April 2022

The NRL is a Danger to Itself Part III

The NRL is once again being run by someone who appears incapable of recognising he is the root of the game's problems.

Another season and I’m back here talking about how the NRL and more specifically Peter V’landys can’t get out of their own way when it comes to managing the game.

This billion dollar organisation is carrying on as if it is being organised by General Sir Anthony C.H. Melchett.

For some reason the ARLC Chairman decided the wrestling was back and therefore players such as James Tedesco and Tom Trbojevic were suffering, their brilliance stifled by the dark arts.

He said that mere days after Tedesco had run for 217 metres, provided two try assists, two line break assists and a line break of his own.

Trbojevic racked up 289 metres, one try and one line break.

Sounds like the pair were really struggling. 

Nevermind that judging them on last year is like trying to compare rugby league and ultimate frisbee.

I won’t rehash all of the statistics, I’ll leave that to far more learned people such as PythagoNRL and The Rugby League Eye Test, but there are some pretty simple, empirical stats as to why everything V’landys is saying is complete horseshit.

As highlighted over on Twitter, 60 percent of NRL game time so far this season has a margin of six points or fewer. An arm wrestle, an exciting game (except round four Tigers vs Titans). In 2021 that figure was at 49 per cent.

In 2021, following all of the V’landysball rule changes, the average half time margin was 11 points. The average margin of victory was 18.8 points. More than three converted tries which was a complete and utter statistical anomaly.

After four completed rounds in 2022, the average half time margin is 7.6, the lowest since 2016 and the final average margin is 12.6 points. A full try has been wiped off this season meaning games are closer for longer.

In fact, if it wasn’t for Melbourne and Parramatta demolishing the Bulldogs and Dragons respectively, we’d have an average final margin of 10.8 points.

Go read the rest of the TRLET article for more statistics.

But while these statistics run free in the land of the internet and are passed around on Twitter and other social media, the glorious leader of the NRL is claiming:

“We don’t do things by gut feelings. We do things through proper data. We want to remind the coaches and players that if you do it, you will be punished. ”

Press X to doubt regarding gut feelings. He bloody did that in 2020 and 2021. There was no data to support six again and all the data since has shown it to be a complete and utter failure, so much so it was rolled back by 40 percent this season.

“We’re not going to tolerate the wrestle or slowing down the ruck. I’ve been monitoring this for the last couple of weeks and the wrestle is starting to creep back in and the ruck is slowly down.”

The data is showing the competition is closer than it has been in a long time. How is that a bad thing?

Now, let’s get down to ThE wReStLe.

The Wrestle.

A completely and utterly red herring of a nebulous word thrown around by people who, quite honestly, have no true idea what they are talking about.

No one can define the wrestle. No one can actually tell you what the wrestle is. They’ll just tell you it’s the reason the game is slowed down.

They’ll tell you it was brought in by Melbourne to lead them to premiership glory.

If you actually pay attention to what happens during a tackle, you’ll note the supposed wrestle is actually everything that happens up to and when the referee calls “Held”.

Teams have long moved away from trying to smash their opponents. They have their catching tactics.

The best defensive sides essentially “catch” their opponent, stand them up, get three men in the tackle and lower them to the ground, winning the ruck and allowing them to get the line set.

Trying to deal with that by penalising players for lying in the ruck doesn’t address the root cause which is actually the referees not calling held early enough, and allowing defenders to essentially dance around with the ball carrier before putting him to the turf.

The consequence of trying to deal with this through six agains is that, as we saw last year, the bad defensive sides get punished, the good defensive sides get an advantage. It doesn’t deal with “the wrestle”.

Now speaking of bad decisions, we’ve also got the issue of V’landys once again spruiking more concerns around the ruck without actually dealing with one of his biggest failures.

And that was the removal of the two referees system. 

He removed the pocket ref for budgetary reasons, the NRL then made a $50 million profit (of which the sacking of referees had a negligible impact on), then he decided there needed to be more focus on the area the pocket referee looked after.

You can’t bring in rules that require more focus on one specific area of the field, then remove the very official tasked with policing that area, handing yet more responsibility to a now single on-field referee.

In the inimitable words of General Melchett,

“If nothing else works, a total pig-headed unwillingness to look facts in the face will see us through.”

But what this whole discussion seems to always neglect to mention from those making the decisions is that coaches are paid to win.

They are paid to exploit the rules to their fullest degree. We see that every time there is a rule change. 

Hell, we’ve even got Graham Annesley essentially complaining that coaches have figured out how to exploit the captain’s challenge if there is a non-challengeable call by giving away a penalty.

What did they think was going to happen?

This is professional sport. A coach would not be doing his job if he didn’t identify areas in the rules that could be exploited.

I don’t really know why I’m writing this. The only way to communicate with Peter V’landys is to apparently now write him a letter. Which is actually a regression from last year when he said he was reacting to emails he was receiving.

Guess I’d better print this and send it via carrier pigeon then.

I’ll go and get Speckled Jim.

1 comment

Leave a Reply