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International League needs more attention

RoosTah

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Hey guys, I posted this on 'The Roar' the other day. Have a look and let me know what you think:


This weekend is “rep week” in rugby league. We have a much-maligned trans-Tasman Test, followed by an irrelevant ‘city versus country’ match and a qualifying match where Samoa play Fiji for a spot in the four nations.

So what is the mood like in the lead up to this seemingly important week? Steve Mascord summed it up in theSydney Morning Herald by suggesting we not only cancel rep week, but abandon Kangaroos Tests altogether.

He suggested we treat them like the NBA’s USA ‘Dream Team’; a side that really only plays to boost the profile of the sport in developing markets. Mascord is at least partly right here. Rep week is an unnecessary break in momentum at a point when the NRL was just beginning to gather a head of steam.

I was at the Roosters versus Dragons Anzac Day clash – one of three matches on Friday either sold out or close to it – and the entire day was brilliant. From the lead-up with the Anzac Day ceremony, to the atmosphere at the Sydney Football Stadium and the on-field action (from a Roosters perspective at least). It was just what the NRL needed after a slow start to the season, and definitely left most of us at the match hungry for more days like it. So why follow such a meaningful weekend with such a meaningless one?

It simply doesn’t make sense, either from club perspective or a representative one. So I agree with Mascord on this count; we should get rid of rep week altogether, as it serves no purpose where it is and just cuts the season up.

That said, I don’t agree with him on the Kangaroos.

It’s popular to bag international rugby league as not being competitive and argue that Origin is where it’s at, but has anyone looked at the winners tables lately? Because last time I checked Queensland hasn’t lost a series since 2005.

Compared to that, the “credibility” of international league suddenly looks a lot less questionable. With a World Cup victory, and two Four Nations/Tri Nations ***les to their names since 2005, the Kiwis now have had a more competitive rivalry with the Kangaroos than the Blues have had with Queensland. Shocking, but true.

So what’s the problem with international league if it’s arguably more competitive than the coveted Origin series? Scheduling. This mid-year Test is played at a time that gives the Kiwis a clear handicap, and it’s not like they need one.

In addition, the match comes out of nowhere. The NRL season is just starting to warm up, and all of a sudden there’s this Test that interrupts everything. It’s very poorly thought out from a marketing perspective.
Ideally, the rugby league calendar ought to build up towards the representative season. The NRL should run uninterrupted until it’s completion, and then be followed by a State of Origin series, with the year culminating in a Tri Nations series (no Four Nations, but I’ll get to that). The year is a little crowded as it is, so how do we achieve that and still have a decent off season?

First, we cut the NRL to 24 rounds and start it at the very end of February/beginning of March, so that it finishes in early September. After the grand final, there should be a two-week break and then the Origin series should begin, played out on successive weekends. So none of this dislocated nonsense where it takes six weeks to play three games; just three weeks in a row of back to back Origin.

Now, on the last week of Origin you start the international season, the centrepiece of which should be the Tri Nations. As I said above, the Four Nations should be scrapped. Why? Because it’s trying to do something that is really the role of the Rugby League World Cup; give small nations exposure to the big stage. That’s fine for a World Cup, but having France or Fiji in a Four Nations tournament makes no sense, as all they do is cop wall-to-wall beatings.

To counter this, there should be a second-tier tournament concurrent with the Tri Nations made up of the developing nations. You could have it involve France, Papua New Guinea, and the PI nations in a Five Nations league. That would be far more suitable to developing interest in the game in new markets than having one lower tier team in a Four Nations cop 50-plus score lines for a month.

Getting back to the Tri Nations, the currently preferred model of playing in a pool and deciding the trophy with a “final” should be scrapped. A competition with three/four teams doesn’t require a grand final, and having one makes no sense. A league model is far more suitable, and I’d suggest that the former rugby union Tri Nations model is perfect here. Have each team play home-and-away and decide the champions on points.

In order to maximise space in the calendar, the Tri Nations should start in the final week of Origin with a New Zealand versus England encounter in New Zealand.
This will both help compress the season a little, while also giving England and New Zealand the advantage of more time together.

Following this there should be a one-week break, so Origin can properly conclude and the Australian team get a full two weeks together before playing a match. This would give the rugby league season a far more rational structure and help return the status of international rugby league to its former pre-Origin era glory.

Broadcasting rights remain a stumbling block for this more logical approach, but in terms of future development and building the appeal of international rugby league, it’s a no-brainer in my view.
 
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Jaguares

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Hey guys, I posted this on 'The Roar' the other day. Have a look and let me know what you think:

Aussies should support Rugby Union and leave Rugby League, it's so ridiculous. It's the only country with rugby tradition where League is more popular than Union.
 

