Sport Rugby League The change the NRL needs to make – now

The change the NRL needs to make – now

Johnathan Thurston celebrates a golden-point win on Friday. Photo: Getty
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Another week, another golden-point win to the North Queensland Cowboys.

It seems like just about every week a golden-point finish is dished up to NRL fans – and the regularity should be pushing the game’s administration closer to abolishing it.

That’s what most stakeholders in the game want and even Cowboys superstar Johnathan Thurston, the man responsible for breaking Brisbane Broncos hearts yet again with a field goal in golden point on Friday night, is calling for a change of some description.

“I think it’s a little bit unlucky for the team that loses,” he said afterwards.

“Someone who gets flogged by 40 points gets no (premiership) points and a side that’s tied after 80 minutes [and loses] gets no points.

“After 80 minutes if it’s a draw, I’d like to see both sides get a point and then the team who wins golden point get an extra point.”

That’s certainly one way to look at it, but wouldn’t it be more exciting if the NRL decided on golden try instead?

They could keep it at 10 minutes, five each way, and ask sides to score a try to win the game.

If none were scored, it would remain a draw – and one point each. Just like the old days.

Deciding a close game with a try is so much more satisfying than a predictable field goal or, worse still, several botched field-goal attempts, as we witnessed on Friday night in Brisbane.

After all, what’s more exciting than players tossing the ball around desperately looking for the offload or bust that will see them breach the opposition defence and get over for a four-pointer?

“I’m not a fan of it [golden point] and I don’t know anyone who is,” former Australia and Queensland captain Wally Lewis told The New Daily.

“For the players, the biggest problem is one team may not even handle the ball, and that’s not fair.”

The Broncos touched the ball just once in a dramatic conclusion to the 2015 NRL Grand Final – the most famous golden-point finish of all.

Wally Lewis thinks the current format isn’t right. Photo: Getty

In that decider, North Queensland kicked off the extra-time period only for Brisbane’s Ben Hunt to drop the ball. The Cowboys then took the win when Thurston slotted a field goal at the first opportunity.

Most people felt terrible for Hunt, but also that it seemed unfair that the Broncos hadn’t had a chance to reply.

Inevitably, in the middle of last year the ARL Commission changed the format for deciding finals by declaring that teams would play at least two five-minute periods if scores were level at full-time.

Should scores remain level after the additional 10 minutes, golden point rules would then be played.

Lewis believes the Commission will bring regular-season games into line with the revised finals format.

“When you can have a team that may miss out on qualifying for the finals or finishing in a better position because of a golden point, they would understandably feel hard done by,” the rugby league legend added.

Lewis also says the inevitability of the team in possession setting up for a field-goal attempt isn’t the most attractive look for the game, and that five minutes each way would see more skilful and more memorable final plays.

“It offers a more even opportunity for both teams and that’s when you get the big plays from the best players,” he said.

“The big players are usually the ones who respond in situations like that.”

In other words, instead of another field goal, we’d all love to see Thurston set up a try – or score one – instead.

Murray Brust has been covering international sport in a variety of roles for nearly three decades.

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