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!

Sixties

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Hamsammich
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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?

Big Derek
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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.

Billy
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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

BDon
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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.

Parramatta Tragic
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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… Read more »

Glenn
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Glenn

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

Milo
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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… Read more »

BDon
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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… Read more »

Colin Hussey
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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… Read more »

Milo
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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.

colin hussey
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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… Read more »

John Eel
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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.

colin hussey
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John, sarcasm does not become you re that Hamburger. IIRC the water in the taps was hotter.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

I have good seats for next year. Look forward to catching up

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Should read John Eel

John Eel
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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… Read more »

colin hussey
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John the game is being exploited but in the other way than you are suggesting, with the crystal dome achieving nothing.

John Eel
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John Eel

LOL

BDon
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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.