The new system allows for a team to gain a point if they lose only by twelve points or less. To redress the balance, three points are awarded for a win, and two for a draw. The idea was that a team trailing by over twelve points towards the end of the game would continue to fight for a bonus point instead of giving up.
This, in theory, would mean fewer one-sided games. However, not one losing side was able to narrow the margin of defeat by enough to gain the new bonus point. In fact, eleven of the thirteen games were won by a margin of over twenty points.
To add to the evidence against the new system’s effectiveness, of the seven engage Super League games so far the largest winning margin was eight points. In six of these games the bonus point would have been awarded, with the exception of the draw between Hull and the Catalans.
Surely that shows that any points incentive has no bearing on the outcome of a game. The Super League so far this season has seen matches that are too close to call, while the National Leagues – despite the introduction of the new system – were nowhere near as competitive.
The idea of the new bonus points system was always based on a false assumption: that the reason teams lost by heavy margins was because they weren’t trying, and needed some incentive. That has been shown not to be the case. The number of close games has more to do with the quality and evenness of the competition.
It has to be pointed out that this is only how the picture looks after one week of matches, and they new system may yet bear fruit. Nevertheless, the first impressions are that this is another well-intentioned idea that will only serve to complicate matters.
Jack of all trades
The RFL may have though that having a full-time Great Britain coach is a great idea, but not everyone agrees. The most high profile personality to raise any objections to the plan is Phil Larder, who used to work at the RFL as National Director of Coaching.
Larder makes a compelling argument when he says that asking anyone to be a full-time Great Britain coach involves taking on three roles at once: the job the RFL has in mind involves being a coach, a coach educator and a performance director. It would take someone very special to do all three jobs well.
Maybe, as Larder suggests, the RFL would do better to appoint another Super League coach to the job. This would give the opportunity for someone like Paul Cullen or Karl Harrison to get their teeth into the challenge.
More arguments for expansion
History was made last week when a 12-year-old London schoolboy became the youngest ever rugby league referee. Harry Neville passed the referees’ test at 11, and took charge of a curtain-raiser ahead of Harlequins’ friendly with London Skolars.
Harry now wants to become a full-time referee in the future, and let’s hope he does it. The question must be asked though: if league had never expanded at amateur level into the capital, would he ever have been able to take up the whistle?
Probably not. And that’s why expansion at the grassroots level continues to be important for rugby league. It’s all very well to say that the game may never really take off outside the heartlands, which may be true. But, if we don’t try, how many future referees, players and coaches are we letting slip through the net?
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