The Cumberland Throw

The Spotlight – The Big Grand Final Omission

Is NRL Grand Final Day everything you want it to be as the Game’s showcase event of the year? This post is being written during the Intrust Super State Championship Grand Final so it’s not sitting in judgement of the standard of football or the entertainment. Rather, it’s concerned with what’s missing.

This may not be a popular post. At the very least it’s likely to be polarising because I will be criticising decisions made by NRL executives. Nonetheless, if this is the direction that Grand Final days will be taking, then the NRL needs to be called out on a major area of neglect.

Of course I’m talking about the omission of an Under 20s decider.

Whether it’s been under 20s, under 21s, under 23s or Third Grade, this lower grade Grand Final has always been a showcase for younger footballers. Last year’s demise of the NYC has obviously meant that the NRL no longer has any interest in promoting the future stars of the game, let alone providing a stage for them on Grand Final day.

No big deal? It’s only junior football?

Consider the decisions the NRL have made with junior football and tell me whether they’re acting like the guardians of the game. They’ve literally shovelled it back to the NSWRL and no longer promote the future stars of rugby league.

The NYC was an elite competition which was the envy of other sports. It enjoyed a high profile via its broadcast arrangement with Fox Sports and its positioning as the curtain raiser event for NRL matches. Whilst I didn’t agree with its scheduling elevation ahead of “reserve grade”, I definitely viewed it as an important inclusion on match days.

Utoikamanu on the burst at Ringrose Park.

Fast forward to 2018. Many of the young players who last year played at big arenas and featured on television are now playing at smaller venues or local parks in front of family and friends. As a consequence, most club supporters have little idea about the young players on the fringe of ISP or even the NRL for their team. Be honest, how many of you Eels supporters have had the opportunity to watch ISP or Flegg outside of a couple of games at ANZ?

So let’s say we accept that the venues can no longer support the traffic of three grades of football every week.

Let’s even accept that you won’t get the opportunity to watch these under 20 footballers on a weekly basis.

Wouldn’t you then hope that the trade off would be the NRL showcasing its future stars on the very day that it has its largest audience? It would make sense wouldn’t it?

The NRLW Grand Final has been a tremendous inclusion. It’s enjoying the larger broadcast audience that comes on Grand Final day. One hopes it hasn’t come at the expense of an Under 20s event. After all, both are just as important for the growth of the game. Surely both could still feature?

Should an argument be presented that the surface can’t cope with four grades of football, I’d be surprised. Quite simply, the traffic on ANZ Stadium on grand final weekend is much less than normal weekends. Time? We used to have three grades with a first grade three o’clock kick off. It can be fitted in.

Or maybe they just don’t care.

This season, the lower grade finals series matches have been staged at Penrith Park, Kogarah and Leichhardt. Obviously, the NRL doesn’t have an interest in having these clashes as curtain raisers before NRL finals. They’ve drawn a line below first grade and anything below that no longer features in their game day plans.

As far as I’m concerned that’s not good enough.

We need the “professionals” who earn their coin looking after the game that we love to return the game to the people. Stop taking our game further and further away from the traditions and core values that the code is based on. Stop hiding these important pathways away from the fans. Let us watch the future stars of our game.

At least on this one day of the year!

Eels forever!


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44 thoughts on “The Spotlight – The Big Grand Final Omission

  1. Hamsammich

    The NRL wanted to promote reserve grade but what they’ve done is kill off any advantage we had with the 20’s competition. I don’t usually buy into the hype around the game killing itself but the decisions that have been made around the 20’s competitions do make it feel as if the game is killing and will kill itself in this aspect. They’ve effectively destroyed a pathway to first grade and for what?

    1. sixties Post author

      I’ve got my selfish motive – I like tracking the talented younger players, even from other clubs.
      I’ve got the interest of the game motive – the pathway system has just been completely offloaded and thrown to the boondocks.

  2. Big Derek

    Yet another decision by Teflon Todd that show how little interest he has in grass roots football. The sooner he moves on and someone like Quayle with a real understanding of the game is appointed, the game of rugby league will return to what it once was.

    If ever there was someone with little interest outside of the top grade, it’s Toddy boy.

