The case for a Union style Tri Nations in League

Discussion in 'Rugby League World Cup 2013' started by RoosTah, Jul 4, 2014.

  1. RoosTah

    RoosTah Senior Member

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    Hey guys, was thinking about our discussion earlier and thought I'd put it into a piece. Will be published over at 'theroar.com.au' later today or tomorrow. Let me know what you think.



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    The case for a Union style Tri Nations in League



    In the lead up to this year’s state of origin I wrote an article suggesting a restructure of the season that put Origin after the NRL, and then finished the season with a Tri Nations tournament.

    The logic was fairly straightforward; remove Origin’s disruption of the NRL by placing it at the end of a shortened season (22 week round robin, starting at the end of February).

    From a player and club welfare perspective, it’s a very rational approach to structuring the game, but with over 4 million people tuning into view both of the first two Wednesday night Origin matches, we sadly won’t see any review of the format for fear that rescheduling will somehow reduce interest in the games.

    Nevertheless, there is still scope for doing something about the international season, so I thought I’d expand a little on the call in my original article to dump the current League approach to the respective Tri Nations/Four Nations in favour of the origin SANZAR Tri Nations model.

    In League’s previous Tri Nations setup, the big three teams would play each-other twice in League table in one host country, and then the top two would play a “final”. This was then tweaked with the introduction of the Four Nations, so that each side played one game against each other before playing the final to decide the trophy winner.

    As I stated in my original article, this entire structure is poorly thought out to the point where it almost hurts the game. There are three structural errors that have been made along the way contribute to this in my view.

    But on a fundamental level all of these stem from one common error: deciding TN/4N would be organised essentially like a World Cup.

    First, the organisers began by deciding the competition would be played in a single “host country/region”.

    For a massive and rare event like a World Cup, having a host country makes sense; people don’t see it very often and there are too many teams to do it any differently. In addition, this size and rarity mean that having it in one place adds a sort of festival atmosphere to the whole affair.

    None of these ingredients exist for a small annual event like the TN/4N. All it does is ensure that there is almost no parochialism and atmosphere for a significant portion of the limited number of games on offer. Moreover, it limits the interest and accessibility of the tournament for general sports fans to one time zone.

    Second, having a final in a competition with as many teams as a single group in most world cup tournaments makes about as much sense as playing a three test series and having the final match decide the trophy winner irrespective of the result of the first two games.

    You can see what they’re trying to do: create hype by having a match called a “final”. But it doesn't work because the size of the competition just doesn't provide enough time or competitors to build up any excitement or interest in a "final" match to differentiate it from the pool games.

    Third and final, the decision to introduce a ‘minnow’ by expanding it to a Four Nations doesn't work.

    Again, having minnows play in tournaments is something that makes sense at a World Cup, because it’s a large festival for the sport and it’s designed to give smaller teams some exposure to the big stage whilst crowing a genuine world champion.

    But having a minnow like PNG, France, or Wales play in a tournament like the Four Nations just ends in them being treated like a punching bag/training team for the big sides. There are no teams of their calibre in the competition, so why are they there at all?

    Let’s be clear too, including the likes of Wales or PNG is not like including Italy in the 6 Nations or Argentina in the Rugby Championship. Those are teams with genuine and relatively strong local competitions and are actually capable of the odd upset even if they’re not major contenders. This is more akin to SANZAR deciding to expand to their current Rugby Championship format by including the Uruguay Rugby team.

    All of this makes the competition seem like a halfway house; neither league nor knock-out competition, and it undermines the international game as a result.

    A far better option is to do what SANZAR did in the beginning and play a home and away league, crowning the league leader as champion at the end, whilst having individual trophies for each opponent.

    That way, every year outside of world cups, we’d get to see games at home against the major teams – guaranteeing matches in our time zone - and there’d be no pointless games against teams of amateurs that have no chance of doing anything other than possibly injuring a star play from the big three.

    In terms of organisation, I think the notion of shortening the NRL and SL a little should still hold, and that the final matches should be England’s home games, so that they’re played in cooler conditions as it starts heating up in the South Hemisphere.

    That way the completion could start in the South Hemisphere at the beginning of October, and finish in England in November. All in all, it would make for a much more balanced competition, and one that was marketable in all three countries every year.
     
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2014
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  3. TRF_Saints

    TRF_Saints Straight Edge

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    I agree - the issue here is Super League's re-structure next season. We'll be playing more games and not less.
     
  4. RoosTah

    RoosTah Senior Member

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    Just had a read about it. That's interesting - the new system sounds quite complex, but why opt for more games with less teams?

    All the same, I think even if the seasons can't be shortened, having a Tri Nations in the format I've suggested would be brilliant. Also, whilst I didn't mention it, I think it'd be great to have those minor nations play in their own comp and have their matches timed as curtain raisers (where the time difference wasn't prohibitive of course).
     
