The Roaring 2020s: One out of three proposed NRL gimmicks for a restarted season is a good idea

By STEVE MASCORD

A BEST of three grand final series. A wildcard finals play-off. The “wooden bowl”.

The NRL is considering some wild and whacky proposals to get broadcasters interested if this season resumes – and to compensate them for the weeks they’ve missed.

In all areas of business – hell, maybe in your household – there are new norms during the Coronavirus crisis.

I suspect we’ll be wearing masks for a long time and washing our hands for, if not 20 seconds, then a good 10.

The question that the new committee charged with strategising the rest of the year has to face is that are these measures meant to be permanent. And, if not, how do you stock them after one year?

In a previous edition of this column, I posed the question: how will history judge the decisions the NRL hierarchy are making right now?

The decision to play through World War I is seen as a very positive one for the sport; the decision to play a World Club Championship with 22 teams is remembered as a very bad one.

Let’s start with the three-game grand final series.

I really like it. The premiership started off with finals, between 1912 and 1925 it was first past the post. From then until 1953, there were finals and from 1954 onwards, we’ve had grand finals.

A three-game grand finals series, a la the NBA, would just be evolution, a further set along that timeline.

The economic benefits would be enormous – three state governments bidding for the right to host the games, a grand final in the city where the game rules – Brisbane – and of course added value to the TV rights.

The triple-grand final is a keeper, even if it inevitably encroaches on the international season. Next year is a World Cup year so that will have to be solved pretty much straight away.

A wildcard finals play-off was hoisted up the flagpole last year – and shot down.

The teams running ninth and 10th would have the opportunity to force their way into the finals by beating the teams ranked seventh and eighth.

There is a manifest unfairness in this: teams with terrible seasons could make the play-offs and win the comp. Imagine a team that lost more games than it won winning the premiership.

This one falls into the category of Godawful gimmick –  the NRL could probably get away with in an abnormal season but definitely should not be a lasting feature of the competition structure.

Finally a play-off to avoid the wood spoon is just … bottom feeding.

One of the biggest jokes of the Super League War was the breakaway competition’s CEO Colin Ssnders suggesting a “Wooden Bowl” between the last team in Australia Super League and the last team in Super League.

The first step would surely be to actually have a wooden spoon made because otherwise what are they actually playing to avoid? The wooden spoon has always been a notional concept, “awarded” in the imagination to the team running last.

To make it a real thing AND change its meaning at the same time is a braindead bridge too far. Will Todd Greenberg actually present it to the losing captain on a dais at full-time. Will it have a sponsor?

“Tell me about how desperate you are to avoid the Hyundai wooden spoon?”

Please. Too stupid for words.


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