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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Player Burnout Drives Change

The Auckland Nines have just been played and won amid much discussion on the quality of the teams and the commitment of the clubs. Player burnout and fatigue were genuine issues raised by the clubs as to the reasons for the many non-attendance of star players and as a champion of the cause I cannot feel anything but " I told you so". The Players Union have signaled their intention to raise a new agreement and the momentum starts to shift....and I must say for the better.

Rugby League finished 2015 in November. We kicked off 2016 in February. 10 months of Rugby League is too much. No matter how much you love the game, saturation point is reached and we drive people away. Remember that song you used to love, until you heard it hourly as it played on high rotation. Sometimes, Less is MORE.

Yet the administration of Rugby League seems hell-bent on maximising game time to broaden the appeal for the broadcast networks than in looking after the game strategically. They are failing in their duty to the game, the players and the fans.

Less is more.

Lets look at 2015.

Started with the new concept of the Auckland Nines to rave reviews. We then kicked off the premiership with high hopes and anticipation. Mired in ongoing controversy we saw some of the greatest pain and also the greatest uplifts in our game's history.

Mid-Season we saw an engrossing Origin Series in which NSW finally usurped the QLD dynasty. The club season then meandered through the final month with a great playoff series seeing the Rabbitohs crowned after a long absence.

Amid a mass withdrawal of players we saw an International series capture the interest again, before we saw the Kiwis crowned in late November.

So what needs to go.

Positive for the game
  • Auckland Nines Concept
  • All Star Concept (Great it back)
  • State of Origin
  • International Rugby League
  • A club season filled with hopes and anticipation.
What has stopped working
  • A meandering club competition. After the excitement of Origin we see a club season never really lift to the heights associated with Origin. The players get tired and are injury niggled while some fans simply stop caring. I call it fan fatigue and player burnout. This is our danger.
 To make it work.

The Season needs to look like this.

Pre-Season

  •  Auckland Nines launches the season
  • Charity Shield
  • World Club Challenge (I am not really convinced on this)
Season Proper
  •  Nine weeks of competition
  • Three Week break for State Of Origin. (the so called void can be filled with international games featuring the Pacific Islands )
  • Nine weeks of competition to finish the year.
 Playoff Series
  • Playoffs go as normal until after the Grand Final Qualifier.
  • A two week break between Grand Final Qualifier and the Grand Final (what a welcome break and a chance to manage injuries)
  • The week after the Grand Final Qualifiers, all media attention turns to the All-Star game (minus GF players) This allow the GF teams to work quietly away from the spotlight on maximisng their GF plans.
  • The All Star game if the feature of this week, played in Sydney (or where the GF is played)
  • After the All Star game, the focus again returns to the GF teams and their associated media commitments and promotion of the game. The momentum built from the All-Star activites and game maintains the focus against other sports.
 Post Season

 We have a four week International Series.

Advantages
  •  By reducing the NRL Club Season to just 18 rounds, each game brings even greater significance. Each game becomes more of a must win and a must-attend for fans. Greater atmosphere at the games under this scenario will ensure a better product for the broadcaster.
  • Each game has a greater chance of becoming an event.
  • Each team has to take a game to the country. (my ideal is an 18 team competition over 17 rounds. Each team having eight home and away games with one game in a developing area)
  • At times of the season we are able to have a clear focus. We don't have the distraction of conflicting priorities.
  • Our Origin and International events become the showpiece they should be. Short campaigns dominating media presence and coverage.
  • Greater revenue. The law of supply and demand will provide the opportunity to increase revenue. Greater crowds is just one thing, but also greater demand for advertising on our broadcast networks. 
Disadvantages
  •  We have a very clear mindset of simply delivering more product to increase revenue.
  • Our clubs have a mindset of having 12 home games at half-filled stadium (or worse) to less games and greater crowds. The fear of the unknown is what will consume us.
  • Some fans have the mindset that our players are sooks for raising player burnout concerns.
  • The game has a conflict collective. We like the drama, we like the conflict. We raise the issues. Any change like the one that I have proposed will surely be wailed down by some of the media contingent.
  • We have a game controlled by the TV dollar. We are scared of brushing that relationship the wrong way and with good reason. We know many of our match ups are just not event worthy. Its a cold miserable Saturday/Friday or Monday night and two of the lesser teams are playing. Fans take the option to stay at home....and some won't even watch on TV. 
Will this get some discussion going? Probably not. The game has just appointed Shane Richardson to develop more commercial opportunities. I am guessing that means more games.

