It’s only Round 2 and the Dr is hopping mad. Ripping into management is a bore and a chore. Sometimes it’s just necessary, purely because leaders need to be held to a higher level of account. So when they get it wrong, then do it again, it’s go-time.
NRL, meet Channel 9 …
If the Round 1 shemozzle wasn’t enough, we begin Round 2 by scheduling games on the Sun, or, more specifically, the Gold Coast at 2pm, which is only mildly cooler. Here is yet another example in a long list of easily avoidable problems to match Round 1. Then we roll on into the perpetual argument about delayed NRL on free-to-air television. This time, however, there was a twist.
According to Channel 9′s Head of Sport, Steve Crawley, the network is quite prepared to broadcast a live Sunday afternoon game- if it’s a 4pm kick-off (so it can run into the 6pm news). Further, the NRL has stated in response that it is a “possibility, but we’d need to consider that, in the middle of the year, games would finish in the dark and may affect crowds for Sunday afternoon football”.
Hmm … Quite a few points immediately spring to mind as a result of this … what can we call it … gem? Time will possibly unveil even more ramifications, but for now:
– Given that fans were quite prepared to support the Thursday night season opener between the Bunnies and Roosters had it been played in the same sector of the galaxy in which both teams’ fans reside, and even as late as a 7pm kick-off, I would venture that ‘time’ is a confected problem at best. It’s simply not late. Throw a spag bol down the kids’ throats on the way home and they’re in bed by 8pm;
– Surely this whole exchange is a joke anyway. I know it’s not quite April 1st, but it simply has to be.
Crawley’s comment seemed to take the NRL by surprise as if they had never thought about this scheduling possibility, and therefore, by logical extension, certainly hadn’t raised it with the broadcaster. And it would appear this is the first time Channel 9 have offered this time slot. Is it actually possible? Well, there is no evidence to the contrary, and reams for the affirmative.
These are the two parties who just negotiated a billion dollar broadcast rights deal, correct?
– Can there be any doubt that the NRL is a mere pawn for Channel 9, with very little consideration from their end about the health of the sport? The NRL sells this as a partnership, but it is anything but, as we have seen repeatedly over the years, and as evidenced again in grotesque clarity even before the conclusion of Round 2, 2014.
To be clear, I have zero problem with Channel 9 seeking to make money, just as the NRL does, but there simply must be a better system of checks and balances from the NRL side – it’s their game after all, and 30 pieces of silver aren’t enhancing the experience of the fans, without whom there would be no broadcast deal.
It’s understandable that Channel 9 want to hypnotise NRL fans sufficiently to have them mindlessly hang around for the 6pm news (the entirety of which could have been gleaned from Twitter hours prior), but what about NRL fans? Anyone checked what they want? For a start, it’s not delayed telecasts …
That loss must burn? Meh …
The Knights are doing all the right things to make the Dr’s pre-season musings of 11th place a reality. Sure, it’s quite understandable that injuries have dealt them a devastating blow from which they will find it difficult to recover. And it doesn’t get any easier next week against the Storm, who have scraped home twice, but look primed to record a dominant win.
The real problem was watching some Knights players looking less than gutted about losing a game that was well within their grasp, against a Raiders team who are about as effective away from home as ET, and giving Bennett a 0-2 record for 2014. Expect to hear more about THAT. Actually, maybe not given that:
a) Apparently it’s the silent treatment that gets dished out in Newcastle these days;
b) Wayne Bennett isn’t a noted Toastmaster when it comes to talking about his team when they’re losing; and
c) if players leak anything, they will likely get the Chris Houston treatment.
There’s a lot going on under the hood at the Knights. If it isn’t injuries, the behaviour of Packer, Mason, or Gagai hinting at internal instability, it’s Tinkler and bank guarantees. I could be wrong, but alarm bells seem to be ringing.
Who says you can’t sell the top of a bubble? Watch the interchange …
Andrew Fifita has just accomplished a rare feat, and one which very few can claim to have emulated. Not even the best traders at Goldman Sachs can say they captured the top of a bubble, but big Andrew Fifita, despite his claims as “not being the brightest in school”, clearly has a horse sense equal to Mister Ed and Sarah Jessica Parker combined.
What he has done is convince the Bulldogs to pay him 850,000 a year, despite being more an emerging star than tried-and-tested, and just as the game hits a tipping point in player salaries in my opinion (In a positional sense).
That’s right, tipping point. Has anyone seen Jamie Buhrer conjure such magic late in the game such as he did against Souths on Friday? Has everyone been noticing how the smaller, more agile players are re-emerging as potent threats now that the game has sped up (even just a little)?
And don’t close your ears to the cacophony of players and commentators agitating for fewer interchanges. I wrote about this a year ago, and Paul Gallen is a well known and vocal proponent of it. Fitness and natural attrition are part of the fabric of rugby league, enabling players of all sizes the opportunity at glory, not the faux-NFL it seems to have strived to emulate in recent years.
That’s a game where fitness is optional and subordinate to sheer size, simply because the pace of play is so mind-numbingly slow. It’s not rugby league.
Expect the interchange rule to be amended soon (which could mean next year or the one after at NRL-pace), and for salaries to increasingly reflect not only utility value, but sheer speed. I would also expect a subtle drop in the average player weight to accommodate a higher workload and required fitness.