  5. TRF_Saints

    TRF_Saints Straight Edge

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    The idea behind it is to reduce the number of dead or meaningless games, at the moment there are plenty. I think the idea is tacky and overly complex but I can't deny one thing - there ought to be very, very few games where nothing is riding on it in 2015.
     
  6. William18

    William18 Senior Member

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    Super League has gone for less teams because they just don't have 14 competitive teams. Look at London and Bradford this season who have both been woeful for very different reasons. They also badly needed to reinstall promotion-relegation to create more interest at the bottom of the competition and to give clubs genuine pathways to compete at the top level. I feel that the format they have chosen isn't ideal.

    The thing is if you shorten the Super League season then clubs earn less money and some are barely staying afloat as they are. Domestic rugby league is hwere the players ear money. If you shorten that then you lessen player's pay packets and that isn't going to fly. Right now it seems there will be no serious internationals involving the Kangaroos in 2015 because the players don't want to play.

    There was a league style tri-nations before and it was a far better competition than the current 4 Nations. Now the New Zealand vs England pool game is almost the only game which matters before the final. However, I still think 4 Nations is the way to go. It allows for the competition to be done in 4 weeks rather than 6 for a home and away tri nations. This gives all players two extra weeks rest during the off-season which is already quite short. Most importantly it encourages other rugby league countries to compete amongst themselves to be the 4th team. Who wants to play in the European Cup? Probably no one. Maybe players will if winning that cup enables them to play Australia, New Zealand and England. The 4 Nations at least shows some ambition to grow the game and I think ambition is what rugby league needs.
     
  7. RoosTah

    RoosTah Senior Member

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    Yes, as I explain in some detail in the article, League has had it's own version of a Tri-Nations from 1999 till 2006, but it suffered from almost all the same deficiencies as the current 4N setup. Initially it started out as a series with a game against each opponent followed by a final if you were in the top two, but then expanded to a tournament where both sides played eachother twice before a 'final'.

    As I say though, having a "final" in a 3 or 4 team tournament is just silly... it's too small for that and is honestly like deciding the trophy winner of a three test series on the basis of the final match alone, irrespective of the results in the other two matches.


    This is why I say quite explicitly that what League needs isn't just a "Tri Nations", but one in the same format as the original SANZAR one. It's worth noting that this format was completed in about a month, rather than the 6 weeks you state.

    As for expansion, it's a noble idea, but there's no point if there's only one side that is made up of amateaurs and a few NRL/ESL rejects. Those sides should get exposure to the big stage, but that big stage is the World Cup, not a 4N where all they are is a punching bag that gets 60 put on them in each game.
     
  8. RoosTah

    RoosTah Senior Member

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    Just reviewing this after the opening to this year's Rugby Championship and some of Conrad's comments, and I really think the League Tri Nations would have quite a bit in common with the Union one.

    It's not just that the Kangaroos are dominant in a way that resembles the All Blacks, there are also similarities in their opponents, with England being like the Springboks in that their game is first and foremost based on forward power, whilst the Kiwis are a bit like the Wallabies in that they're plucky entertainers.
     
  9. TRF_Saints

    TRF_Saints Straight Edge

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    I'd argue that at the moment England are producing better forwards than the Roos.
     
  10. RoosTah

    RoosTah Senior Member

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    Indeed you are. But you often have to be honest... it's your halves and outside backs that have seen you undone.

    This year's 4N will be interesting though. I wonder how the Roos will go now a few big forwards like Gallen have been rubbed out.

    It's a shame the England game isn't in Sydney... I'd have liked to have gone to it. I might still - I've got family in Melbourne and I'm often down there with work, so I may see if I can create a pretext for a trip haha.

    One last thing I don't get is why the final is being played in Wellington... it's a crap stadium for anything but cricket in my view and you'd get a bigger crowd with a better atmosphere at Suncorp.
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2014
  11. TRF_Saints

    TRF_Saints Straight Edge

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    Ten years ago our centres would have been a match, when the likes of Keith Senior where in their prime. They were players that used to damage Australia. Now, we have nothing. From 1-7 Australia are completely dominant (although Ryan Hall is an outstanding player) but from 8-13 it is a much closer run thing. I'd definitely have Graham and Burgess ahead of any Aussie or Kiwi prop at the moment. Even Mike Cooper, who I had down as nothing special at Warrington, appears to be doing well down there.

    It has been nice to see our best players go and play down under, even though it weakens Super League.
     
  12. RoosTah

    RoosTah Senior Member

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    I reckon English players coming here will help your national team. The Kiwis shouldn't really compete with England, but the massive number of Kiwis in the NRL has lifted their standard massively.
     
  13. TRF_Saints

    TRF_Saints Straight Edge

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    They shouldn't compete with us in theory but they beat us as a rule when the pressure was on. Like in the semi final for instance, which I just found hilarious.
     
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