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Creating a representative season to excite the fans


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#1 Martyn Sadler

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 01:34 PM

I was reading an article recently that revealed that in one particular week earlier this year there were 31 international rugby union matches across six continents.
Inevitably most of those matches would involve countries that most of us would struggle to associate with rugby union.
Nonetheless, that they all took place illustrates that international matches are seen as crucial to developing worldwide interest in the other code of rugby. And, if we put aside our prejudices, we have to admit that the rugby union authorities leave us far behind in their determination not just to develop their international game, but to ensure that it has the necessary resources to get their game established all across the world, even in the most unpromising territories.

Lack of ambition
When we compare that with our own sport, we might conclude that playing England against a composite team of overseas Super League stars, who we label 'The Exiles', illustrates the paucity of our achievement, and our lack of ambition.
That the match at Warrington could draw fewer than 8,000 spectators, when there were no Super League matches scheduled on that weekend, suggests that Rugby League supporters weren't fooled into thinking that the game was a genuine international contest, as opposed to an England training run against some admittedly distinguished opponents.
If international Rugby League is going to have any credibility in future, we urgently need to find a structure that will deliver competitive matches, and not just for England but for all countries that have international ambitions in our sport.
Fortunately there is a way to do it, although it would require cooperation between the governing bodies in England, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the cooperation of the Super League and NRL clubs.
On their past record, you might doubt that such cooperation would be forthcoming.

Amending Origin
Fortunately, however, there would be a payoff for those bodies, and a sizeable one at that.
And the solution to our problem would also address the only significant weakness in the State of Origin series between Queensland and New South Wales.
Weakness?
What possible weakness could there be in the State of Origin series, I hear you ask with record breaking crowds and TV audiences having been attracted to this year’s series.?
Well, believe it or not, there is a weakness in Origin.
You may have noticed that this year's State of Origin series began on Wednesday 5 June, with the second game played on 26 June and the third on 17 July.
The Origin series provides great sporting theatre, but it stretches out over seven weeks.
The big negative - the weakness of Origin - is the impact it has on the NRL club competition.
During that seven-week period the attendances at NRL matches plummet, and the TV audiences fall too, as Australian Rugby League supporters focus almost entirely on State of Origin.
The obvious solution for the Australian Rugby League Commission is to schedule the State of Origin games for three successive Wednesdays, let's say the second, third and fourth Wednesdays in June, to cut down the number of weeks in which it overshadows the NRL competition.
And if the ARLC is prepared to go down that route, which is hardly a revolutionary road for State of Origin, it gives us the chance to schedule a three match series at the same time between England (or Great Britain) and New Zealand.

New international structure
The Kiwis and the British both view State of Origin with some jealousy, because we haven't had an equivalent series to take pride in ourselves.
But if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. By playing each other, the Lions and the Kiwis would create their own annual rivalry, while leaving the Aussies to get on with their own Origin series.
Imagine the Kiwis coming to England, and playing Test matches on the same three Wednesdays that the State of Origin games would be played on. Three Tests in June would be a tremendous prospect for Rugby League supporters. Imagine a morning watching the State of Origin, while in the evening, on a warm summer night, we headed to an equally full-blooded Test match against the Kiwis.
And every other year it would be Great Britain (or England) heading to New Zealand to play a three-match Test series in places like Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington, probably on a Tuesday night, so as not to clash directly with the Origin games.
What a great trip that would be for English supporters who wanted to take in a three-match Test series against the Kiwis, while then jumping across the Ditch (otherwise known as the Tasman Sea) to take in the three State of Origin games. I would certainly buy into that trip.

