For Once Lets Think Outside of the Box.

By Daniel Andruczyk

Last week Steve Mascord broke the news that the Samoan Rugby League have approached the RLIF about hosting an international 9s competition. Steve also mentioned that the RLIF are thinking of having and international circuit like in the Union 7s but that the NRL and ESL clubs releasing players was the big issue. I just shook my head at this. Steve even you should have seen how we can do this outside of the regular box! So here are my thoughts on this proposal.

International 9s

Lets get one thing straight, there are a tone of 9s tournaments all over the world. Australia and England obviously have the biggest ones. The basic backbone for a 9s circuit is already there. One of the advantages of the 9s is that it can be much cheaper to field a team with only a squad of 15 needed. The 9s tournaments are spread through the whole year quite nicely actually. They start off in January with the International 9s in Australia, yes there already is an International 9s, then there are tournaments in Jamaica, England, France, Italy, Germany, Lebanon even Norway/Scandinavia have one.

The format I envisage is a 32 team competition, 8 groups of 4 teams that play each other through the 9 tournaments around the world. Each team plays each other once in the group and the top teams go through to the quarter finals for the cup, then the second ranked teams play for a bowl and the last places for a plate. For each position they would get points and go into a league table and at the end of the season the team with the most number of points is declared the winner.

The season would not run though through the regular XIII season. Most of the countries have their season in either the Northern Hemisphere Summer or Southern Hemisphere winter, that is March through to October. I would have the 9’s overlap a bit I guess but run mainly though the Christmas break, September through to March. This way people can have their rugby league fix through the regular domestic off season. Tournaments would happen every 3 weeks or so.

The Countries

The 9s concept is a nice one really. 9 players, 9 minutes per half, in keeping with this idea we can have an international circuit of 9 countries/regions with tournaments. And these tournaments can be based on already existing ones that we have. The countries/regions that I would have are:

  1. Australasia (Australia, New Zealand, PNG, Japan)
  2. Pacific (Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Cook Islands)
  3. North American (USA, Jamaica, Canada)
  4. African (South Africa, Morocco)
  5. Western Europe (England, France, Germany, Netherlands)
  6. Eastern Europe (Russia, Estonia, Ukraine)
  7. Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, Denmark)
  8. Mediterranean (Italy, Malta, Greece, Serbia)
  9. Middle East (Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, UAE)

They can be moved around each year to allow the game to be exposed to more countries and people. The concept of 9’s would allow many of the New World team to field players that can be much more competitive against traditional Rugby League powers too.

The players

As mentioned previously, the article says the concept would need the backing of ESL and NRL clubs, weather they will release the players, when in the calendar to play the games – well would they need their backing?

See why do we need to use NRL or ESL players? Why can’t we have a dedicated set of players that play the 9s circuit. There may be many players out there that maybe aren’t great in the XIII format but would be fabulous 9s players. Also why can’t we use past players or players that are retiring to keep them in the game a bit longer and help spread the game? This is basically what rugby union does.

This way clubs don’t have to fork out their money or risk injury to players, yet we still can have “Stars” of the game involved and have Rugby League played all year around. You see often fans complaining or reminiscing about how they can’t wait for the news league season to start, well, lets have the 9’s circuit in the regular off season and in doing so promote the international scene. It won’t effect the regular internationals wither, I mean we don’t seem to have the Union 7s dominating the XV code do we. But for some of the New World Nations it may be a more viable option.

The Real World

Of course all of what I said would be in a perfect world, to start with there probably wont be 32 nations, more like maybe 8-12, but that’s OK, we still can come up with a flexible system that allows the tournaments to expand or contract on a yearly basis as is needed. To start with we may need a few of the NRL players to gain some recognition, but certainly eventually we want to get away from having any of the NRL players under contract involved. I agree with what Colin Love said in that any new 9s or 7s circuit would need to be using international teams and not club teams.

But for once lets think outside of the box in how we do this. Lets not continually have to rely just on the NRL or one or two countries, lets get rid of the old boys club and have the sport be more all encompassing. Lets use the short format as a real stepping stone to something bigger and greater.

Daniel Andruczyk’s email:
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