Remember what I said. Less is more.





Friday, August 8, 2014

The Farrah Football Follies

How long is a footy drama? As long as someone is prepared to stir the pot.....

The Robbie Farrah Wests Tigers saga, just keeps getting the pot stirred and growing with life every day. Farrah's love-in with Phil Gould last night, was a contrived event to finish it, but the very next day we see two more returns of serve back. One from a Balmain legend, Steve Roach who has just had a gutful while Gordon Tallis the original Farrah protagonist rightly pointed out of Triple M in his final comments on the matter that Farrah had not come out in public support of coach Mick Potter until Tallis's reveal all comments.

The Footy Show Love-In last night did not help matters one little bit. In fact, it heightened questions on integrity of many other people now, notwithstanding the sympathetic line of questioning from Phil Gould.  Ok, he asked some tough questions about the departure of Tim Sheens, Benji Marshall and Beau Ryan? He blindly accepted his answers...WHAT?

What I took from it, was again someone walking the tightrope of fact and fantasy. What has been missed is the blatant lie Farrah told at the press conference where he stated that HE DID NOT SAY THAT TO GORDIE. Now the statement is watered down to being old and so many things have changed in that time. He lied...that's simple.

Body language is a huge way in which we communicate, and for "such great mates" that Farrah has made himself out to be with Mick Potter, their body language does not reciprocate at all. They always look tense, uneasy and mistrusting. (once again a perception, I know but one that is obviously picked up by others as well)

I agree with Tallis when he suggested that Farrah did not publicly support Potter until Tallis revealed the conversation. Farrah had control of this all the time. Consistent public messages of support to Potter, would never have given the story legs and if needed exposed the inaduqaceies of the leadership of the club itself.

The final question ( or was it a statement) that it seemed that Farrah went to great pains to stay out of the drama yet found himself embroiled in it...was simply laughable. If it had happened once, then maybe we could accept that. But Farrah has been embroiled in each of the situations Wests Tigers have found themselves in.

I have always found that where drama seems to surround a player or a person in business, look for the common denominator.....and that is...... I will let you draw your own conclusions.

But was also highlighted last night, was the continued swipes at Tallis. Coming again from Beau Ryan, he spoke about the sanctity of "private conversations". All that inferred to me was how rampant back-stabbing and talking behind other people's back must be in the NRL. And to have the panel, almost unanimously shake their heads in approval was evidence of that.

Rugby League has more than it's share of political manoeuvring and this again highlighted this. WOW.

And what about serious faced Beau who looked down the camera and declared the position of the CEO is in some jeopardy. Why would anyone listen to you Beau? Stick to the funny man routine, or was this part of that?

I don't know these people but perceptions are built on what we see. Childish behaviour, lack of leadership, political and power plays. Seriously, is this what the NRL is being reduced to.

I do know something. It is not a good look. Its time for change


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Blueprint to Fix the NRL

Recently some experts have added their thoughts on how to reduce the impacts on the players for Origin. Wayne Bennett and Des Hasler have added discussion, and as always Phil Gould leads the way. All of what has been said by these passionate league men have merit, with the importance of starting the discussion and influence.

I am  concerned about where we sit with rugby league at the elite level and I have been compelled to again shake off thefooty.com to share my blueprint of what we need to do. The final straw was my walk on the treadmill Tuesday afternoon, watching a replay of the Titans v Storm game with empty stands being the overwhelming feature. And honestly, I'm sick of seeing this great game played out to empty stadiums with only the diehard fans present.

The other reason we need to fix the game, is the brutal dynamics that now make up State of Origin. Game 1 was honestly the most brutal game I can remember seeing with two fearless teams colliding with force for 80 minutes. And having a league that creates the situation where they back up shortly after such a game defies logic and is borderline breaching our "duty of care" for the players.