      1. John Eel

        It is hardly “Commercial” decision making if they are destroying the long term viability of the business. It is more like amateur hour

  3. Billy

    Well said. No disrespect to the womens game. But it seems our junior stars have made way for it.
    The Nrl want to be seen giving equality and dont get me wrong the females deserve there own platform. But should it be at the expense of our junior stars.

    There is plenty of room for everyone.

    Well said Sixties

    1. sixties Post author

      Exactly Billy. I’m thoroughly enjoying the NRLW. I’ve watched plenty of Tarsha Gale Cup footy too. There’s a huge chance to make it a major women’s team sport. But it shouldn’t push out the pathway showcase matches. They should all feature. Every ISP and Flegg finals game was shunted off to Penrith, Kogarah and Leichhardt this year!!!

  4. BDon

    Yep, just something not right about the day. Including the evening kick off time. The AFL has retained their traditional Saturday afternoon event. NRL sold out to media years ago. Or maybe i’m stuck in the past.

  5. Parramatta Tragic

    Nothing wrong with being stuck in the past if it was better. Why the obsession with rock bands? Why must there be a rock band every year? If you want rock bands then go to a concert. Tie up a deal with WWE or MMA to have a match or two as pre game entertainment. Not for everyone but will generate atmosphere. Bringing back all three grades is a no brainer, not just on GF day but every weekend. On what planet do we not promote pathways? The AFL had a 100 metre team sprint. People like that stuff. Bring it back. Have a goal kicking contest between the best kickers not playing. The AFL had zero, zilch, nada betting advertising. No promotion of exotic bets, no long interviews about odds. Absolutely nothing to do with gambling and I loved that. Betting has taken over our game. Get rid of it and just focus on the game. Have a referees 100 metre sprint – one for the boys and one for the girls. Have an English Super League sprint with the winner to race the NRL winner. That type of stuff engages the crowd – listening to bad lip syncing is just bloody awful and embarrassing. 3 pm kick off is a must. The game is dying and desperately needs an enema.

    1. sixties Post author

      PT, I’ve never had a problem with some musical entertainment and I’m glad they no longer pull out marching bands on the big day. But that “something feels wrong” was there with me from the start of the coverage. It’s been there for most of the year. It’s been that division between NRL and lower grades. I’ve literally had to make two trips to the footy each week to watch NRL and lower grades. Some weeks it would have been 3 with ISP and Flegg also at different venues, but I didn’t stretch myself that far.
      But it’s not just supporters like me that’s impacted. It the players and their families. Now they don’t even get a part of grand final day – something that they’ve always enjoyed.

      1. Parramatta Tragic

        But why always a rock band sixties? We create a mosh pit and play rubbish music with dreadful lip syncing. Can they not think of anything other than a rock band? Get in early and book ABBA for next year and get more than 15 people in the stands before kickoff. Get Andre Rieu. Get Larry, Moe and Shemp if necessary for something different. I’m not a fan of a marching band either mate. I want two of them, each 100 metres long and 6 deep playing the clubs theme songs. I also want a club relay race with all clubs represented. 4 x 100 metre relays during the day culminating in a final. No baton exchanges but carrying and passing footballs. We seriously need all three grades back and playing every week, culminating in a great GF day. Tradition is not a dirty word and we desperately need it before everyone loses interest. I would even go back to having a match of the round at the SCG every week. The game is dying rapidly and we need tradition back

        1. sixties Post author

          I didn’t watch the AFL but I did watch their longest kick competition. I’d even advocate for that.
          ABBA – not my bag. I am a rock band person PT, even at my age. My tinnitus is testimony to that endeavour.
          But I’ll tell you what I do agree with – that the club songs and other club related celebrations should be a huge part of the pre-game build up.

      2. Rowdy

        Good topic Sixties. I reckon the something missing feeling is the lack of inclusiveness with the juniors no longer represented as you say mate, and it has been there all year.
        The NRL and the commission have to address Regional, Country and junior footy as grassroots participation as a priority. All well and good to have have the women’s game. I loved it too, but as with touch footy it will never put much into the final elite product which is the NRL. Certainly all grassroots footy has, does and will always be where the real product is born and nurtured.

        1. sixties Post author

          The game needs to be careful that it doesn’t get lost. There is a lifeblood to the game – grassroots footy – and if it’s not looked after there will be no product.

