Buzz Rothfield of the Daily Telegraph has proposed that the NRL should put in place a promotion and relegation system.
Rothfield explained in an article predicting the ladder of 2022 that the NRL should take a leaf out of the book of European football.
As it stands, the Knights, Bulldogs, Tigers, Warriors and Titans are struggling at the bottom of the ladder and at risk of relegation, with the winner of the NSW Cup and the Queensland Cup in the national league.
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Rothfield explained that those five teams are just “making up the numbers” and that a relegation system would spark public interest as fans desperately hope their beloved club won’t be sent away.
But NRL360 co-host Paul Kent has dismissed the idea, explaining that there are wider implications than just the increased interest at the end of the season.
“The dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” said Kent as Rothfield brought the idea to NRL360.
“Have you seen European football? Have you seen the back end of the season yet? The crowds they get to play the bottom four games, have you seen it and how exciting it is and how well it scores?” asked Rothfield.
“Have you seen where the Titans, Warriors, Wests Tigers, Bulldogs and Knights are now? Nobody cares about the last month at those clubs.”
Kent explained how difficult it would be for newly promoted clubs to build an NRL-worthy roster in a short space of time.
The Dolphins, the NRL’s newest franchise, have had eight months to build their roster so far and have failed to secure a major recruit.
“So let me paint a picture for you, it’s promotion and relegation time, whoever comes last this year relegates, who comes, say Wynnum Manly with the Queensland partner,” said Kent.
“How is Wynnum Manly doing if they win the comp, with a salary cap to work with, and then they don’t find out until September when they win the comp, and have to assemble a team by November to get started? .
“We’ve seen the problems the dolphins have in getting a team together.”
“What I would say, to work on the finer details of how it would work would take longer than the few minutes we have here,” Rothfield said.
Kent also explained that an attempt to compare the NRL to European competitions such as the English Premier League, La Liga and Bundesliga is not plausible.
Australia’s elite rugby league has a salary cap, while the best football leagues around the world can spend as much as they want to bring in top talent.
“European football has no salary cap, so they can just go out and buy whoever they want,” said Kent.
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“Buzz, it won’t work, it’s impossible,” said Brent Read of The Daily Telegraph.
“I want to be interested in the games at the end of the year, you say it’s not possible because it’s been happening since 1908, become modern,” Rothfield said.
“Where do you find these players around the world, Chelsea can go to La Liga,” said Kent.
“Bring in a rule that the team that relegates, the new squad gets a crack at half a dozen players,” Rothfield said.
“They just ran last, what about what their players are doing?” said Kent.
“They just ran last, what are you missing?”
“I’ll see you in the stadium when the Cowboys play against the Titans in round 23 and there are 200 people in the stadium,” Rothfield said.
In Europe’s best football competitions, traditionally a small number of teams dominate the competition.
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In the Bundesliga, a team outside of Borussia Dortmund or Bayern Munich has not won since 2009.
In the Premier League since the 2004-05 season, only Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and the one-season wonders Leicester City have won the competition.
You also have to look back to 2003 to find a La Liga winner outside of Red Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona.
In Ligue 1, eight of the last ten competitions have been won by Paris Saint-Germain.
Since 2004, 11 different clubs have won the premiership in the NRL.
“Let me also point out to you about the NRL league, right now there are four or five teams that can win the comp, that’s a third of the league, there’s no English, Spanish, Italian league where a third of competition are realistic chances to win the competition,” said Kent.
But Rothfield refuted the argument, explaining that those competitions are “first past the post,” meaning the little prime ministers get the championship.
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“They don’t have a four or five team final series, they have competition at the top of the table to get to the Champions League and at the bottom,” Rothfield said.
“I think the NRL is doing a brilliant job of being an even competition, I think we need to bring in some ideas to help the bottom teams work their way to the top of the ladder so they can get there faster in instead of them developing juniors for five years,” said Kent.
“I also think if the NRL was more honest about the salary cap and it was implemented legally and teams weren’t cheating, I think you’d get a lot more turnaround from the top teams against the bottom teams.”
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