At the heart of the matter is this. We have 16 teams that play 24 games over a 26 period (2 byes) from February until early September and the finals take us into early October, interspersed with representative fixtures and a brutal 9 weeks of Origin.
Let's compare what we ask our players to do, with other major sports.
  • The NBA Season is 82 games long from Late October till Mid-April. Playoffs take the Season out to mid-end June
  • The NFL play 16 regular season game from late August to early January. The Super Bowl is played early February.
  • The English Premier Season runs from August to May and each team plays 38 games. On top of this is the FA Cup Knockout and the European Champions League.
  • The AFL has 18 clubs and plays a season of 23 rounds with each club getting one bye.
  • Australian Rugby Union play 19 games and the elite play a series of Test Matches every year.
Comparing us to the other similar body contact sports, we tax our players and fans incredibly. We have built a model of our game that supplies too much product for the demand that we have, and we have face the following issues because of it.
  • The majority of our fans are apathetic and our crowds suffer because of it
  • Our fans suffer severe let-down during the season when Origin forces teams to field second rate teams
  • The season starts with enthusiastic embrace, but as the season lingers many fans simply turn off. We have real "Fan Fatigue" It's hard to maintain enthusiasm for a team for the length of time we ask them to do.
  • Our players are simply overworked. AND OUR GREATEST ASSET
  • Not enough blockbuster games.
  • Our jewel in the crown, State of Origin is spread over a nine week period which impacts fans and clubs alike.
Our game in it's current format is unsustainable. Additional, to this we have
  • Clubs facing financial pressures
  • Clubs reluctant to lose home games due to impacts on revenue
  • Our grassroots game continues to struggle
So what is a possible solution? My proposal is simple as it brings a simple economic model to bear and  additionally improves the areas that need to be improved.
  • Increase the clubs to 18. I am not here to discuss where this occurs, but we are heavily over-represented in Sydney and need to add new markets to our game
  • Each team plays each other ONCE. A 17 game season.
  • Each team plays 8 home games, 8 away games and one game in a country area every year.
  • As clubs will see a reduction of home games, they MUST get their preferred time schedule for at least 50% of their games.(This will obviously mean a revamp of any broadcasting deal) 
  • The State of Origin series is played over a 3 week period. Over this period, the NRL is suspended and other representative games may be played eg Pacific Island tests, Country v City.
  • Our finals series is also something we could re-engineer to add some real impact to it with a true knockout format. I only say this, as early playoff crowds have been poor at times and adding impact through the potential of a knockout must add numbers to the crowd.
  • The NRL must control everything. When you watch NBA or NFL the microphones are branded to the code, not to the broadcaster.
So what will this do? By limiting supply, we increase demand for the public to attend. We increase the appeal of EVERY game, while reducing match day costs for the clubs. Each club must look at each game as  potential blockbusters and market accordingly. Supporters understand they have a reduced number of games to attend, increasing their potential to attend.

The grassroots get an injection through the clubs taking games to the masses. Our State of Origin gets the showcase it deserves, and the other representative games get a new level of exposure. While the season is in hiatus, the clubs can nurse injuries, run fan days, do community days and refocus as needed. After all, it's only three weeks. We lighten the load on all players.

Yes, I know many will see this as absurd. Many will see it as unworkable. Many will see it as unnecessary.

I believe it is vital for the future of our game and our players.

Where do you see our great game in five years time?

Tony Curl.










Saturday, June 1, 2013

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Friday, May 17, 2013

AFL Preview Round 8

The AFL bump has come under attack with varied responses from players, coaches and experts. 2 incidents on the weekend resulted in suspensions and reference was made to the Thomas bump a few weeks ago and how lucky he escaped suspension. Personally I thought they were a bit different. The game is a lot cleaner than 20 years ago, that’s for sure but we need to be careful that we don’t make it a game of touch footy! Some interesting games to tip this week and my 5 last week, after a 9 the week before, is an indication of both inconsistency in form and stupid tipping! J


Round 8

Friday

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

AFL Review Round 7

Geelong  17.11.113 defeated Essendon 11.19.85

This was quite a good game up to half time just before which the Cats had quickly replied with a few goals to take a small lead into the 3rd quarter. Either Essendon had tired or they just weren’t good enough but a mixture of inaccurate kicking and either of the other two reasons was enough to result in a reasonably comfortable Geelong win. That keeps the Cats undefeated and primed to play Collingwood next week while the Bombers play the Brisbane Lions and have a chance to fix some damage from this loss.

