How to Avoid Super League War 2

By Daniel Andruczyk

So has someone spiked the water in Australia or something? So first we get a leadership spill in the Australian government and then Stephen Humphrey’s comes up with what has to be one of the most bizarre and what I fee absurd proposed changes to Rugby League, I have ever read. Yes you read right the proposed changes to the NRL that the Wests Tigers boss want to introduce are a farce. They could lead to a new Super League War even. Let me try and show you how and why. This may be a long posts so bare with me please.

The proposal

The proposed changes that Humphrey’s wants to bring in are meant to increase revenue to clubs  and players while reducing player burnout. But what does it really do? Lets have a look at what the proposal actually says:

  • 30 weeks of premiership rounds instead of 26 to allow a fairer draw in which clubs play every team twice
  • The season to kick off in mid-February and finish in the second week of October
  • Matches reduced from 80 minutes to 60 minutes to prevent player burnout and make it easier on players in February and March
  • An alternative plan for 80-minute games, split into 20-minute quarters
  • Coaches told to use players for no more than 25 of the 30 rounds
  • Expanding 25-man NRL squads to 32 players.

Humphrey’s claims to have consulted 8 players in the Wests team but does not say what their reaction was. But from the little information that has been leaked we can start to dissect a few numbers about what it all means. So lets have a go

Lets Break it down

I will try and keep these in some order, but there may be some ideas that pop in and out here and there. So first order of business. The burnout issue. Humphrey’s claims that there will be less player burnout with matches at 60 mins long and 30 weeks. Well lets do the math. If we include 4 weeks of play offs, players will have all up 34 weeks of matches. So 60 minutes by 34 rounds gives you 2040  minutes of Rugby League. Compare that to what we have now which is 80 minutes at 30 weeks including play offs and that gives you 2400 minutes. The difference of these is 360 minutes which is only 6 hours… yes folks only one nights sleep less. Not really the grand reduction in player burnout is it. If we are talking 6 days then I would be more impressed, but we are not, its only a nights sleep if that for professional players.

Going to 60 minutes would also take the gladiatorial contest out of the sport. Players will become more and more uniform in their build and the way they play. Players will either become smaller and faster of bigger and stronger. One of the great attractions of the sport is that at different times of the match different players start to come in their own. The back 20 mins are always great because you start to see the smaller players take on the tiring forwards, where as the front 20 is always dominated by the gig forward packs colliding. People pay their money to see that, If I wanted to see a rolly polly contest of players just fluffing around then I would go and watch a game of Rugby Union… in essence that is what will happen with the sport… you wont be able to compared players and teams of times gone by either since in essence they are playing different sports. Also consider this, you now are seeing 20 minutes less of Rugby League, that is a 25% cut, will the stadium entrance fees also go down by 25%? I bet they wont, if anything they will get hiked up, so the fan will get a raw deal too. Not sure about you, but having to pay $30 to watch the NRL now can be a bit stiff sometimes and I certainly will not be willing to pay $30 for 25% less of a game.

If I want to see a 80 minute game with quarters then I will watch American Football, in essence that is what will happen. So 80 minute games going to 30 rounds, how does that reduce player burnout? what you have 10 mins break in between and 20 minutes at half time, so 1/3 of the time at the stadium is spent twiddling your thumbs? Fans are there to watch a game not have to sit through and get bombarded by adds, sure advertisers are salivating at that prospect, but very soon I reckon fans will be staying away and it will negate anything positive that may come from it. Silly.

There actually is no real need to have teams play each other twice… I don’t know where this notion that it makes it fairer comes from. Wasn’t the whole point of the Salary Cap meant to make things fairer? If not then why have a cap? But seriously in a 16 team competition, if after 26 rounds you cannot have the top 8 sorted out then you have a pretty bad competition, hell you should be able to figure it out by 20 rounds! That would makes so much more sense if you want to decrease player burnout.

Keeping with the 30 week theme, the season would go from mid February to mid October. Bloody hell if anything this just makes a mockery of the sport around the world and domestically. So here are some fundamental questions to be asked. What happens to the 4 weeks of pre season matches? What about the World Cup Challenge, when does that get played. Certainly not in January or early February when Europe is in the middle of their winter, wasn’t the point of the ESL going to Summer Rugby that games don’t get played in winter? Think about this as well, from mid October to mid February, there is roughly 16 weeks. Now once the NRL finishes, you need 6 weeks at least (I’d prefer 8 weeks myself) for the international season, with the 4 weeks of pre season matches that only leaves 6 weeks on the off season, which is about what the players get now. So what’s the point of all this if in effect nothing changes.