The upshot is that a far wider range of players need to be accommodated to suit a faster game, not just the spine of the team. Time to dust off the Beaver Menzies prototype. Never know, a year or two someone not wearing 1, 6, 7 or 9 might win a Dally M!
A blind eye to Obstructions
Speaking of NFL trends, Beau Champion has become somewhat of an expert in obstructing attacking players chasing through on the high ball and protecting his catcher. I only single him out because his first two matches this year were quite notable for the practice. The reality is that every team has players who speed into the path of chasers and non-ball carriers, then just stand there as if they’re whistling Dixie on a Sunday stroll. They don’t even seem to feign an attempt to catch the ball any more, and there’s so much wool in the heads of the pink clowns called referees that it’s child’s play to pull it over their eyes.
The rule for Obstruction in this case (Section 15 of the NRL rules under Misconduct) is now honoured in the breach rather than the observance, with referees oblivious to the whole charade.
The NRL is always slow to deal with trends such as this (where exhibits include cannonball and associated tackles, hands on the ball in the ruck and so on), and it was increasingly evident all the way through 2013. It’s time to put this one to bed – it’s not in the spirit of the game, and, well, it’s against the rules.
A blind eye to the head high – the subtle, implicit message
In a stunning display of incompetence, none of Gavin Badger, Brett Suttor or Chris Ward felt that Parramatta’s Darcy Lussick trying to reenact a Tower of London-style beheading of the Roosters’ Jared Warea-Hargreaves (JWH) was worthy of a send-off.
Along with the fact it was high, intentional and peripheral (not head on), it not only looked appalling, but is was measurably worse than the tackle that earned JWH an early shower and five weeks on the sideline last year. Even more galling was the fact that he followed it up with an indenti-kit version of the JWH’s 2013 send off tackle immediately after.
I’m a stickler for careless and/or intentional head contact. I don’t find particularly brave because the ball-carrier is somewhat defenceless, and it comes on top of a week where concussion was THE major story dominating the news feed. How can the referees allow this one through to the keeper? It was atrocious, whoever did it, and whomever they did it to. The accompanying pictures show the contact and result quite clearly.
The subtle messages from this incident are quite simple to decipher:
1. It matters – quite a lot – who you are – Certain players have a reputation with the judiciary that precedes them, and in many cases it’s largely historical.
JWH is one of those, and it treated far differently as a result. He (or a player with a similar reputation) is punished more severely for identical transgressions, and anyone who fouls him (or, once again, a similar player) is treated far more leniently. Last year, spear tackles were dealt with less harshly than the JWH tackle that had him sent off against Manly, and similar/worse tackles followed without a send-off or similar penalty.
2. It matters – a lot – what the outcome is – had JWH stayed down on the ground (injured or otherwise) after either tackle on Saturday night, especially the first, the chances of Lussick being sent off would have risen dramatically. In a period where the long term effects of head contact is topical to the point of being viral, it is the time now, more than ever, to punish the act, not just the consequences.
It just may well be that the consequences aren’t evident for years. Isn’t that what the column inches and TV shows have been about?
As an update on the grading, it is laughable that a Grade 4 Reckless tackle of the type we saw on Saturday is open to a 4-week ban if it is contested and won.
It should have been categorised as Intentional. The penalty (in weeks) is not proportional to the offence in any way, and the pictures tell you why. The last one highlights how Lussick obtained the extra leverage required to snap JWH’s head back so hard. Tiger Woods doesn’t have that much snap in his golf swing!
The madness of crowds … and crowds
The large-scale frothing of the mouth and navel gazing following the Round 1 crowds debacle turned out to be the insane ramblings of those who think their dog is a cat because they both have four legs.
As mentioned last week, it was the NRL brass that got it irretrievably wrong, and that crowd numbers were not a reflection of fans’ disinterest.
Fast forward to Round 2 and we’re averaging a healthier 17,938 against Round 1′s 15,823 (And tonight should also be in the 15-20k region). There’s certainly room to improve, but if commentators and punters can refrain from pure extrapolation, I’m sure we’d all be better off.
Gareth Widdop, I humbly apologise
Having tarred Gareth Widdop with the same Brush as Adam Blair, no matter what happens from this point on, I can admit to being horribly wrong.
Widdop was, or so I thought, a player elevated to a greater station and reputation than he deserved on the back of the Storm’s ‘Big 3′. This isn’t an unusual result of their brilliance, amd they make a lot of average journeymen look like world beaters.
I called Adam Blair on it from day one. However, Gareth Widdop has shown so much skill, poise and direction in just two NRL matches that my head is spinning. Given what he now means to the Dragons, he must surely be the single best buy in the NRL. If he’s not, he’s in the semi finals!
The nominations for best actor are flowing in already. We still have one game left to play in Round 2, and the standout performers are currently:
Anthony Minichiello – for his role alongside Robert de Niro and Robin Williams in Awakenings
David ‘Wolfman’ Williams – for his role in the touching biography of Rod Wishart – the man run down by the other slowest guy on the field.
Congratulations gentlemen, I’m sure you will be joined by other worthy nominees.