When too much Rugby League, is never enough!
The 2016 Minor Premiership will be decided this weekend when the Cronulla Sharks travel to Melbourne to take on the Storm in a winner takes all battle. And when I say “takes all”, I mean the miniscule prize of $100,000 that teams get for slogging it out for 26 rounds of the season and finishing on top. With similar money offered to all clubs for simply turning up to the pre-season Auckland 9’s tournament run over a weekend, this sum of money hardly seems comparable and has been a hot topic of discussion in recent years. If further evidence is needed, consider this. The total prize pool for the top 8 from NRL Grand Final winner down, is less than $1million. That’s $400,000 for the champion, $200,000 for the runner-up and about $300,000 split between the other 6 teams. Finish outside the Top 8? Thanks for participating!
We must also remind readers that the NRL signed a record 5 year, $1.8 Billion TV deal set to commence in 2018. Hopefully the NRL has plans to address the prize money issued, and all Clubs benefit from it. One thing that certainly needs addressing is for all participating Clubs to receive some funding for the position they finish on the ladder. This ensures all teams, despite their prospects of not making finals, have something to play for week in, week out apart from pride.
An alternative that came to mind is born out of watching the Olympics recently where in the rowing, among other events, they decided qualifying positions in a final by an event called a repechage. In this example, rowers who have not qualified for the final by way of finishing in the top positions, get to battle it out with others who haven’t qualified for a “last chance saloon” type event. An NRL version could be created which solves several end of season blues for fans, players, administrators and importantly TV stations. A battle between the teams who do not make the finals, a Rugby League Repechage.
The structure would be identical to the Top 8 fixtures, where 9thplays 12th, 10th plays 11th, 13th plays 16th and 14th plays 15th. The benefits include a few more weeks for all teams to build towards the following year with real momentum by winning the repechage, nine more games on TV , more games for fans to attend and potentially more time for players to earn that next contract. Some might say there is a reason the bottom eight don’t compete for higher honours and their seasons should be put to rest. I disagree. This year alone we could see players like Greg Inglis, Mitchell Pearce, Sam Burgess, Shaun Johnson, Daly Cherry-Evans and so on, compete for something real at the back end of their seasons. And here is the kicker that I borrowed from a fellow Inside Sport writer who recently wrote a compelling article on moving smaller crowd drawing games out of the city hubs.
The Bush and other regional centres are crying out for quality football, and a rugby league repechage is a perfect way to give it to them in spades. The fixtures could be scheduled in Coffs Harbour, Dubbo, Orange, Cairns, Roma, Bathurst, Wagga Wagga… the list goes on. And what a benefit to these places it would bring. Plus, rugby league repechage has a great ring to it.