It's been a huge year with so many fantastic games, but there's plenty of things I'd like to see fixed. Here's my top 15.
1. THE DRAW:
PROBLEM: So many fans including our own passionate Silvertails have consistently lamented the regular poor crowds. Our Rd 25 last home game of the season on a Friday night against a big rival like the Broncos should have attracted 17,000 but was only 12,000. Why? Because we had a big game against Newcastle on a sunny Sunday afternoon just 5 days earlier. If dad takes the kids on Sunday it's pretty obvious he's struggling to do it again 5 days later.
SOLUTION: The fixed draw at the beginning of the season is coming and about time, but we also need every team to play home and away games on evenly rotated consecutive weeks so that fans can plan and budget attending games.
2. WEEKEND GAME TIMES:
PROBLEM: The greatest footy code is at it's greatest in the day time, yet there's only 2/8 day time games per week.
SOLUTION: The NRL flex some muscle and take ownership of it's own game. The commission needs to say yes you can pay 2 gazlllion dollars for the rights to televise the game, but it's our game, and these are the times it runs. Fri 7.30pm x 2; Sat 3.30pm; Sat 5.30pm; Sat 7.30pm; Sun 12.00pm (weighted to NZ or colder venues such as Canberra, Melbourne); Sun 2.00pm, Sun 3.00pm. That's 4 night games and 4 day games EVERY weekend and yep no MNF. Footy is about the weekend. Monday is about the wrap up, the table, the water cooler chats and for networks the review programs. Note how the AFL get this stuff right.
3. GRAND FINAL GAME TIME:
PROBLEM: We all know the problem.
SOLUTION: 3.00pm Grand final. No ifs, no buts, no arguments. Restore tradition for all fans, families and kids. Let the winning team get back to their club at a proper hour not midnight. Again notice how the AFL absolutely refuse to change? We must be the same. With respect to David Gyngell there's plenty of commercial dollars to be made pre game, half time and post game on GF day. Not to mention the endless plugs for Underbelly, The Voice etc.
4. GOLDEN POINT:
PROBLEM: It's a field goal farce rewarding the absolute lottery of getting the ball first and potting an instant field goal.
SOLUTION: Must be changed to 'Golden Period'. A minimum 10 mins of extra time where the final score after that time decides the game whether it's a field goal, a penalty, or hopefully a try. In normal rd's a tied game at conclusion of 'Golden Period' is a 1 pt draw (same as now) and in semi's a tied game after 'Golden Period' simply continues until a result (again same as now). Teams in 'Golden Period' also receive an additional 4 interchanges, completely removing the attrition argument. 'Golden Period' means the refs will keep a normal 10 metres and not be scared to blow a sudden game deciding penalty.
5. CAPTAIN'S CHALLENGE:
PROBLEM: The Cowboys blatantly strip the ball from Taufua but the refs miss it and rule a loose carry and scrum. The Cowboys win the scrum and score a vital try, (although they go on to completely ignore this and whinge like girls about the hand of Foran try, but that's another story).
SOLUTION: Same scenario as tennis which completely and irreversibly fixed the sport. Each team gets two INCORRECT captain's challenges per half. That means, just like tennis, if you get them right you can keep challenging, but if you get two challenges wrong per half you have no more challenges left. The argument that there will be way too many challenges taking up time is a non argument. If you get two wrong that's it no more, so clearly the captain's are only going to use their precious two challenges when they really need them! In our Cowboys semi Lyon would have immediately signalled a captain's challenge on the Taufua strip, and the video ref would have pressed the button CHALLENGE WON, PENALTY. Problem solved. If the captain is wrong the screen says CHALLENGE LOST, SCRUM and the ref announces "Manly now has one challenge left" or "Manly has no challenges left". Completely removes the game changing errors.
6. VIDEO REF HIRING POLICY:
PROBLEM: Clearly so painfully consistently making the wrong decisions. Why? Because aside from rules confusion they don't read or have a feel for the game. Gus knows it, Sterlo knows it, we all know it.
SOLUTION: Every single video ref must be an ex player with a sound knowledge and a smart football brain. Not every retired player can be a commentator, there's a stack of smart ex player brains out there who could earn a dollar doing one match a weekend in the video box. Once we have more Paul Mellor's and remove the Steve Clark's we'll be fine.
7. VIDEO REF AUTHORITY:
PROBLEM: Again the inconsistency pain. There's way too many times the video ref sees errors we all see but is powerless to act. An undetected strip, an offside, a forward pass, foul play.
SOLUTION: The easiest place to see everything is above the game in a box with video replay on an HD screen. The video ref's must have more power to call problems and instantly alert the refs. That undetected strip that makes us all want to kick the tv down the street could be detected by the video ref and ruled on quickly.
8. THE TWO REF'S:
PROBLEM: The two refs are hunting in packs looking for trouble (just go to a game and listen to them for 80 mins on Sports Ears and all you hear is "I've got Watmough yep I'm gonna penalise him"). This siege mentality has to go.
SOLUTION: Sure keep the 2 refs but only one is in charge who runs the game, blows penalties etc and the other is simply the pocket ref providing a second set of eyes to alert the main ref. Archer showed how that worked in the Grand Final by clearly being the leading ref.
9. BENEFIT OF DOUBT TRIES:
PROBLEM: We all know the problem.
SOLUTION: Simply reverse the rule, the benefit goes to the defending team. If in doubt, no try. Fair for all and no ridiculous 'how did they award that' match deciding tries.
