St George Illawarra chief executive Peter Doust believes the Charity Shield should not have to play second fiddle to the All Stars match again under a review of the crowded pre-season, which may limit the game's stars to no more than two matches in the lead-up to the NRL premiership.
Once considered the unofficial start to the NRL season, the Charity Shield between the Dragons and Souths was played at 5.30pm last Saturday in hot conditions at ANZ Stadium to avoid a broadcasting clash with the annual All Stars match and with both clubs fielding under-strength teams it attracted a crowd of just 13,421 - the lowest since 1997.
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The fixture was scheduled for last weekend in case either of the two clubs were again playing in the World Club Series but Doust admitted it would have had greater profile and star power if it was played this weekend, with Sam Burgess due to make his NRL return for the Rabbitohs on the Gold Coast next weekend and Dragons coach Paul McGregor naming a full-strength squad for Saturday night's clash with the Warriors in Nelson.
Having been played for 31 years, Doust said St George Illawarra and South Sydney wanted to ensure the Charity Shield did not become lost in a growing pre-season calendar, which last week prompted NRL head of football Todd Greenberg to announce the future of the All Stars match was under review.
"The Charity Shield still is, from our point of view, a very important part of our overall annual schedule and I believe it still appears in broadcasting contracts so we do need to find the right place for it," Doust said.
"It has certainly been complicated by other events we have introduced into our pre-season but 31 years of history can't be sneezed at so I do think that we need to tweak the scheduling when we know a bit more about where everything fits in 2017."
Greenberg has advised stakeholders he wants to discuss the scheduling of next year's All Stars, with Fairfax Media reporting it is likely to be moved back a week next season so that players don't have to back up immediately after the Nines in Auckland.
Such a decision should ensure more of the NRL's big names are available for the Indigenous and World All Stars teams but would rule out players from those clubs involved in the World Club Series.
There have also been suggestions the All Stars match be played the weekend before the grand final, as happens in the NFL with the Pro-Bowl being played during the two week break between the conference finals and the Super Bowl. The NBA and MLB play All Stars matches during the season.
"Some people say the All Stars should be in an end of season spot," Doust said. "Some other sports around the world have a similar type philosophy applied at the end of the year so I think we need to get all of the variables on the table and see what we can come up with but a heritage event like the Charity Shield can't be disregarded from Souths and the Dragons point of view, and I don't think either club intends to do so."
While not on the immediate agenda, Greenberg is also due to discuss with clubs a number of recommendations in departing NRL head of strategy Shane Richardson's blueprint for the game aimed at reducing player burnout, including a proposal that no player appear in any more than two pre-season fixtures.
As a result, the Broncos would have to choose whether Sam Thaiday misses the Nines, All Stars or next weekend's World Club Series clash with Wigan rather than play in all three. Moving the All Stars to the same weekend as the World Club Series would have the same effect.
Some people say the All Stars should be in an end of season spotSt George Illawarra CEO Peter Doust
Richardson's blueprint is also understood to contain a recommendation, based on research undertaken by the Queensland Institute of Sport using GPS data provided by clubs, that star players should not feature in more than 30 matches per season, including State of Origin, Tests and pre-season fixtures to limit the chance of injury.
It is also proposed pre-season training be restricted to a maximum of 12 weeks and players receive eight weeks annual leave.