RoosTah

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Aussies should support Rugby Union and leave Rugby League, it's so ridiculous. It's the only country with rugby tradition where League is more popular than Union.
Conrad, that's a stupid thing to say. You might as well tell Americans to abandon American Football or people people outside Sydney and Brisbane in Australia to stop watching Australian Football; it's just not going to happen. Ever.

Youth might think that because League and Union are similar that there is a case for it, but a lot of League fans really hate rugby, and for a variety of reasons that range from what they consider the boring nature of excessive numbers of penalty dominated matches in Rugby and dull scrum resets, to class issues and a perceived snobbery on behalf of the union fraternity.

I love both games, because they offer different things and I wouldn't be hurrying to get rid of League any time soon (although having guys like Greg Inglis, Jonathan Thurston and Jarryd Hayne available for the Wallabies would be pretty handy).
 

Jaguares

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Conrad, that's a stupid thing to say. You might as well tell Americans to abandon American Football or people people outside Sydney and Brisbane in Australia to stop watching Australian Football; it's just not going to happen. Ever.

Youth might think that because League and Union are similar that there is a case for it, but a lot of League fans really hate rugby, and for a variety of reasons that range from what they consider the boring nature of excessive numbers of penalty dominated matches in Rugby and dull scrum resets, to class issues and a perceived snobbery on behalf of the union fraternity.

I love both games, because they offer different things and I wouldn't be hurrying to get rid of League any time soon (although having guys like Greg Inglis, Jonathan Thurston and Jarryd Hayne available for the Wallabies would be pretty handy).

Yeah but it's very sad for me the status of my sport in Australia. And Wallabies is one of my favorite teams around the World.

Cheers
 

RoosTah

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Yeah but it's very sad for me the status of my sport in Australia. And Wallabies is one of my favorite teams around the World.

Cheers

There is a certain irony to what League is now doing to Union in Aus. For the longest time League has survived almost in spite of itself; it has been mismanaged and torn itself to pieces and almost in critical junctures. One such juncture was when rugby went pro. But instead of thinking long term and employing their supposedly strong business skills and networks, the ARU ran the game like a bunch of amateurs and failed to provide it with solid foundation or a long term growth strategy. Now the NRL is being run by the type of wealthy business people you'd normally associate with Union, but the difference is they're running their sport smart.
 
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Jaguares

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There is a certain irony to what League is now doing to Union in Aus. For the longest time League has survived almost in spite of itself; it has been mismanaged and torn itself to pieces and almost in critical junctures. One such juncture was when rugby went pro. But instead of thinking long term and employing their supposedly strong business skills and networks, the ARU ran the game like a bunch of amateurs and failed to provide it with solid foundation or a long term growth strategy. Now the NRL is being run by the type of wealthy business people you'd normally associate with Union, but the difference is they're running their sport smart.

And what is the future of the Union in Australia? I can't understand. NRL is at least 3 times biggest than ARU. Why Israel Folau, one of the best League players, changed code?

This is a hope for Union in Australia? Union is still attractive for big NRL players like Folau?

Cheers
 

RoosTah

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And what is the future of the Union in Australia? I can't understand. NRL is at least 3 times biggest than ARU. Why Israel Folau, one of the best League players, changed code?

This is a hope for Union in Australia? Union is still attractive for big NRL players like Folau?

Cheers

The NRL is probably more than 3 times the size of the ARU, but that doesn't mean there's no place for Rugby in Australia. The game simply needs to be run more like a business than it has been in the past. The major problem for Australian Rugby has been the lack of vision shown by its leadership here in establishing a domestic competition that would provide it with some autonomy. The ARU have ceded too much control to the SARU by allowing Super Rugby to become a defacto national competition equivalent to the NRL or AFL. The trouble is that it ultimately lacks integrity in so far as it changes too often and always feels more like a warm up to the international season. Thankfully Bill Pulver is now finally implementing a national tournament that, if run well, could provide greater financial stability for Rugby here long term. Sadly, the time to do this was in 2004, not 2014; after the RWC in Aus we had a massive financial windfall that should have been used to reinvest in the future, but instead it was mostly blown on poaching players, inefficient administration and other nonsense.

So to answer your question: yes there is definitely hope for Australia. Like Rugby League (but to a much lesser extent) the game will always have a core fan base that can see it through no matter how poorly it's run. The challenge is bringing it back to its former glory when you had wall-to-wall sell outs for internationals with the Wallabies and the Super Rugby franchises were generally getting crowds of over 30k each week (well, 20k in Canberra).

But back to the original point of this thread, Rugby League has the potential to create a much more meaningful and competitive Tri Nations series. League won't ever be as big as Union, but it's a brilliant game and it ought to take advantage of what competition it does have internationally.
 

sinkers89

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Completely agree with everything you just said regarding a full international schedule. Before any of it happens though Eng RL and NRL and International RL need to bang their heads together.

Unfortunately in Eng RL we have far to many Flat Earth believers to justify having a competitive international squad. A good 4 year structure would help the game (in England at the least) in the long run. I believe if we had a solid international season England WOULD have beaten NZ in the WC last year. Dont think they would have beat Aus...but thats a different kettle of fish.

