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Pros and cons of Auckland Nines

Date

Steve Mascord

There is a good argument that the Auckland Nines are a bad idea.

For a start, there are the concerns of Cameron Smith that player burnout is being ignored. In Thursday's Sydney Morning Herald, Smith warns the players will get militant – calling in the Rugby League Players' Association – if the clubs just approve the tournament without consultation.

Now, there is a good chance the promise that the Nines will replace existing trials and not be added to them will solve this dispute. But if not, where do we go?

My own concern is that rugby league has spent 118 years making decisions purely for money and where has it got us? Generally speaking we only get it right when we have at least one other reason to do something.

The World Sevens and World Nines introduced new countries and territories to our game by allowing them to compete with full-time professionals in a truncated version of the sport.

The Auckland Nines do nothing but bribe a bunch of pro football teams to cross the ditch in search of cash.

But there is a compelling and very simple case in favour of the Auckland Nines. If the Auckland Regional Council does not give this money to us, they'll give it to another sport.

And that idea makes me shudder a bit. There must be a solution, then, to getting their cash and still doing something for the greater good of the game (if the stand-off remains).

Let's break it down.

On one hand, someone wants to give us cash. On the other hand, we (or the players) don't want to do what is necessary to earn that cash. So, would they give us a little less cash to do a little less? What if it was a World Nines, with national teams? What if we had all the Australian states (plenty of NRL players were born in Victoria, WA, Northern Territory, even South Australia) and the north and south islands of New Zealand compete, instead of 16 clubs? How about a weekend of pre-season games which would have been played anyway?

How much cash would they give us for the All Star game, or the World Club Challenge? I repeat, they want to give us X for Y. Would they give us Z for W? Let's ask!

***

The shoulder charge has been banned in England and we have the same volume of outrage that we saw in Australia.

To our English readers, I'll repeat some points from an earlier column. Doctors said the shoulder charge was dangerous. The NRL was put in a position where by not banning it, it was seen to be promoting it, given that rugby union had already passed a ban.

If a group of doctors say something in the workplace is unreasonably dangerous and bosses do nothing, the bosses are liable. We are protecting arses not heads but that is the way things are.

Yes, they will ban tackles. Yes, they will ban rugby league as archaic and brutal. But not in our lifetimes. Until then, we will get more gentle and safe at a glacial speed and there's nothing you or I can do about it.

***

In all this talk about expanding the World Club Challenge, one evolutionary issue has been overlooked by many – including me.

It was a point made by Martyn Sadler in Rugby League Express on Monday and underlined by Brad Walter's story on the explosion of NRL funding in the Herald on Thursday.

How competitive will an expanded WCC be when the salary cap in the southern hemisphere goes to $7 million in 2017 while the Super League cap shows no sign of budging from £1.65 million, or $A2,454,784?

Even the players in Super League aren't pushing for the cap to go up because they realise the game in Britain cannot afford it.

Speaking dispassionately and logically, the NRL would be better off staging an expanded World Club Challenge against the Queensland Cup. At least the travel costs would be less.

***

Thanks for last week's comments.

JG, El Seano, Dynamite Shifty and Horrid Bees Wax had a lively debate about the future of the WCC. The only thing I would add is making the prize money bigger does not make something worthwhile. We should have learned that from the Super League war.

John B makes a good point about how you pick the third-placed team for the six-side WCC in 2015. Do you go to the competition table, or do you choose the team that lost their preliminary final by the smallest margin? What do you think, dear reader?

Paulmac, check out Frank Ponissi's idea in Thursday's Herald, at the bottom of the Cameron Smith story.

10 comments so far

  • The thought of the money going to RU or Soccer should be the key to make sure the the NRL clubs take up the offer. It does seem to me that the NRL clubs are getting more insular year on year, and not taking up this offer would further confirm that for me.

    Commenter
    Red Top
    Location
    Blacktown
    Date and time
    February 21, 2013, 12:01PM
    • I don't necessarily think the game gets safer. The responses by doctors have arisen in direct proportion to the increasing size and speed of players. In the 1980's you got shoulder charged by a 100kg prop lumbering into you, now you get hit by a 120kg prop running as fast as some of the 1980's wingers. There's a huge difference in the damage done.

      Likewise the reactions generally come from a spike in incidences. Eg chicken wings and other such wrestling moves would probably not be banned 10 years ago as noone had thought of them.

      The problem today with the increase in professionalism is that while the bans don't necessarily reduce danger below what it used to be (re size and speed) they do reduce the diversity of the game. Who wants to watch a game where there is only two or three legal tackle styles even if those two or three tackle styles are causing more damage than ever before.

      Commenter
      Don't get it
      Location
      Aus
      Date and time
      February 21, 2013, 12:54PM
      • For mine Lonegan in promoting the 9s has one only vision in mind - the Rugby Sevens from Wellington

        Two days of packed stands drinking eating and spending dough whislt getting live coverage on TV
        This has nothing to do with supporting the game.

        Auckland is a rugby town, it is not like Sydney and whilst many obvious NRL stars are known most are not.
        For mine the 9s will fail .

        Aucklanders are apathetic even when they know the stars appearing.

        Every likelyhood of it all ending in tears.

        Do your homework NRL.

        Commenter
        Tony
        Date and time
        February 21, 2013, 3:38PM
        • Aucklanders are a pathetic what?

          Commenter
          Chur bro!
          Location
          Wha?
          Date and time
          February 21, 2013, 5:39PM
        • Auckland is a league town also. Heard of the Warriors ?

          Commenter
          Andy Daley
          Date and time
          February 22, 2013, 7:17AM
      • The season should only be 22-23 rounds maximum,plus finals. If it was only that long and State of Origin was played over 3 stand alone weekends there could be a better window for internationals and fixtures like this.

        Commenter
        Thomas Foolery
        Date and time
        February 21, 2013, 9:13PM
        • Hello, any chance you can shed some light on what is happening to the UK coverage of the NRL? recently the NRL had all games shown on premier sports tv every week which has done wonders to raise the profile and spread the fan base for the NRL in the UK beyond it's traditional aussie ex-pat market. However in it's wisdom the NRL sold the rights to IMG and so far no decision seems to have been made on which bidder will show the NRL for 2013. Is this again another example of the NRL administration doing it's best to ruin all the good work done on the field by the players!!

          Commenter
          Gav
          Location
          UK
          Date and time
          February 21, 2013, 10:02PM
          • I email the NRL and was told that Setanta will be showing NRL on TV and online. Not sure if that applies internationally or just to Asia. They said there would be details on the nrl.com website prior to season kickoff, but I'll believe it when I see it.

            Commenter
            timmy83
            Location
            Korea
            Date and time
            February 22, 2013, 12:01AM
        • I agree with Thomas Foolery. Reduce the number of rounds of the NRL. Teams don't like this idea as they lose money from home crowds, but they would get money in return for participation in the 9s and an expanded WCC. In terms of TV rights, the addition of extra teams in Qld and WA would provide extra TV games a week.

          Commenter
          T-dog
          Location
          Brisbane
          Date and time
          February 22, 2013, 2:13PM
          • Some confused messages here. The players will benefit from how the game is played and how the game is presented. Both the shoulder ban and the nines are positive. On one hand Cameron wants more money, on the other he doesnt want to be a professional and all that it entails.

            Commenter
            James Cook
            Location
            Fitzroy Gardens
            Date and time
            February 22, 2013, 2:14PM

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