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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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

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.

Joe Briffa

What’s the old saying mate “They can’t see the forest for the trees”..

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


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


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

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 »

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… Read more »


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… Read more »


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

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.


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 »


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… Read more »

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.


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

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 »

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… Read more »


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

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

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

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


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


Should read John Eel

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

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

John Eel



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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