Club objections
The one obvious objection to what I'm suggesting, however, could be the reaction of the clubs, both in Super League and the NRL.
Would they agree to losing some of their leading players to a Kiwi-Lions Test series for a whole month?
I think they could be persuaded, especially if the NRL and Super League modified their fixture structure during the month in which the representative fixtures were scheduled to be played.
The solution is to schedule each club to play just two games over a four-week period. So, for four weeks in, say, the month of June, each round of Super League and the NRL would last for two weeks, meaning that the clubs would only be without their leading players for two matches at most.
If they were smart enough they could find innovative ways of marketing those games with an emphasis on some of the young stars who would be taking the places of the players selected for the international games. And it goes without saying that during the representative month international teams would have priority in selecting players.

Extending international competition
And the great thing about this proposal is that we could extend the international opportunity to many other nations, not just New Zealand and England.
For example, how about creating parallel representative series between, say, Wales and France, or Ireland and Scotland, Italy and Lebanon, Samoa and Tonga, Papua New Guinea and Fiji, and so on. The list is potentially endless.
I hate to admit it, but rugby union has a lot to teach us in its attitude towards international competition.
They allocate the month of November, for example, as a representative month, with all the countries in the northern hemisphere hosting their counterparts from the rest of the world.
It works brilliantly for them, generating massive crowds, enormous revenues and tremendous publicity.
We need to recognise that the club game can only take Rugby League so far. We need something similar to what rugby union does to stimulate interest in our own international game.

Annual landmark
And the key point is that by creating an annual Test series, home and away, against the Kiwis, we would be creating something that both the RFL and the NZRL could sell to broadcasters. The annual encounters would soon become a valuable asset that would swell the coffers of the governing bodies, assuming they were smart enough to recognise the value of this proposal themselves.
The international month would very quickly become an annual landmark that our supporters would look forward to, while we would also get the chance to see an annual round of younger players being introduced to Super League to replace the representative stars for those games.
The key decision that would need to be made, for all this to work, is for the Australian Rugby League Commission to schedule the State of Origin for three successive weeks. But why wouldn't they want to do this, if only for selfish reasons?
John Grant, the Chairman of the ARLC, has already indicated that he regards the development of international Rugby League as a priority.
He has already shown that he is capable of innovative thinking, and I can't see why he shouldn't give his backing to the proposal I'm making here, unless of course he has a better one.
If so, I'd love to know what it is.

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#2 Methven Hornet

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 02:10 PM

I was reading an article recently that revealed that in one particular week earlier this year there were 31 international rugby union matches across six continents.


Click here to view the article

 

I think I like this proposal slightly better than the other one that was discussed on here (was it based upon a Luke Dorn article?) where Super League would close down for the 3 consecutive weekends of a revised SoO. Your suggestion gives a slightly longer window in which the players can become acclimatised and recover from the day-long journey; important if they are going to play up to three tough, evenly-matched test matches.

The couple of matches played without the clubs' international stars could be a problem, but if, as you say, they could be presented slightly differently. Could these fixtures be two of the 'extra' ones if we are to move to a simple 12 club Super League structure (but keep 27 regular season games)? It could complicate matters if we move to the 2x12 - 3x8 structure. To differentiate these games, not disadvantage the teams supplying the most internationals too much, and give a little extra interest, could there be a stipulation that each side has to include a certain number of under 20s/under 21s? Test which club has the best development system?

As for the internationals themselves, I think it has to be England rather than GB as this gives the other nations - Ireland, Scotland, Wales - a run out and would, hopefully, allow them to include their 'heritage' players. This opportunity could help sort out the wheat from the chaff in terms of these heritage players, and find out who wants to genuinely pledge themselves to their chosen nation's cause, eg if a player is not willing to travel from down under to play for one of the European nations in mid-season then they can forget it when world cup comes around.


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#3 RugbyLeagueGeek

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 03:39 PM

The following were my thoughts on some sort of plausible international structure from the thread about mid-season tours. Based on Adelaide Tiger's idea of mini European league fixtures which could also double up as qualifiers for Autumn competitions. It also includes some GB competition, in the hope that this would encourage the best players eligible to play for Scotland, Ireland and Wales to stick with these countries during non-world cup seasons as they would be in the shop window for GB selection.

