On Friday night the North Queensland Cowboys proved that scoring extra time tries is a far more spectacular way of winning footy games than kicking golden point field goals.
Sometimes rule change debuts or experiments turn out to be fizzers, such as in the St George-Illawarra Dragons vs Newcastle Knights dead-rubber in the final round of the season at Kogarah a few weeks back. That game doubled as a Captain’s Challenge NRL trial. In the end the experimental option wasn’t used by either skipper. That was okay. Sometimes it’s the thought that counts …
Friday night’s elimination play-off between the defending-premier North Queensland Cowboys and their Sunshine State arch-rivals the Brisbane Broncos, however, was a shining example of the magic that can result if a code is brave enough to try something new in the hope of further improving its game.
When the NRL announced back in late May this year that - following a competition committee meeting – golden point extra time would be replaced with ten minutes of extra-time to decide drawn finals series matches, nothing was really made of it. There was little defence, little criticism, perhaps because back then almost everyone in the game had the same thought: let’s get our boys to the finals first and worry about extra time when we come to it.
When we did finally arrive at the newly introduced five minutes each way of extra time in the Cowboys/Broncos blockbuster last Friday night, we were rewarded with a brutal, enthralling finish which featured probably one of the best pressure tries we’ll ever see. Johnathan Thurston’s flick pass (after he single-handedly broke the Broncos’ tiring defensive line) to his brilliantly positioned five-eighth Michael Morgan will be remembered for a long time – by different people for different reasons … We’re betting Broncos fans would’ve welcomed silence on the issue over the past few days, but the rest of us, whether watching from our homes, in pubs or on our phones, were mesmerised.
But the game still wasn’t over – we had another five minutes of extra time on the way after that moment. This fact - quite simply for everyone who wasn’t playing - rocked.
What would have been better for the fans – a roll-the-dice field goal to win the match, or ten more energy-sapping, emotional minutes from two teams at the absolute peak of their powers? Winning via field goal in golden point extra time has become a bit like celebrating Christmas Day … every day.
Would it be too greedy as spectators to ask for more of the type of ending we saw in the Cowboys-Broncos match, in the form of five minutes each way of extra time during the regular season instead of first-point-wins? Sure, the extra workload mightn’t seem fare on the players, but really, when teams are trying to line themselves up for field goals at their respective ends, often they’ll take ten minutes trying to do this anyway …