old Amco Cup.

Like the old Woolies pre-season competition it could be played at the same time with the same number of rounds. Those 4 rounds could be followed by semi-finals involving the top teams from each of the 4 pools and then the final.

Like the old State League, it could help develop areas right across Australia (and even the Pacific) not currently involved in the statewide competitions just like the State League did for QLD country areas.

• Once a month play the Queensland Cup match of the day as the main curtain-raiser to the Sunday NRL game in Brisbane. Ensure the game is promoted eg. If the Broncos have a TV commercial for that Sunday game ensure a few seconds at the end are reserved to promote the Qld Cup curtain raiser.

• Each year play a Heritage round with a double-header at the Exhibition Ground (eg. Souths v Norths & Easts v Redcliffe) with the teams playing in heritage jerseys. Before the Qld Cup double header there could also be a BRL (one grade lower) game between Valleys and Wests. Perhaps in between as part of the entertainment have a short Northside v Southside touch football game between past BRL players and/or kicking competition between a couple of old great goalkickers.

• Invest in TV commercials to not only promote the Queensland Cup telecast but promote the other Queensland Cup games each round in Brisbane encouraging people to go to the games.

PROMOTING THE GAME IN THE USA

• Every few years take either a World Club Series or a Four Nations tournament to the USA.

The World Club Series would be perfect for such promotion with the four time zones in the USA. On each of the two weekends the first game could start at 5pm on a Saturday night on the east coast (eg. New York). After it finishes the next game would start in the central time zone at 6pm (7pm on east coast) in another big city like Chicago. The next game would start at 7pm Mountain time zone in somewhere like Dallas followed by the last game on the West Coast starting in Los Angeles at 8pm.

Saturday from 5pm (eastern time) to 10pm (west coast time) equates to 8 hours straight of the best of the NRL teams verses the best UK teams from Sunday 8am to 4pm in Brisbane and 7am to 3pm in Sydney. And that could happen over two weekends based on the abovementioned World Club Series idea. Surely that would be worth a lot of TV broadcasting revenue!
• The USA Tomahawks should be encouraged to set up an annual international game against France and/or Ireland. Such internationals would be ideal to have as the main curtain-raiser before Four Nations games if the Four Nations were to be played in the USA. Over four weekends of Four Nations they could play Canada, Jamaica, Ireland and France.

• Assist the USA RL to promote rugby league in high schools and colleges in the USA as people are far more likely to play rugby league if they have had a taste of it being offered in high school or college.

RULE CHANGES

• Uncontested scrums are a blight on the game, especially when they get re-fed which strangely seems to happen a lot. They are the elephant in the room no one seems to want to talk about. Frank Hyde called our modern uncontested scrums just a rest for the forwards and it is an insult to the intelligence seeing balls fed between the feet of the loose head prop and never going near the hooker (who’s position should be renamed to dummy half if we are going to persist with uncontested scrums). Even a lineout wouldn’t insult the intelligence and achieve the two aims of our uncontested scrums – a rest for the forwards and tie up the forwards in one place to give more room briefly for the backs to attack with the ball.

Much of the problem with the old contested scrums was that the pushing occurred at the same time as the scrum was being bound. Rugby union has addressed this issue quite well with its touch-pause-engage system. Scrums should be bound first before there is any pushing. The ref can then signal to start pushing and signal for the halfback to feed the scrum. A case could even be put forward for the ref to feed the scrum just as the umpire does the throw up in basketball and throw in with Aussie Rules.

I would prefer to see a return of contested scrums where the defending team gets one advantage (feed or loose head) and the non-offending team gets the other advantage like in the old days and the hookers are the only players who can strike for and contest the ball.

• While I am reasonably happy with the current points system in the game I think a better system worth trying is to have 5 points for a try and 2 points for penalty goals, conversions and field goals.

• For finals and Origin deciders if the scores are level at full time have 10 minutes each way of golden try. First try wins the game. If there are no tries in that 20 minute period then revert to golden point until the deadlock is broken.

• A hybrid league/union game perhaps between the Kangaroos and the Wallabies might be a great idea for an exhibition game to raise funds for charity. My suggested rules for such a hybrid game that I would call Rugby 13 would be:

– 5 points for a try
– 2 points for a field goal
– 2 points for a penalty goal or conversion
– 13 players per side
– Lineouts when ball goes into touch
– 4 tackles with play the ball rather than rucks and mauls
– Marker can strike for the ball and only one marker
– 5 metres back in defence (Concession to union players who don’t have as much stamina 😉
– Defending team gets loose head and non-offending team gets feed in scrums
– Only hookers not props can strike for the ball and scrums are packed as per touch-pause-engage-feed system used by union