My perfect senarior (subject to change and ridicule) would be

Year 0 : WC (2013)

Year 1 (2014) :
FIJI,NZ,AUS tour Eng.

Fra,Wal,Scot,PNJ,Samoa in 5 nations sort of set up

Year 2 (2015):
Eng Tour FIJI, NZ Warriors, NZ, Origin Winners , AUS (2 matches , 3 test Matches)

Scot,Fra,Wal go play with Samoa/PNJ in a 5 nations sort of set up

Year 3 (2016):
GB Test series against Aus. maybe 3+ warm up matches prior to test (Lions tour as example)
NZ tour PNJ,FIJI,Samoa
(this then can be swapped back and fourth between Aus and NZ)


Year 4 (2017) : WC year
 

William18

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I agree with you that representative football is too disruptive during the season and should be left until after the season finishes.

I don't agree that international rugby league is more competitive than origin. Since 2005 we have a 4 win, 1 draw, 20 loss record against Australia. This gives us just a 16% winning record over the past 10 years. All time we have a 29 wins from 123 games at a percentage of 23.6%. We are no better now than we ever have been. It's just that our wins have come in important games. SoO has the opposite appearance. It seems uncompetitive because Queensland has won 8 series in a row but that isn't the case. NSW have actually won 7 of the last 24 origin games giving them a 29% win rate. Only 10 of those 24 games were decided by a margin of 10 points or more while 17 of New Zealand's matches against Australia have been decided by 10 points or more.

I also enjoy the current 4 Nations set up. The good thing with the 4 Nations is that it allows you to have two games a weekend rather than 1 under the tri nations format. I think the Pacific and European Cups which should occur yearly will be given more weight by fans and players if they know it is qualification event.
 

RoosTah

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Completely agree with everything you just said regarding a full international schedule. Before any of it happens though Eng RL and NRL and International RL need to bang their heads together.

Unfortunately in Eng RL we have far to many Flat Earth believers to justify having a competitive international squad. A good 4 year structure would help the game (in England at the least) in the long run. I believe if we had a solid international season England WOULD have beaten NZ in the WC last year. Dont think they would have beat Aus...but thats a different kettle of fish.

My perfect senarior (subject to change and ridicule) would be

Year 0 : WC (2013)

Year 1 (2014) :
FIJI,NZ,AUS tour Eng.

Fra,Wal,Scot,PNJ,Samoa in 5 nations sort of set up

Year 2 (2015):
Eng Tour FIJI, NZ Warriors, NZ, Origin Winners , AUS (2 matches , 3 test Matches)

Scot,Fra,Wal go play with Samoa/PNJ in a 5 nations sort of set up

Year 3 (2016):
GB Test series against Aus. maybe 3+ warm up matches prior to test (Lions tour as example)
NZ tour PNJ,FIJI,Samoa
(this then can be swapped back and fourth between Aus and NZ)


Year 4 (2017) : WC year

To be honest I'm not a fan of that sort of inconsistent approach with random tours... I'd much prefer for there to be a home and away Tri Nations each year that isn't a WC year. It would give the calendar consistency and stability.

That said, I think there is scope for a Lions tour, and would love to see them play warm up games against NSW and Qld before the tests. The only concern I have is how viable it would be in the future if they lost all of them...

I agree with you that representative football is too disruptive during the season and should be left until after the season finishes.

I don't agree that international rugby league is more competitive than origin. Since 2005 we have a 4 win, 1 draw, 20 loss record against Australia. This gives us just a 16% winning record over the past 10 years. All time we have a 29 wins from 123 games at a percentage of 23.6%. We are no better now than we ever have been. It's just that our wins have come in important games. SoO has the opposite appearance. It seems uncompetitive because Queensland has won 8 series in a row but that isn't the case. NSW have actually won 7 of the last 24 origin games giving them a 29% win rate. Only 10 of those 24 games were decided by a margin of 10 points or more while 17 of New Zealand's matches against Australia have been decided by 10 points or more.

I also enjoy the current 4 Nations set up. The good thing with the 4 Nations is that it allows you to have two games a weekend rather than 1 under the tri nations format. I think the Pacific and European Cups which should occur yearly will be given more weight by fans and players if they know it is qualification event.

I actually dealt with this over at The Roar, and the argument I make is that the "every test" statistics you've cited are misleading. If you remove mid-season one-off tests - games where NZ are generally always understrength and more concerned with their club commitments - and only focus on games within tournaments like the RLWC and 3/4N the tally since 2004 reads 9-4 in wins to Australia (69% success rate), with an average match score of 23-18. Meanwhile at origin level over the same period the tally is 19 wins to 11 (63% success rate) in favour of Qld with an average score of 23-20.

So it's a lot closer than you think.
 
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