2012 NRL Season Overhaul to Save Origin Exhaustion
This week the NRL commission put forward a proposed overhaul of the NRL schedule for 2012, the major change being an extended season to save the game’s star players from having to back up just 24 hours after representative games such as the State of Origin.
Projected changes to the current NRL fixtures and schedule that were presented to senior NRL club officials in Sydney on Thursday were made only after thorough consultation with some of the games’ greats, NRL chief operating officer Nathan McGuirk said.
“We had a fair consultation process with prominent people in the game,” McGuirk confirmed.
Among those conferred with were retiring Queensland Maroon’s captain Darren Lockyer, NSW Blues coach Ricky Stuart and current St George Illawarra Dragons mentor Wayne Bennett, all three men able to give a unique insight as some of the most affected by the Origin cycle.
The 2012 NRL season is set to kick-off a week earlier on a Thursday night, allowing for a standalone representative weekend mid-year.
On the standalone weekend, two Test matches would be the only games played with the annual Australia v New Zealand and the City v Country matches.
Next year could also be the final City – Country clash, with a more radical NRL season makeover being discussed for 2013 that would also see the iconic Wednesday night State of Origin matches moved to a Monday evening.
In replacement of the City – Country fixture, a country weekend would take place where games would be taken out and played at provincial venues in Queensland and New South Wales.
Monday State of Origin games would be followed by a sole Friday night NRL game, meaning only a few players would be forced to play in Origin and then a club game on a four day turnaround.
With representative-rich clubs suffering throughout the mid-season Origin and Test schedules, the new agenda is focused on saving players from exhausting themselves early in the season before the all-important run to the finals.
“We’re looking to alleviate the issues around player welfare and certainly next year looking for a standalone weekend so that players aren’t forced to play the next day and the day after the Test match and the City-Country as occurred this year,” NRL chief executive David Gallop said.
“Then into the future a situation where rather than playing two days later, players will be playing four days later with Origin.”
While the proposed rescheduling of the traditional Origin night to a Monday will help alleviate player burnout, the plan has also come under criticism as Wednesday evening has always been the arena for the game’s most celebrated series.
Ricky Stuart was one of the original sceptics, expressing his fears that a move to Monday for Origin would hamper the pre-match anticipation.
McGuirk was quick to point out, however, that with an Origin timeslot amendment some of the other club games usually played on a Monday would be abandoned.
“We have run through our plans, particularly around Origin and how the preparation of Origin would be affected by playing on a Monday night,” McGuirk said.
“As a prominent coach said to us, it’s almost bordering on cruel what we ask players in backing up from Wednesday Origins into weekend matches.
“It’s a serious issue that had to be addressed. We believe that Monday nights would be a positive move for players.
“We spoke to Ricky about how preparation would be changed with regards to Monday Origin and the impact of taking away the Monday night match the previous week which will allow them to have a full week’s preparation.
“Ricky’s position was that if we could provide one day less of preparation to at least provide two days more backing up for players, then that’s a positive thing.”
Other alterations for the 2012 season would be the removal of byes, teams given a rest only in the split rounds either side of the two Origin clashes not played as a standalone event, and the All-Stars match to be played a week earlier.
“Right now, this is just a proposal we have put out today (Thursday),” McGuirk said.
“It still has to go to the commission, which has to look at the entire issue as well.”