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That's My Voice - Australian Rugby league News
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globalrugbyleague - Tue, 11 Mar 2008 09:55:00 GMT
One-hundred years of high-tackles, salary cap scandals, lengthy player suspensions, media feuds with coaches, footy code conversions, rival fans getting into brawls, streakers who prove that Australia’s got talent, Greg Smith. It’s safe to say that the first century of our great code has been far from boring.

Going through my edition of “True Blue: the story of the NSW Rugby League,” (written by the doyen of League writers, Ian Heads) a few nights ago, one thought crossed my mind as I reflected on the first games of League played at Birchgrove Oval and Wentworth Park on Saturday, April 20, 1908.

Are we feeling the same sense of anticipation and excitement heading into 2008 that 6000 people felt when they turned up to see Balmain, Wests, Souths, Norths, Easts, Newtown, Glebe and Newcastle? I think we are.

Like the foundation fans who were fortunate enough to witness the new and improved version of Rugby one-hundred years ago, many of us will head to venues in either New South Wales, Queensland, or Victoria this weekend believing that OUR team can win the premiership.

Then the first ball of the season will be kicked, the beat of our hearts will go into overdrive and our short-lived holiday in football fantasy land will come to an end. Well, not quite.

If the real season goes horribly wrong as it inevitably will for 8 teams who don’t make the finals, you can still do your club proud in online fantasy football. Failing to beat thousands of others competing against you in that promotion, you might be better off playing NRL Rugby League on your PC in schoolboy mode.

As was the case when the game of Rugby League was played for the first time in our nation, today’s players will be baptized in various rule changes.

While the changes are not as revolutionary as what the Northern Union implemented in 1908, close scrutiny will be given to the effect of reducing the number of interchanges per game from twelve to ten.

At the end of League’s first season, the Sydney mail, commenting on the new rules which were the driving force of the new code, wrote: “The new rules certainly make a game between two good teams open and fast, with scrums only a second or two in duration.”

Will the media, the fans and the players feel the same level of optimism about the rule changes at the end of 2008? The only way to find out is to bring back the footy.

The game can learn so much from it’s past to create a successful future. And that’s made more evident year in and year out when fans come up to me and ask why we don’t have a pre-season tournament much like the AFL’s NAB Cup.

A good question given we play enough trial games to warrant such a tournament.

It’s not hard to see why some clubs oppose participating in such a structure.

Coming off the back of an ass kicking at the end of the previous season, it’s only natural to want to protect your human investments so that a form slump can be turned around quickly.

Yet I see more positives outweighing the negatives in that regard.

An official pre-season tournament would warrant an official sponsor which means the game brings in more revenue. In a time when our code is being drearily affected by outrageous taxes, this is not just a good thing but a necessity I believe.

Teams also stand the chance to win a wooden spoon not once but twice in the space of one-season.

Pre-season Rugby League competitions have worked before as was noted in the ABC of Rugby League written by Malcolm Andrews:

“In the early 1960’s, a full-scale pre-season competition was introduced to provide an incentive for the clubs to play serious football and for the fans to pay money to watch in the weeks before the Premiership began. It was sponsored by Tobocco company WD & HO Wills. The idea was an instant success with crowds of more than 15,000 turning up to watch the matches.”

How did you cope without Rugby League during the off-season. We’d like to hear your tales of survival. You can either email us via our contact form below or you can join the NRL forum and post your comments there.

Before a fresh Steedon ball is place kicked by two of the four teams who will help kick-off the 2008 NRL season, I’d like to thank a number of individuals for their help: David Williams at R.L Photos.com who provides GRL with invaluable visual journalism of the English Super League and some of the other lower tier competitions; Richard English who continues to swamp the website with weekly previews, reviews, match reports and exclusive interviews with the stars of Super League; the GRL Phantom (a mystery former coach) who has been gifted in the art of pre-match coaching premonitions; Terry Liberopoulos at Rugby League Review; the National Rugby League; all NRL clubs and their media managers; Jim Beam Cup personnel; And countless others who I may not have mentioned above. Thank you all for your support. We could not have covered the greatest game of all the way we do without the team effort of all of you. - Read More, Here