I have been waiting for a good news story to write about regarding rugby league. And waiting. And waiting. And waiting.
All we seem to hear about is domestic violence, sexual assault, assault and now revenge porn.
The NRL has been forced to deregister a player who hasn’t been charged with any offence, and suspend two others who are facing court.
In the case of Ben Barba, to their credit, the Cowboys had cancelled his contract, but both Manly and St George Illawarra declined to stand down Jack de Belin and Dylan Walker until after they faced a court hearing. Penrith has stood down Tyrone May over allegations of revenge porn.
The massive dramas during the off season have taken a huge toll on the NRL brand, which will likely lead to a drop in crowds, a drop in TV ratings and a drop in sponsorship.
So what has the NRL done to try to get the season back on track?
It’s announced that it is considering increasing the top 8 to the top 10, which will add another week to an already tight schedule.
The league argues that games involving teams that have no hope of making the top 8 are poorly attended and that by increasing the finals, it allows more fans to think that their teams can win the premiership.
It also argues that week 1 of the finals will be a wild card round between teams 7, 8, 9 and 10, with teams 1 to six having a bye.
While that is an admirable thought, I’m not convinced that adding more teams to the finals will do anything to increase the closeness of competition.
Since 2000, the four teams left after the first two weeks of the finals have been dominated by teams who finished 1, 2, 3 and 4 in the regular season.
There has been only one year in that time (2009) when two teams that finished outside the top 4 in the regular season have made it to the preliminary finals.
In that time, 13 of the 19 grand finals played were between teams that finished in the top 4 in the regular season.
No team that finished outside the top 4 has ever won the Grand Final.
Of the 6 times teams that finished 5, 6, 7 and 8, and did make it to the grand final, the closest result was in 2009 when the Storm beat the Eels 23-16.
Other results have been 34-6, 30-6, 24-10, 32-8 and 30-16.
On only three occasions since 2000 has a team that finished 7th or 8th made the grand final.
The reality is that if teams 7 and 8 aren’t competitive in the finals, what makes the NRL think the teams that finished 9th and 10th will fare any better.
More often than not, teams 9 and 10 finish the regular season having lost more games than they have won. And now the NRL wants to reward that mediocrity by giving them the chance to upset a team that has consistently played better all season.
Instead of making the season longer and prolonging the agony for long suffering fans, why not drop the top 8 to a top 6 or even a top 4?
Put the fans out of their misery. Let the club administrators start searching for players to poach from other clubs and players to offload. Let the players have their mad Monday celebrations a week early, so they can let their hair down and have a little harmless fun while they have a drink or 17 at their favourite watering holes.
Wait a minute, that’s where all the off season drama started. Maybe what the NRL is trying to do is reduce the time players have to make fools of themselves.
I’ve changed my mind.
Let’s make the finals series a top 16 and play 52 rounds year. The less time they have to drink, the less likely they are to play up.
And remember, there’s no such thing as too much sport!
CHECKOUT: Time for the NRL to take a stand?
CHECKOUT: Oops, another NRL player in the poo