 

Year 1:

Summer - Euro leagues (results count as 1st leg of World Cup qualifiers)

Autumn - X Nations tournament (number of participants can be determined as required, home nations compete separately)

 

Year 2:

Summer - Euro leagues (results count as 2nd leg of World Cup qualifiers)

Autumn - GB host Aus or NZ

 

Year 3:

Summer - Euro leagues (results count as 1st leg of X Nations qualifiers)

Autumn - World Cup (home nations compete separately)

 

Year 4:

Summer - Euro leagues (results count as 2nd leg of X Nations qualifiers)

Autumn - GB tour NZ or Aus

 

Year 5:

Summer - Euro leagues (results count as 1st leg of World Cup qualifiers)

Autumn - X Nations tournament

 

And so on...


Edited by RugbyLeagueGeek, 18 July 2013 - 03:41 PM.


#4 Methven Hornet

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 05:46 PM

The following were my thoughts on some sort of plausible international structure from the thread about mid-season tours. Based on Adelaide Tiger's idea of mini European league fixtures which could also double up as qualifiers for Autumn competitions. It also includes some GB competition, in the hope that this would encourage the best players eligible to play for Scotland, Ireland and Wales to stick with these countries during non-world cup seasons as they would be in the shop window for GB selection.

 
Year 1:
Summer - Euro leagues (results count as 1st leg of World Cup qualifiers)
Autumn - X Nations tournament (number of participants can be determined as required, home nations compete separately)
 
Year 2:
Summer - Euro leagues (results count as 2nd leg of World Cup qualifiers)
Autumn - GB host Aus or NZ
 
Year 3:
Summer - Euro leagues (results count as 1st leg of X Nations qualifiers)
Autumn - World Cup (home nations compete separately)
 
Year 4:
Summer - Euro leagues (results count as 2nd leg of X Nations qualifiers)
Autumn - GB tour NZ or Aus
 
Year 5:
Summer - Euro leagues (results count as 1st leg of World Cup qualifiers)
Autumn - X Nations tournament
 
And so on...

 
And any GB (and Ireland) side to be made up of players from the four 'home' nation squads. So, if an Irish, Scottish or Welsh player is better than the English equivalent then they get in the side? Even if their accent, birthplace and residence are, er, somewhat Australian? :tongue:

Edited by Methven Hornet, 18 July 2013 - 05:48 PM.

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#5 RugbyLeagueGeek

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 08:23 PM

 
And any GB (and Ireland) side to be made up of players from the four 'home' nation squads. So, if an Irish, Scottish or Welsh player is better than the English equivalent then they get in the side? Even if their accent, birthplace and residence are, er, somewhat Australian? :tongue:

Maybe the GB selection criteria should state that parents must have been born in GB as opposed to grandparents... :ph34r:



#6 GeordieSaint

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 08:25 PM

Maybe the GB selection criteria should state that parents must have been born in GB as opposed to grandparents... :ph34r:

 

I am going to throw a spanner in your masterplan for international rugby... the World Cup will happen every four years from this year onwards.


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#7 RugbyLeagueGeek

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 08:59 PM

I am going to throw a spanner in your masterplan for international rugby... the World Cup will happen every four years from this year onwards.

That is accounted for in my masterplan - year 5 starts the cycle again. A far bigger spanner is that I'm just an internet keyboard warrior goon that nobody is interested in... :(



#8 GeordieSaint

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 09:10 PM

That is accounted for in my masterplan - year 5 starts the cycle again. A far bigger spanner is that I'm just an internet keyboard warrior goon that nobody is interested in... :(

 

:) You are keeping me amused! ;)

 

In all seriousness, the cycle will be four years in order to ensure the World Cup does occur in the same calendar year as any of the other major sporting championships in football, rugby union and the Olympics. I believe that is the intent for the future.

 

NB IGNORE ME... I have just realised what you meant! Monging it...


Edited by GeordieSaint, 18 July 2013 - 09:10 PM.

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