The expansion of the player roster from 25 players to 32 players makes no sense. I actually do not see at all what end game on this is. We talk about players not getting enough, this will only dilute things even more. Currently the salary cap stands at $4.1 million this on average translates to $164,000 for a 25 man squad. If this level is kept and the teams expanded to 32 players then the average salary goes down to $128,125. Even with the proposed salary cap increases with an extra $300,000 for marquee players and an extra $1000,000 on top of the existing cp, this only increases it to $4.5 million. Again over 32 players the average salary only increases to $140,625, still below where the current average is. So players in fact will be getting a dud deal on this. To keep the current average salary of $164,000 at the 32 player roster the Salary Cap needs to increase to $5.25 million. Can you see that happening? I cannot.

Players will not play more than 25 round in the 30 rounds, I actually almost crapped my pants laughing. So players that play in effect 24 rounds (remember there are 2 byes for teams) will now play 25 rounds… one extra. What the hell. Actually there is no mention of State of Origin and how that would fit into all this, as that is probably the big issue for players. What’s also to stop a team from effectively “throwing” the first 5 rounds in the season with all the fringe players and not the super stars and then stacking the next 25 with the best players.


There are some drastic implications that can come out of this for the game in general around the world. The international game would be affected quite dramatically, with the season in essence being extended, that is 30 rounds of NRL, 4 rounds of play offs and 4 weeks of pre-season games, that leaves only 14 weeks of the year left… take another 6 weeks for Internationals and travel, that leaves 8 weeks for the off-season. Pre season training you need to get started at least a month before the pre-season games, so there is 4-5 weeks gone. Thus players will get only 3-4 weeks off to do their own thing?! NOW please someone tell me how is this getting rid of player burn out. That is a bigger schedule than what it is now!

Clubs because of this schedule will be less willing to release players on international rep duty because the potential injury recovery period will be so much less now. On average at the moment clubs have an extra 4 weeks for player recovery and down time.

The idea of expansion will be killed off once and for all, how do you have a 18 team competition in 30 rounds, teams play each other once, it can’t be done unless you go to a 34 round competition? Which once again increases the number of games, player burnout etc… less time for internationals so you can see where that is going yes? It will become a purely Australian sport and no one else in the world will play it. The new AFL.

But how does this effect the rest of the world? Aside from the fact that the internationals may be affected with player eligibility will all other nations be forced to take on these measures? Or will the RLIF in all their wisdom deem, just like with 2 refs and corner posts and other things, that this only applies to the NRL and Australia? Those of you who have followed me over the years on various media know that I have warned that the NRL within the next 5-10 years is in danger of becoming not Rugby League but an entirely whole new sport, and this certainly is bringing in enough whole sale changes that its could be the start of the revolution. We may soon have Australian Rugby Rules. What will be next, padding, helmets? There already is a sport like that.

What will happen to the rest of the world? Nations are taking up the sport precisely because of the way it is now, with the gladiatorial aspect it brings, will they follow suit? Or will in essence the sport split. Imagine this scenario. The NRL gets its independent commission and brings in these changes. News Limited now free of these shackles and knowing how well RUGBY LEAGUE sells goes ahead and sets up its own TRADITIONAL competition based on the Nth Sydney Bears, Newtown Jets, Ipswich, Wynnum and Brothers, Brings back the Mariners, and Chargers, Adelaide and Perth, a northern Territory team and the team out of Central Queensland. News can have complete control for his satellite and pay TV networks, so these games will be broadcast all over the world, since  News have such a large control in the USA and Europe. The NRL wont be able to do a thing since they have a different game now. More player defections will happen to the traditional code and Union. A new SUPER LEAGUE WAR will break out, but the lines will be skewed now, where do the traditionalists go, with the new NRL or the traditional game on offer by NEWS now? This will be Rugby League Afghanistan in some ways. England and Europe and the AMNRL not wanting to have to switch to a new sport and knowing News has the global exposure will sign on as well. Since there are only 24 weeks in the domestic season now there is much more room for a proper International competition, one that will rival Union in some sense, a full time RLIF may be set up with World Cups being stated in the USA and Russia, gaining the money there. Seeing that the game is international now it will start to get much greater international exposure…

… you know what that actually sounds pretty good, come to think of it. I think my point is made, that the proposed changes can do much more harm than good for the sport in general.


