Commentator’s bizarre change to save NRL
The NRL appears to be heading towards a June return with ARLC chairman Peter V'landys optimistic about the game coming back on June 1.
On Saturday, V'landys appeared much more positive about the competition returning with decreasing infection rates pointing to it currently being safer for players to be on the field now than when the game was shut down.
The coronavirus crisis has placed massive pressure on the NRL with fears clubs and even the league may not be able to survive an extended lock out.
V'landys was on 2GB and Triple M to talk about the plans, sharing his belief that the game could "absolutely" return in June.
"I'm very confident about it actually," V'landys said on 2GB. "We've got the best can-do man in Wayne Pearce setting up this committee and he's looking at all options.
"You only have to look at the infection rate. When we stopped playing the infection rate was just on about 23 per cent. Yesterday it was 3.9 per cent and today it's 4.3 per cent.
"You've got to remember that we're eight weeks away and if these figures continue to be that low, there's less risk now than what there was when we were playing (up until March 22)."
With news that the NRL would be exempted from restrictions and allowed to continue right now, V'landys said the competition would look different when the players come back.
If it does come back soon, the game will be played behind closed doors and it appears increasingly likely the NRL will play in conference systems.
South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett reportedly pitched an initial idea to organise teams in two conferences to Project Apollo, the NRL's innovation committee charged with finding a way to restart the competition in the next two months amid the coronavirus pandemic.
However, Melbourne Storm boss Frank Ponissi said the latest development was to divide the 16 teams into four conferences based at Brisbane/Sunshine Coast, north Queensland, NSW's Central Coast and Canberra although he stressed he had not received official word from the NRL.
"It is four pools of four (teams). (That way) you minimise the amount of people in one particular area which makes it, especially from a health and safety point of view, far more manageable," he told SEN radio.
"A couple of weeks ago there was a real resistance (to move away), that was one of the reasons why a lot of people especially players and staff with young families were saying 'no we won't look at that. Now it's changed again. People are out of work and salaries have either been cut or stopped completely.
"You've got to feed your family … so they will look at anything. The mood has changed dramatically."
Ponissi said it wasn't yet set in stone but that the four conference model appeared to be a "realistic option".
It's among plenty of options for the game returning with suggestions there will be a four-team playoff for the wooden spoon, a wildcard finals system and even a five-match State of Origin series to kick off the season.
But with the season potentially finishing in the last week before Christmas, Fox Sports commentator Andrew Voss has called for four quarters of football - similar to the pre-season.
When played in summer months or extreme heat, the NRL generally offers the concession but Voss said it could be the new normal - and another way to get more value for TV broadcasters with future rights deals believed to be impacted by the pandemic.
I am convinced when the @NRL returns we must have 4 quarter football. It could even be that we have seen our last games with 40 minute halves. It is one of the only ways to add to TV broadcasters revenue streams and maintain levels of rights deals. @FOXNRL @telegraph_sport— Andrew Voss (@AndrewVossy) April 3, 2020
However, one proposal - the three-game Grand Final series - has been condemned by NRL legends Andrew Johns and Brad Fittler.
Speaking on the Wide World of Sports' Freddy and the Eighth, the pair agreed Origin could work to start the season back up but they also agreed the Grand Final should be a one off.
"Unless you're doing it purely for money, it takes the sting away, less people will watch it," Fittler said.
"Tradition of Australian sport and for however long is you have one game at the end of the year, winner takes all," Johns said.
V'landys said there would be a number of options on the table and under investigation when the league returned with the details ironed out in the next few weeks.
"If we start the first of June, time is on our side," V'landys said on Triple M. "We would get to play each other once, have the finals series plus State of Origin and that's always been the objective. Even the option of having a couple of local derbies to give a bit of spice to the season. If we can do that, I'd be a very happy man."
The latest the grand final would be played would be the week before Christmas but it would depend on how the season finishes.
As the NRL players are set to sacrifice five months of pay if they can't get back on the field, the move would mean the stars could avoid the pay cuts.
"What the deal was with the players was in a worst-case scenario that they don't play again this year," V'landys said. "(But) that's not going to happen. They are going to play football and what we've negotiated is what revenues we get when we recommence we share with the players.
"So the players certainly will be getting more, not necessarily what their contractual obligations are because there might be less revenue. We've just got to see what revenue we can get and the players will share in that."
- with AAP
Originally published as Commentator's massive change to save NRL