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Friday, June 03, 2005

[Sport] Confused Yet? NPC 2006 review

NPC 2006. What an exciting time for New Zealand Rugby. (To non-regular readers: I am being sarcastic).

Good ideas:
  • Allowing all 14 provinces into the “Premier Division” (although this goes against the November 2003 Competitions Review)
  • Splitting the 14 teams into two pools
  • Keeping the salary cap
  • Ummm, that’s about it

Not-so-good ideas:

  • Everything else

The two pools will be based on seedings which will be based on the results of the previous year (i.e. if it was based on last years standings, Canterbury is the #1 seed, then Wellington, then BOP, then Waikato etc). We can only assume that the four teams from the current second division will take the last four rankings (11th-14th)

Thankfully the pools will be mixed up. So, again, if Canterbury and Wellington are the top seeded teams then they will be put into different pools. By the way, last night’s news reports gave no details regarding the actual running of the new NPC so I had to find out myself (and I’m not even a paid journalist, yet).

Each team will play six games in a round robin against the other teams in its pool (Round One). This will take seven weeks because for some reason they need a bye week (considering what is to come there are plenty of other places that would be better for a rest but… [Shrug]).

This is where it gets really loopy. After Round One the top six teams (which is defined as the top three from each pool, not the top six overall) will be split from the bottom eight to play a second round (the imaginatively named: Round Two).

The Top Six
The Top Six (because the NZRU gives them capital letters) teams play the three teams that they didn’t get to play in Round One. All the points received for Round One transfer through to Round Two. The three teams with the most points after Round One will get two home games and one away (vice versa for the lower teams). So basically the rich teams (and I am talking money now) will get richer, through more home games.

Here’s a good one though: ALL TEAMS from the Top Six will go through to the Quarterfinals. All of them. So, um, why bother? Just for a brief chance at a reshuffle of the rankings for the quarterfinals? Doesn’t seem like a lot of effort and complication to just…wait a minute! To quote BOP mascot Hori BOP (talking about the netball finals): “I smell money!” The big teams, who will presumably be at the top, will get more home games with heaps of fans and can just keep grabbing money, which the NZRU can turn into dollars (through TV etc).

I’m not really that na├»ve. I understand that when the NZRU say that this “will help NZ rugby develop” what they mean is “it will bring in sh*tloads of money for us so we can help NZ rugby”.

The Bottom Eight
Actually the NZRU understands that this name would be demoralising and instead have called it Repechage A & Repechage B. The Bottom Eight will be split into two repechages of four teams (again mixed by their results from Round One). These two repechages will play a round robin tournament with the winners of each moving to the Quarterfinals as the 7th and 8th seeds respectively. Unlike the Top Six, points from Round One will not transfer through to Round Two.

Feeling a little confused yet? Don’t worry because it gets better, but then it gets worse. Oh and check below for a lovely diagram from the NZRU to help you.

From the quarterfinals (and this is where the bye week should be for all teams going to the play-offs) the tournament runs like the normal single-elimination play-off situation we know and love. Your final standings determine your rank for next year and round we go again.

Here’s where it falls down a bit though. As you can see in the diagram below, if your team is particularly bad then you will play (a minimum of) nine games with only four of those at home. So if you are like Manawatu (and I am not picking on the Mighty Manawatu, they are just ranked last in the diagram), you don’t have a lot of money to start with, the sports pundits are worried about your long-term fiscal outlook and think you might fold financially as a club and then the NZRU (who are developing NZ rugby) only give you four home games in a season.

I think that the Round Two needs to be renamed as “The Money Round”. The two main ideas behind seems to be:

  • Make money off the better provinces and
  • Give the smaller provinces a chance to win a few more games, and so make more money.

Also, why is this new system so complicated?

Two pools of seven, each team plays all others in its pool (six games) plus another two teams from the other pool (two games), throw in a bye week and you’ve got yourself a nine week regular season with an equal number of home and away games.

Has anybody thought about the ramifications of having eight teams make the play-offs? This means 57% (more than half) of the teams will get to the post-season. This means that a team with a losing record can make the play-offs. ::cough:: I think. It’s so bloody hard to figure out with this system.

But some things haven’t changed. The NZRU has clutched tightly to the one thing that really made the NPC special.

Oops. Sorry, that should read: “the one thing that really made the NPC farcical”. I am naturally referring to the bonus point system.

[From the NZRU, New Competitions Information Summary, 2 June 2005]

  • Points for the Premier Division will be the same as for the current Air New Zealand
    NPC, that is:
    a. 4 points for a win;
    b. 2 points for a draw;
    c. 1 point for losing by 7 or fewer points; and
    d. 1 point for scoring 4 or more tries

At this point I would like to refer you to almost everything I ever have written about rugby on this blog. In particular this example:

Two teams play to a draw at full time. One team scores two converted tries and two penalties and comes away with 2points. The other team scores four unconverted tries and comes away with 3points.

Surprisingly, bonus points do NOT show up in the event of a tiebreaker (where they are, arguably, best used). A quick note about tiebreaks: while it is highly unlikely, a quarter or semi-final could be decided by coin toss, this seems wrong somehow.

To conclude this section: bonus points suck, get rid of them.

Here’s the diagram I promised:
Image taken from NZRU New Competitions Information Summary 2005

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