Solutions solutions solutions? OK the premise of this whole thing is to generate more revenue and to give players more recovery time not to burn out. So lets try and tackle one thing at a time.

As I mentioned previously there is actually no real reason why you need to have everyone playing each other twice in a season. If you can’t figure out by about 20 rounds who the best 8 teams are then you have a real problem on your hands. So my proposal is this. Lets expand the NRL from 16 to 20 teams. The 4 extra team would be Perth, Adelaide, NSW Central Coast and Central Queensland. This at least brings in the whole nation into the sport. Each team plays each other once and then there is an extra round for Derbys/heritage round, this provides 20 regular rounds. Then have a usual 4 weeks of play offs. So 24 weeks right there.

Rather than the usual pre season friendlies, lets have a pre-season knock out competition that lasts 6 rounds. All up you would have 64 teams start. The 20 NRL teams and a range of the top CRL teams, 2nd division teams and the champions from Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory and Tasmania as well as PNG and New Zealand. These matches would be played through out the country, with games drawn randomly just like in the Challenge Cup in the UK.

So right there there is 30 weeks of domestic matches, high quality domestic matches. Then at the back end of this we have the origin matches which lead into a 6 week international competition. So lets recap here:

  • Currently: 4 weeks pre season games + 26 weeks (with origin etc…) NRL + 4 weeks Play-offs = 34 weeks
  • Humphrey’s proposed: 4 weeks pre season + 30 weeks NRL + 4 weeks play offs+ 4 weeks origin = 42 weeks  <—- Look at that right there!
  • My Proposed: 6 weeks knock out comp + 20 weeks NRL + 4 weeks play offs + 4 weeks origin= 34 weeks

So in essence I am not changing anything in terms of the current amount of weeks, which seems to be agreed is about the limit of things? Yes The knock out comp if anything can be scaled back by a week or two if players want more time so there is flexibility in that. But most importantly there is still room for at least 6 weeks of internationals and that leaves 10 weeks for a proper off-season.

In terms of revenue, there are now 4 big Rugby League competitions for TV stations to be fighting over. The pre season competition which is national, The NRL proper which is National, State of Origin and Internationals… so this would increase revenue by at least double what it is now. With an independent commission the NRL clubs would be the ones that get the revenue essentially and so the Cap could be raised to say $5 million or $5.5 Million, good for players yes, keeps them in. With the game being truly national now with all the major states represented it should be a much better sell to the advertisers and stations to pick it up and show it live around the country and world. Get telecasts of over seas games in as well, super league, Challenge Cup, show them in times that people can watch, let them join the fight for the rights. There is so much that can be done to maximise profits. After all that is the end game here yes?

Player rosters would stay as they are, 25 per team but with 4 new teams it allows the 100 or so players overseas to come back, or even start recruiting mote players from Overseas. Why not have a Remi Casty from France play here or a Soni Radovanovic? They would be fantastic and start to give the sport that international credibility that it deserves.

With the International game starting to get more revenue as well, since it would negotiate TV rights independently, they can finally start to get a full time board in, fund the New World Nations better, get a global structure that makes sense and give the Rugby League World Cup the credibility it so richly deserves finally.


So to summarise, the proposed changes to the NRL from Stephen Humphrey’s will only serve to reduce the quality of the game not only in Australia but Internationally, any new money that comes in will not be seen by the players, in fact any they essentially will be getting pay cuts, even with the extra $400,000 in Salary Cap increases that have been supported recently. Some players will end up playing more Rugby League than they currently do… not less as is stated. Any new profits that come from selling the rights to the game will go into the pockets of the Clubs and CEO’s since it can’t be spent on the players.

If we want radical changes to the game, lets do radical changes from the bottom up. Lets look at other nations and structures on how they run their sport. The UK being the most obvious. Lets have the faith in our sport, and I mean that, OUR sport, to be sell itself as the product it is. Lets make sure that everyone can see it live and compete on the TV. That is the only way to convince the advertisers and TV stations that it is worth investing in, not when you cut your won leg off.

Following Humphrey’s proposal will do more damage to the sport nationally and internationally than good and eventually will lead to a new type of sport being produced similar to the NFL and a second Super League War 2 will erupt.

Daniel Andruczyk’s email:
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