Opinion: The NRL season is too long 

An NRL column brought to you by RLCM, subscribe to their newsletter at www.rlcm.com.au

When I look at the NRL ladder and I see the bottom two places being occupied by the Cowboys and the Eels it makes me wonder if one of the many reasons why these two highly fancied teams are performing so poorly to start the 2018 season is that the season is just too long.

Both the Eels and Cowboys played finals football last year and many predicted that their 2018 campaigns would be even better, yet both teams look like they can’t get out of neutral, let alone first gear. Both teams look flat and clunky and lacking in energy.

On NRL 360 recently, Sharks coach Shane Flanagan commented on the hang-over from a premiership and the ‘she’ll be right’ attitude that can contaminate a pre-season when coming off success in the previous year. When you add a World Cup into the mix, it’s possible that some players are playing too much footy.

This means that the hunger and intensity drops and corners are cut as one season just rolls into the next and the next. I expect the Cowboys and the Eels to improve as the season unfolds but I can’t help but think that the length of the season and the enormity of having to hit the reset button for these two teams has had an impact on them to the point that it’s impacting their results.

With the TV deal being based on the length of the season, it is unlikely that the season will be shortened any time soon as the cash lost would just be unpalatable by the NRL, unless of course it became a player welfare issue.

The Denver test match between England and New Zealand has resulted in a large amount of debate regarding player welfare with all sorts of people weighing into the debate and this is only one game! The rest of the season needs to be looked at through the same player welfare lens as in my view it’s too long and some of the turnarounds between matches are too short.

For example, this round there are 4 teams who will have 4 days to recover before they play their next game. On ANZAC Day, Wednesday 25 April, two NRL games will be played – Roosters v Dragons and Storm v Warriors.

The Roosters played on Thursday night this round so they have 5 days.

The Dragons, Warriors and Storm all played on Friday night so they will only have 4 days. This is a tough ask and is certainly a player welfare issue, but it is unlikely to change any time soon.

In its current format the full NRL season runs for 30 weeks, plus State of Origin, plus test matches but not including trials at the start of the year. The NFL in America only runs for 17 weeks with teams playing 16 games per regular season before the playoffs. They have a huge off-season allowing players to recover from injury and stay fresh.

I wonder what has to happen before the length of the NRL season gets shortened?

An NRL column brought to you by RLCM, subscribe to their newsletter at www.rlcm.com.au

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