  6. Glenn

    Whole heartedly support you here 60s. Was looking forward to under 20s g’f but unfortunately there wasn’t one.

      1. Colin Hussey

        Says it all mate, I wonder really what sort of feedback &/or result of a NRL survey for all RL supporters to have a say on what the future of the game should be, and include more from tradition.

        The more one destroys tradition, the less there is to follow, and less will follow as a result.

  7. Milo

    I agree Sixties about this and while I’m currently o/seas I love watching the reserves and 20’s. Go back to 98 and from then on we’ve seen many traditions eroded from the game. I will never be a fan of night grand finals. 4 pm would be spot on in my view.
    The Flegg is an important part of the grand final day yet the powers at the NRL have moved it elsewhere? Another tradition moved. Some of these players will be playing nrl in 12-24 months. Enough said.

    I am also not a fan of the womens game being shoved in our faces- to me it’s mediocre at best and while I’m not saying i do not like women playing i am over the push from most sports down this political side, and this has seen the Flegg teams in this instance be moved elsewhere. Let the women game begin and build rather than shove it down our throats at a mediocre level with several teams playing. Its a farce in this old dinosaur’s view.

    Our game is more reactionary imo rather than visionary and we have lost many traditions over the years. The nrl jump on the feel good band wagons too much for my liking. We have several rounds for reason I cannot answer and the only round we should have extra is the rivalry round eg. Parra V Manly for example.
    I have enjoyed watching the AFL traditions more and more over the years which is something I’d never have said back in 1998.

    1. sixties Post author

      I’ve been watching and marvelling at the women’s game. It’s a great product.But it doesn’t contribute future players to the NRL, nor should its presence take away traditions or remove fixtures. It deserves a pedestal but it’s up to the NRL to find a pedestal that doesn’t diminish the core product. At this stage it’s a three round premiership that has removed all lower grades from featuring during finals football. Is that right? The AFLW plays earlier in their season so that the excitement for their game has its own identity. Let’s build the Women’s game. Let’s promote it. But don’t have it come at a price.

      1. Milo

        Yes agreed mate; particularly in terms of building the ladies game. To me it has little to do with nrl in terms of boys / men playing and seeing the Flegg be pushed aside is disgraceful – shows how little nrl think of the games ‘tradition’s’ and if I’m being honest they’d probably rate ok too.
        Women’s games maybe played earlier in yr along with Flegg / SG Ball or ISP earlier in yr and finals same wkend as SG Ball etc to allow it to build.
        The product seems rushed and already on tv etc. yet we have hardly any Flegg / ISP in the same format.
        Just my view.
        NRL seem to jump on too many bandwagons and rush things. They will no doubt change the ladies game several times over the nest 5 yrs.
        To me the junior system in men’s needs to be sorted and then left alone before throwing in ladies league without a good foundation.

        1. colin hussey

          Milo, problem is that their bandwagon is hauled by great white show pony’s with prancy drovers in charge of a wagon full of rotting boards ready to fall apart.

        2. sixties Post author

          I’m not expecting the NRLW to grow beyond 4 teams for at least another year. So the timing and scheduling will be unlikely to change.

    2. BDon

      All of the above. Tks Milo, I got lazy with my 3 line thought bubble, but pretty well everything you said was running around (and bruising) my brain. I went out and did some maintenance around the house and yard for the first time ever on GF day and only watched the main game. Had a quick look at ISP at the start but I said to the missus the Bulldogs will street them, so outside again. Maybe night time AFL doesn’t work as well, they’ll fumble or drop the ball even more, but they have that sense of self worth to tell the media ringmasters that they’ll stand for something and not fall for everything.
      Also, is it wishful thinking to expect Blake Ferguson to not only get sets started well but transfer some of the brilliant Roosters defence?

  8. Colin Hussey

    Sixties I mentioned in the previous blog about how I feel regarding the game, but when I sit down and think of it, its likely starting to show its getting close to early signs of a fatal desease.

    While many may applaud the NRL and the bringing in a WNRL come, and a boost for women in the game, to me its also about tradition along with the promotion of the game from the young age players, and seeing them come up from those levels and through to the top teams.

