The new rules that will shake up the NRL: League considers introducing a wildcard weekend allowing teams as low as 10th a chance to make finals
- The NRL is looking to orchestrate huge shake up of finals football format in 2020
- The competition is looking to introduce a new wild card weekend for finals footy
- It would be biggest change to game format since introduction of top eight teams
- Teams finishing from seventh to 10th would play in the wildcard weekend
The National Rugby League is considering introducing a ‘wildcard weekend’ which would mean teams that finish as low as tenth being involved in playoffs.
NRL bosses called club chief executives on Monday to outline the idea, which would take effect in 2020, and seek feedback, with a decision to be made in the coming months.
Under the new proposal, seventh would play 10th in the week following the final regular season games and eighth would face ninth.
The National Rugby League is considering introducing a ‘wildcard weekend’ which would allow for teams that finish from seventh to 10th to play for a spot in the finals
NRL bosses called club chief executives on Monday to outline the idea, which would take affect in 2020, and seek feedback, with a decision to be made in the coming months
The two winning teams would then join the top six to form the same top eight finals system that had been used in recent years.
The move would be the biggest change to the finals since the top-eight system was introduced in the 1990s, and would be used to reduce the number of meaningless late-season games between teams that cannot make the finals.
The 2018 season saw 36 such dead rubbers played, and the new finals system was expected to cut this significantly, thereby increasing both the TV and live audiences.
‘There’s some work we’re doing behind the scenes, which today we’re starting to brief some people on including our clubs about a different type of format from our finals series,’ NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said.
‘It’s very much exploring it as a concept rather than signing it off.’
Matches played in the wildcard weekend could be played at the hosts’ suburban grounds, and the higher-ranked winner would play sixth in the first week of the finals with the lower-ranked winner to play fifth.
‘There’s some work we’re doing behind the scenes, which today we’re starting to brief some people on including our clubs about a different type of format from our finals series,’ NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg (pictured) said
Some questions might be raised about the idea with the team which finished 10th in the 2018 season was a full 10 points behind the team that finished eighth
The NRL believes it would also give a clear advantage to teams finishing in the top six of the competition, allowing them an extra week to rest their players.
However critics would point out that the team which finished 10th in 2018 was a full 10 points behind the team that finished eighth, and rewarding them with a chance to make the finals would dilute the importance of the regular season.
‘It’s probably not fair on the face of it, but in any finals system it’s not fair in itself,’ head of football Graham Annesley said.
‘Because you are playing a competition over four weeks involving eight teams where not everyone plays each other. All finals systems are inherently unfair to some degree.
HOW WILDCARD WEEKEND WORKS
- Wildcard weekend: 7th v 10th, 8th v 9th
- Finals week one: 5th v Wildcard 2, 6th vs Wildcard 1.
‘It’s all a balancing act.’
According to NRL figures, the introduction of the wildcard weekend would reduce dead matches – featuring a team that cannot make the finals – from 22 to 13 based on the last 11 years.
Those figures also show there is a decline of around 3,300 in crowd numbers for those games, as well as an eight per cent drop in television ratings.
‘It’s all intended to try and maintain interest in the competition for the participants, for our fans and members and people who come through the gates each week,’ Annesley said.