by Warren Boland
If the 2017 NRL season has snuck up on you, you might be wondering what’s changed since last year.
For a start, forget Monday night football. Your regular NRL weekend now starts on Thursday night and finishes on Sunday afternoon. Now on a Monday morning when you go to work, school or the cafe to chew over the weekend footy with your friends, the round will be complete and you’ll know exactly where your team is on the ladder. I was never a fan of Monday night footy – I think the rhythm of Thursday to Sunday will feel right.
The double-header returns on Friday night but it’s an earlier kick-off at 6pm (NSW time) and the first game is not on free-to-air TV. An early start means an early finish. No more falling asleep in front of the TV around 10.15 pm at half-time in the second game or chasing the kids off to bed.
On the field itself, the rules seem to be unchanged. That’s refreshing. At last the game is is perfect!
Faraway from the stadium and the crowds, the Bunker in its cool detached isolation will be less random and intrusive. The video review system will no longer rule on knock-ons in general play or 40-20s. The Bunker will only be called on for point-scoring plays, in-goal restarts and reportable foul play.
No doubt plenty of knock-ons and strips will be missed but there should be more flow and consistency as to when the video ref can intervene and that’s got to be a good thing.
At the judiciary, a fines system has been introduced for some low-grade offences including careless high tackles, tripping, contrary conduct and detrimental conduct. They will now result in a $1500 fine for a Grade One offence, rather than demerit points and possible suspension. As long as it is reserved for low-grade misdemeanours as intended, fans and players will be much happier especially around finals time.
Punters won’t be able to spot-bet on so-called exotic or novelty statistics. The NRL has banned the betting agencies from offering those markets to protect the integrity of the game. If you’re a true fan of the game, surely you didn’t need those options anyway.
That’s about it for changes. Now, all you need to know is who will be the 2017 premiers. That prediction is way beyond this mere mortal. All I can say, before a pass is thrown, is that it’s unlikely to be the Knights or Dragons. Sadly that is something that hasn’t changed from last season.