    This year and the GF day is a step up from the promotion and relegation aspects as found in England, where as something of a new idea is put in place and the removal rather than relegation of meaningful games for families to enjoy.

    Its a dead set joke to have the ISP match as the only early match, but I can at least understand it being something of type of interstate comp as to who is best team, yet for me the reality is that ISP as it is really does not help many of the clubs that are affiliated with it.

    I am really not far off walking away from the game with these dead headed decisions that are killing the game.

    1. sixties Post author

      I’ve actually become angrier since writing this. It’s a disgrace that the law wer grades were completely removed from the finals series. I don’t want to get into anything to do with criticising the elevation of the NRLW but I do want to rip into the NRL for ignoring the bloodlines of its own game.

      1. colin hussey

        Don’t disagree with you on that & its my big beef.

        I watched the bald boss in promotion last week and behind him was an ex QLD PM, pulling faces and it looked a real joke sadly, how are these two so qualified to be those in charge of this great game?????

        The game is slowly dying, but I believe it will be faster the way things are going with the move away from the grass roots of the game. Where is the real direction of the game really heading? TBH, I cannot see that its going anywhere these days except backwards.

    2. Milo

      Col i am with you on that.
      To me the womens game is about increasing girls playing league as youngsters and yes that’s great but to me I cant really watch it on tv as a spectacle. Maybe 5 mins – that’s it.
      Give me junior reps and ISP etc any day to promote.
      As someone who works in school and the amount of girls focussed games include league for one has in my view neglected boys. It may seem wrong to say but its occurring.

      1. colin hussey

        Milo, there is a lot of talk about trying to expand the game, the only way that will both survive let alone succeed in that area is with the main comps doing it. The only way the main comps will survive is to get the game back to the grassroots and tradition of what the game is/was and where it started from.

        Without the working class getting involved and the NRL boffins realising that RL is not a toff sport, and the sooner the better. The game began as a mens sport and will always be, in the main a men’s sport, the more boys who grow to manhood that are encouraged to play the game, the more families will attend and support their local NRL team or one from family tradition.

        I know of no one in my family background that supported RL supported other teams, although a couple of them could have.

        Thing has to be to have a higher grade jnr comp, be that a reintroduction of the Presidents cup or under 23’s then reserves and a first grade team playing on the same day is the only way the game will go forward, likewise it needs more games on Saturdays and Sundays that finish before sunset. The grounds people may not want that but it may not happen every weekend with home and away, but if people go to watch the 3rd grade play they will stay for all the matches.

        With the way the grounds are looked after these days along with the drainage improvements, stronger turfs and the like how many mud cricket strips are in the middle these days. Its a furphy for me. Same with the catering, the more time open the more chance of selling stuff especially if its of quality at fair prices.

        Last week I was Down in Mexico and a small country town with 3 bakeries in the main st. It posed a question to me, when we got into one of them that was still open after 4pm, the list of pie varieties was small, but there was only three non premium or gourmet pies, the non premium cost $4.80, the others cost $9.50, I got a cheapie and my mate one of the others, I got the better deal.

        The current mob running the game are all desirous of running a gourmet set up but that pie does not cut it compared to the others.

        1. John Eel

          I hope it was better than the cold hamburger you got at ANZ stadium. Colin you will be pleased to hear that the caterers from ANZ have won the contract to cater at the new WSS.

      2. John Eel

        It would be really nice to have someone like Peter Valandys take over as chairman of the NRL commission. Beattie knows that TG is in trouble and is going out of his way to protect him.

        Therein lies the problem. He needs to be replaced not propped up. We need someone with the smarts to bring about a change of direction. Someone who knows and understands the culture of the game. Someone who can identify the problems and set a direction that will return the game to its rightful place in the Australian sporting landscape.

        We have the best television product in Australian sport. Time to start exploiting it.

        1. BDon

          Many decisions emanate from the media rights deals and the associated advertising revenue. Tennis and cricket have changed their major media partner, will be interesting to see if anything else changes. Spreading the appeal of any sport, the quest for new audiences seems only to break down old traditions.
          NRL is a great game for TV, but how many times do you hear people say things like ‘they bash up the field for 5 tackles then kick it, the other team does the same’. These are not true students of the game.

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