 

Port Adelaide 10.13.73 lost to Richmond 18.6.114

An awfully slow start by Port Adelaide, the same as they had against North Melbourne the week before, put them in an almost impossible position to win the game. Even with a couple of Richmond injuries the Tigers just kept the pressure on the Power and won by almost 7 goals. That win halted the Richmond ladder slide after 3 consecutive losses and also handed Port Adelaide their 2nd loss in a row. The Tiger’s have a great chance to consolidate with a game against the hapless Demons next week and the Power faces Carlton in another danger game for them.

Friday, May 10, 2013

AFL Preview Round 7

Author www.footy.com.au: One week I am lamenting my poor tipping skills and the following week every tip is correct. Mind you it wasn’t a hard round of games from which to pick winners so it can be assumed that many tipsters scored well. In contrast to Round 6 we find this week’s fixture has 8 of the top 9 teams playing each other. Not only does that make picking winners a little harder but it means that winning teams outside the 8 get a chance to gain a game on the leaders. However, it also means that the teams outside the 8 play each other and with some being on a sort of level footing standard-wise then picking winners from those matches will also be tough. If you get an 8 or 9 this week you can beat your chest and stand proud!

 

Friday

 

Geelong V Essendon  at Etihad

Monday, May 6, 2013

AFL Review Round 6

Collingwood 15.13.103 defeated St Kilda 11.11.77

It took the Magpies half a game to shake off a determined Saints side and there’s nothing like a generous interpretation of rules to give a side a couple of easy goals which helped Collingwood maintain a reasonable lead. The loss of Lenny Hayes before the game didn’t help St Kilda’s chances either. The Collingwood back line did much better as did their centres and running players. The Saints will win a few more games this season but it’s going to be a tough year for them. They might have a better chance against Carlton next week and the Magpies fly to Perth to play Fremantle.

 

Essendon 17.18.120 defeated GWS Giants 12.9.81

Friday, May 3, 2013

AFL Preview Round 6

Sometimes no news is good news. The Essendon drug supplement story peters out then the newspapers make up some dodgy, juicy headlines and it’s game on again. Other than that…well I have found tipping to be hard this season because I am reading things into games that don’t really seem to be there. Wanting to pick the upsets is not smart tipping when the result is going to be obvious. There will be upsets but I was expecting a few more at the start of the season. Last week the score was 7, best effort so far. We will improve. In the meantime stay away from my picks unless they are obvious. Good luck.
 

Friday

 

Collingwood V St Kilda at the MCG

Sunday, April 28, 2013

AFL Review Round 5

2013 SEASON
Author - www.footy.com.au

With May Day holidays and a weekend off it was a great opportunity to watch every game on AFL streaming. Usually the opportunity to do this is restricted to a half or 3 quarters of a few games and all of a game that is played in the late afternoon. 3 close games provided some much needed entertainment. The Essendon win and the Port Adelaide tip were the contentious games to pick from this round. But those that picked those two would have finished with 9 from 9.

 

Essendon 18.13.121 defeated Collingwood 10.15.75

A record crowd of 93,000 plus watched a high quality game that saw the Bombers remain undefeated and Collingwood get beaten easily in the last 15 minutes. With just over 8 minutes to play the Pies were closing and had got to within 2 goals. 3 free kicks to Essendon in front of goal, which I thought were very poor decisions, helped seal the game as the Magpie impetus was halted. The umpiring didn’t cost Collingwood the game but certainly the margin might have been less. Essendon look like the real deal this year. With their next game against the Giants they will be 6 wins from 6 games and the Pies need to get their act together to beat St Kilda next week. The attitude of some players in the last 6 minutes would have had Mick throwing a hissy fit in the box if he was still coaching.