NRL coaches push for golden point change
FORTY years ago, a dozen NSW Rugby League clubs, which was all of them, were in small outrage at the game's administration.
The boss of the game was a determined fellow named Kevin Humphreys and he was thinking seriously about this idea being pushed hard from north of the border - State of Origin or something it was going to be called - and the NSW clubs were in revolt.
They didn't want to release their players for some two-bit game that might help the Queensland Rugby League, a concession the QRL has been taking advantage of ever since.
Well, we all know how it ended.
Humphreys got his way and, after conceding Queensland the first four or five years, the NSW clubs finally got on board.
Nowadays, Origin allows the lineal descendants of Mr Humphreys to fly business class and book hire cars to take them to lunch.
In many ways, Origin saved the game. It made the game bigger, and worth more, as it outgrew its suburban limitations.
Certainly the game would not have been in place to withstand the growth of AFL if Origin hadn't opened the border to Queensland and, ultimately, a competition that has expanded beyond Sydney.
Now they boast Origin it is worth up to $100 million annually whenever the time comes for new broadcast negotiations.
On Friday, the game continued looking for similar inspiration, although it must be said it is not being attacked with the same zest.
As many NRL coaches as could be bothered, which was not all of them and barely a quorum, assembled at League Central to discuss ideas formally proposed at the competition vommittee's annual get-together a fortnight ago.
The big idea discussed was whether to award the losing team in golden point a competition point, effectively making the game worth three points in total.
It was brought to them out of the competition committee meeting a fortnight ago and, as ideas go, the wheel was not reinvented.
This idea has been kicked around for years and no convincing argument has ever been put forward to show why it is better than the current system.
It rewards a team that finished 80 minutes on level terms and, some say, should deserve something more than a team flogged by 30 points.
But, also, it automatically promotes these games to three-point games while others remain at two competition points, creating an inherent unfairness.
Still, it received the overall support of the few coaches who turned up on Friday; Trent Robinson, Brad Arthur, Des Hasler, Michael Maguire, Steve Kearney, Justin Holbrook, Adam O'Brien and John Morris, with Paul Green on the phone.
A look at previous premiership tables shows that for all that accumulated brain power behind their good intentions, not a lot was achieved.
The season just gone, for instance, would have seen Wests Tigers nudge past Brisbane for eighth spot in the playoffs and the Warriors go past Canterbury for 12th.
It would have significantly changed the top four from 2018, with Cronulla going from fourth to first, and enjoying home ground advantage, and the Roosters, Melbourne and Souths all dropping down a place. Nothing significant beyond that, though.
Penrith would have fallen out of the eight for the Dragons in 2017, which would have saved Paul McGregor significant stress, but all are relatively minor changes, more housekeeping than game-changing, and hardly the big decision the game is searching for.
Besides, is it necessarily fairer?
The other idea was whether teams could elect to move scrums from the 10m tramline to either 20m or 30m in from the sideline, setting up different attacking shapes.
It underlines the problem with these annual think tanks.
Anybody that has ever endured a workshopping seminar knows the worst advice ever offered in those dark, miserable places is that no idea is a bad idea because then the joint clogs up with a barrel load of bad ideas.
Then it gets worse when somebody jolts awake from their post-lunch nap and throws an arm up to support the idea merely to show they were paying attention all along. Suddenly, some terrible idea is off and running, change for the sake of change.
Some get pushed through and without the NRL realising it they are contributing to one of the great fan frustrations, which is the continual rule changes and interpretations inflicted on the game.
Every year there are new rules and new interpretations to understand and, in the fair dinkum stakes, few are good.
When is the NRL going to throw these annual think-tanks on to the bonfire?
No wonder many of the top coaches refused to turn up. And the many that do will tell you privately that they are there more to safeguard their club's interests than to legitimately find a better way to get it done.
So a change to scrums will be considered to induce more attacking football while they refuse to address the reason for the limited attacking football, which is the stifling wrestling defence.
For all these changes, nothing solves the big problem the game is facing, which is how to generate money. Minor rule changes can't achieve it.
As often as not they have the effect of irritating rusted on fans rather than adding any significant improvement to the game. The interchange, for instance, was an idea that's time has come and gone
The NRL needs to grow the game.
Worldwide, the trend for broadcast rights has shown a plateauing of revenue as viewing habits change around the world. It is the Netflix effect.
Sports are simply not as profitable as they once were.
Origin was kick-started 40 years ago as an unpopular idea. Only Humphreys' bullish leadership and his understanding that something needed to change, that big picture it was worth the gamble, got him past the short-term rage of the clubs and on to a winner.
Right now clubs are complaining hard about the interruption of international football, even as Tonga grows into a powerhouse, beating the Kangaroos, and Papua New Guinea beat Great Britain, and the world of the past 40 years gets turned upside down.
Yet no grand plans seem to be in place to capitalise on the boom of international football.
The expansion talk can find no clear air although the ARL Commission is expected to hear the first preliminary reports at its next meeting in a fortnight.
The game needs to readjust its thinking.
Rugby league must be like the ocean - always changing, always appearing the same.
Change needs to be grand, with clear reasons why. The constant, small-time tinkering that disillusions its hard core fans, already sold on the game, needs to stop.
The number one gripe from fans is the wrestle and it did not even get a mention.
Instead the coaches wasted their time with ideas suggested seemingly for the sake of presenting an idea.
Oh, how they will flock through the gates once they change where the scrums pack down.