Final piece in V’landys’ plan to abolish ‘the wrestle’
Peter V'landys has doubled down on his war to rid rugby league of ugly go-slow wrestling tactics, revealing that his next mission will be to reduce the interchange from next year.
After ignoring criticism from most coaches who didn't want a return to one referee or the introduction of the controversial six-again rule, the ARL Commission chairman has vowed to go one giant step further and tackle the issue rusted-on fans have been debating for years.
It relates to a plan that Matty Johns initially put forward in 2014 to former NRL chief executive Dave Smith and then football boss Todd Greenberg.
Johns wanted to reduce the interchange from 10 to six to bring back more fatigue and open up the game to attacking players.
Despite significant support from fans and former players, the NRL didn't have the gumption to take his advice.
V'landys was again locked in crucial meetings with broadcasters hoping to finalise a deal in the coming days.
However, when asked whether he wanted the interchange reduced for next year, V'landys left no doubt when he took a stunning swipe at the entertainment value of the modern game.
"Look, the objective is to have a free-flowing game of rugby league that is not all about defence," V'landys said.
"We are in the entertainment business and the very loud message I got from the broadcasters is that we are not as entertaining as we once were.
"And that is because of the wrestle, the slowing down of the ruck and not as much fatigue.
"So basically we have to look at all that.
"We need to make our game attractive to the fans. And I think Ricky Stuart and Wayne Bennett (two coaches who have spoken out in support of V'landys' wrestle crackdown) have realised that we are making a less attractive product because of the wrestle and the slowness of the ruck and making it all about defence.
"So, yes, we will certainly be looking at it. Otherwise, be prepared to take cuts because the broadcasters aren't going to pay for a product that people don't want to watch.
"I make no secret that we want a free-flowing, entertaining game and we will do everything we can to get there.
"Otherwise, it devalues our product to the broadcasters.
"You can't expect to get the big wages and then provide an inferior product.
"I am going to make no apology that we will get the game to be attractive to the audience."
"Our argument centred around fatigue reducing the number of players coming into a tackle, and the amount of wrestling, thus speeding up the play-the-balls and opening up the game," Johns wrote.
"They went away and got their medical people to look into the link between fatigue and injury and found more damage was done by fresh, explosive players than those low on gas.
"Smith and Greenberg agreed to reduce interchange but believed 10 to six was too dramatic and instead opted for eight, with a view to going to six in a couple of seasons. We're still at eight.
"The bottom line is, fatigue advantages the attack as there's less wrestle and faster rucks. The double bonus is that faster rucks means less structure. A no-brainer really."
V'landys doesn't hide from the fact it will create controversy and understands that dealing with the new concussion protocols will also be a significant issue.
However, he said that wouldn't stop him pushing forward with a plan that will have massive ramifications on NRL recruitment right down to the grassroots. There will be less focus on the "bigger is better" policy that has taken over at every level.
"You want to watch people who can crack open a game but what we are doing is shutting them out because there is not enough fatigue," V'landys said. "Why are we scared of it?
"With due respect to the coaches, they are the wrong people to be making these decisions.
"Our job is to make the game entertaining. Their job is to win.
"At the moment, like it or not, it is not entertaining."
Originally published as Final piece in V'landys' plan to abolish 'the wrestle'