TIME NRL JOINED DRAFT DAY FUN

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT -

“WHAT do you write about over the off- sea­son?”

It’s a ques­tion most rugby league writ­ers are asked quite of­ten, es­pe­cially dur­ing the fes­tive pe­riod.

The lat­est cir­cus sur­round­ing the Wayne Ben­nett- An­thony Sei­bold coach­ing swap, for mine, only re­in­forced the code’s dras­tic need for a more stream­lined trans­fer net­work for play­ers and coaches.

I can see the op­pos­ing view, that the year- round meat mar­ket keeps the NRL front and cen­tre in news­pa­pers and on TV bulletins.

But a trans­fer win­dow wouldn’t pre­vent con­jec­ture and ru­mours of who’s go­ing where swirling around. It would sim­ply turn trades into an event and a real money spin­ner for the sport.

Have a look at the AFL. They’re the mas­ters at squeez­ing the le­mon dry when it comes to en­sur­ing they re­main top­i­cal, long af­ter the pre­miers have walked off the grand fi­nal vic­tory stage with their medals.

Their trade and draft pe­riod lasts for months, and the the­atre is pal­pa­ble. Fans take de­light in de­bat­ing which club has got the best of each trade, and the fi­nal day where teams and player man­agers scram­ble to get deals done be­fore dead­line is su­perb drama.

The ten­sion that built as the fi­nal min­utes ticked by as for­mer Bris­bane Li­ons star Dayne Beams looked to se­cure a move back to for­mer side Colling­wood is the drama the NRL could em­u­late.

A player trans­fer win­dow is an ini­tia­tive that has the full sup­port of Cow­boys coach Paul Green, who en­dorsed it em­phat­i­cally when I asked him his opin­ion in April last year.

“I think it could work. There’d have to be a few rules built around it but ( it would) cre­ate in­ter­est for the fans and I’m sure TV would love to get a hold of it,” Green said.

“You see things like the draft day in the NFL, there could be some ex­cite­ment built around it.

“That needs to be looked at. When you see play­ers in the pre­sea­son in par­tic­u­lar sign­ing for an­other club be­fore we’ve even kicked a ball this year, I don’t think that's a good look for the game.

“Some fans feel dis­en­gaged and want to sup­port their team, but they’re not sure how to sup­port those guys know­ing they’re go­ing to play for some­one else.”

Far too of­ten fans are put in the awk­ward sit­u­a­tion of hav­ing to sup­port a player for an en­tire sea­son af­ter he has al­ready signed with a ri­val team.

Although the said player may still be com­mit­ted to the cause, there will al­ways be that per­cep­tion that his fo­cus, at least par­tially, lies else­where.

In­ter­view­ing Josh McGuire af­ter Cow­boys train­ing yes­ter­day prompted me to think how dra­matic it would be had his move from the Bron­cos been bro­kered on TV for ev­ery­one to wit­ness as it un­folded.

The cur­rent mid- sea­son player trans­fer dead­line should still re­main, as it’s an ideal out­let for clubs who may be in need of bol­ster­ing a cer­tain po­si­tion due to in­juries.

Play­ers who have fallen out of favour at their cur­rent clubs also have the chance to re­vi­talise their ca­reer some­where else im­me­di­ately, rather than lan­guish in re­serve grade for the rest of the sea­son.

The coach­ing sit­u­a­tion is a lit­tle tougher to sim­plify.

It’s il­log­i­cal to think a coach­ing trans­fer win­dow would be vi­able. There’s just 16 for starters and there’s not enough move­ment to jus­tify it.

But while the Ben­nett- Sei­bold fra­cas has kept the me­dia happy in the tra­di­tional “down” pe­riod, it’s a poor look for the game.

It has cre­ated ir­re­versible em­bar­rass­ment for the NRL as other sports ber­ate the game for the farce the sit­u­a­tion be­came.

It has been sug­gested coach­ing rules mir­ror player sign­ings af­ter for­mer Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary signed with Pen­rith for 2021, de­spite hav­ing two years to run on his con­tract at Wests Tigers.

Sei­bold also signed well be­fore his deal ended, and both the Tigers and Rab­bitohs even­tu­ally granted their main men an early re­lease.

Ban­ning coaches from ne­go­ti­at­ing deals with other clubs be­fore the Novem­ber 1 dead­line, which play­ers abide by, would be a good start.

TRAD­ING PLACES: Wayne Ben­nett ar­riv­ing for his first day of train­ing as Rab­bitohs coach and ( in­set) An­thony Sei­bold.

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