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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.





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