10. THE JUDICIARY:
PROBLEM: Like the refs also so painfully inaccurate and inconsistent. Tony Williams recklessly swings a guy to the ground and gets 7 weeks. Inglis recklessly elbows a guy to the ground (knocking him into Disneyland to boot) and gets 3 weeks. Minichello recklessly attacks the head of a player (twice in the same play) and gets zero weeks.
SOLUTION: Consistency, consistency, consistency. Williams should have got 4 weeks maximum, Inglis about the same, and hey Minichello about the same! Easy. Imagine if the judiciary viewed the later two without knowing their identity. No Inglis super star protection for what was a vicious elbow (frankly I reckon the worst this season by a mile), no Mini's a nice guy benefit, just a real judgement based on the real action. Travis Burns is hardly a clean skin but you can't help sympathising with him.
11. CONCUSSION RULE:
PROBLEM: Players suffering knock out concussions backing up the next week due to desperate clubs (ie Dean Young, Jamie Buhrer etc). Obviously very dangerous to both short and long term health.
SOLUTION: Any player concussed must sit out minimum 2 weeks. Plus any player concussed during a game can be replaced by an 'emergency 18th man'. All teams warm up with an 18th man these days anyway so that player would simply stay on the bench as the emergency.
12. KICKING DEAD RULE CHANGE:
PROBLEM: Kicking dead to eliminate dangerous fullbacks (Slater, Stewart, Barba etc) was mind numbingly negative this year.
SOLUTION: If you kick the ball dead from outside the 40 it's a 30 metre tap re start. Make the attacking team think twice about dead kicks and give the defending team a fairer result if they do.
13. 40/20 RULE CHANGE:
PROBLEM: Only one 'zone' on the field rewards 40 metre kicks (zone 4 below).
SOLUTION: If you kick the ball 40 metres from any zone on the field you win the 40/20 style scrum feed. Zone 1: inside your 10m to outside the 50m (half way). Zone 2: inside your 20m to outside their 40m; Zone 3: inside your 30m to outside their 30m; Zone 4: inside your 40m to outside their 20m (the current 40/20); Zone 5: inside the 50m (half way) to outside their 10m. How exciting would Zone 5 be! If you've got the guts to kick it from inside the half way line and make touch inside their 10 it's a great reward but if it travels too long over the dead ball line well of course that's now a 30 metre drop out. Like the current 40/20 any on field ref uncertainty simply means a quick video ref check.
14: ORIGIN DEAD RUBBERS:
PROBLEM: There is nothing more useless than a game that means absolutely nothing. Worse still the players only get more bashed, fatigued and injured. Not funny when it's one of your clubs stars who then misses 6 weeks.
SOLUTION: Dead rubbers are cancelled. If it's 2-0 give the winner the trophy at the euphoric moment of victory after game 2. Not 3 weeks later after a dead 3rd rubber. To all the cries that we lose a big game, what about the sponsors and ratings etc, please, the season has 26 rounds rds, a rep weekend, at least 2 origins, and 4 weeks of playoffs.
NOTE: The other origin problem is the age old argument about Wednesdays v stand alone weekends. I can't see a solution. The City v Country/Test weekend stand alone weekend is a great idea but can't see how we can do it for the whole origin period. We've tried Sunday night origin's and they were crap. Leave as is and give all teams at least one pre origin bye.
15: HOME VENUES IN WEEK 1 PLAYOFFS:
PROBLEM: You simply can't have a situation where some do and some don't. ie Canberra (6th) got a home semi but had we'd qualified for a home semi (ie coming 1st, 2nd, 5th or 6th) we would not have got a Brookie game.
SOLUTION: The week 1 home venues (teams 1&2 in top 4; teams 5&6 in bottom 4) must play their semi on their home ground venues regardless of the club. That rewards Brookie, Wollongong, Campbelltown etc and gives those teams an even truly home venue. Sure the SFS is a great footy ground but it doesn't add on any more Manly numbers for a week 1 semi.
These are just my humble opinions. If I could only have 3 of these I'd take the new weekend games times, 'Golden Point' and the 3pm Grand Final, but really I think all 15 are pretty compelling cases. I'm sure a lot of people won't agree with scrapping Origin dead rubbers but I just hate meaningless games.
There's no doubt many other issues including the stripping rule, the ruck, the wrestle, the obstruction and so on, all ideas welcomed.
Should the leaping lottery of tries from kicks landing in goal on the full only be 4 points with no conversion?
Maybe bring the interchange down to a total of 8 with just 4 per half that are non accumulative? (ie if you only use 2 in the first half you still only have 4 in 2nd half)
Perhaps the NRL should take a few more games to the country, and hey even make the Broncos play a day game, (or do they have sunlight problems?)
Reward 10 year club loyalty with full salary cap exemption, which means our Beaver would now easily hold the record of most games.
One thing though please let's leave the scrums as they are. Imagine losing the one and only chance we have to see back lines attack with so many great tries resulting. As much as it pains me to say Slaters try from the scrum in the semi against us was breathtaking.
As a final footnote I had the pleasure of running into our boys enjoying a great Mad Monday at a quiet little pub in their fancy dress and they were exceptionally well behaved, gracious and friendly to not only the pub staff, but to the lucky few of us who happened to be there, have a chat and grab a photo.
Roll on summer and look forward to season 2013. Only 23 weeks to go.