In a season when player welfare has become an almost weekly discussion, surely the time has come for the RFL to take action? There are numerous directions the authorities could move in but the simple fact is without changes, then there will be serious repercussions for players long-term futures and the quality of the game itself. With that in mind, what structural changes could be made to improve the current situation?
Increase Super League to 13/14 Teams:
By increasing the League to 13 teams, there is the opportunity for each club to play each other once home and way, plus a Magic Weekend fixture. This would leave us with 25 rounds and crucially one team would have a week off which potentially could be welcomed by teams. Assuming Hull KR are included as the 13th team, there is even licence to add a 14th team. I’m sure the RFL would be delighted at the prospect of an all French Super League fixture if Tolouse were promoted too?
Divide international & domestic seasons:
As much as we’d all love to see England grow into a dominant force, the current situation is that our domestic game is the stronger of the two areas. We should not reduce its quality by squeezing in international friendlies and training camps during the league season. Added to that, just how much does an international side learn from playing a one-off match together? Perhaps more could be done during the off-season to incorporate more international activity, combined with a shorter domestic season?
Ditch double-game weekends:
It’s time to get rid of them; simple as that. Despite the traditional Easter double-header being a mainstay in the domestic calendar, the increased intensity of the sport in recent years makes it almost impossible to sustain. There’s no doubting the standard of games is reduced by the time Easter Monday arrives and that’s not good for the team or the fans. We appreciate respecting traditions in the game but the sport must evolve in this aspect or more players’ careers will be impacted. A Rugby League career is a short one anyway and as players grow in stature and the hits get harder, the conditioning must also adapt too.
An official player group:
There seems to be distinct lack of awareness between mental and physical health in the game. The two are interconnected and if players begin to feel physically bereft, then undoubtedly it can also cause mental strain. The RFL has worked closely with the ‘State of Mind’ group to offer guidance and awareness but players lack an official body at present to air their views without facing public judgement. We hear a lot regarding the opinions of Coaches, The RFL and fans but players equally deserve to air their views within an official platform.
Drop the Super 8s/Qualifiers:
It’s safe to say the format has received mixed reviews; some enjoying the thrilling finale that the MPG can offer, while others think that too much pressure is placed upon teams for survival. Particularly in the relegation battle, a player’s livelihood is left in jeopardy if his team loses the survival fight on the outcome of one game. The mixed reception from fans probably suggests it’s time to look at an alternatives and crucially one that reduces the quantity of games, particularly if Super League increases to 14 teams in 2018.