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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Sports, Sports, Sports, Sports

Ah, rugby season! Time to sit down and watch muscular men grab each other’s sweaty bodies while they fight for possession of a slippery little white ball. Truly the most heterosexual, manly thing to do.

I actually do like to watch rugby. Some sports, like cricket, can bore the hell out of me, but not rugby. I didn’t always like it but things change. Maybe I’ll like even cricket when I get older (and more senile).

I love the ceremony of games, especially internationals. Lining up for the anthems, waiting for the haka, all of it building up to the kick off. And then the game itself…

Sitting, yelling at the TV (or the actual players if you are so lucky). Leaping out of your seat for a score or even for a close one. Complaining about the referee. The end result is important but mainly in that it can determine your mood for the hour or so following it.

The Air New Zealand Cup (ANZC) kicked off this weekend. It replaces the old National Provincial Competition (NPC). The new version s a little screwy but there is method in the madness.

First let’s get two things clear. One, it really is madness. Two the old competition was also mad when it started (like having a quota of South Island teams!). But that’s why we learn, to not repeat mistakes.

The competition’s new structure is the main centre of the craziness. The 14 teams are split into two pools of seven. Note: originally it was going to be 12 teams but the NZRU crumbled under pressure and I think it was a good idea. The first seven weeks are a round robin tournament within the pools. The next three weeks are where the real madness begins. And we’re talking “seen-the-edge-of-space-after-travelling-through-hell-in-a-wormhole” crazy. The top three teams from each pool are guaranteed to get into the knockout rounds and have a three week series of games against each other to determine rankings. The other eight teams play three weeks in two pools. The winner of each pool goes into each the knock out rounds. Then we work towards the finals.

So where’s that method then? It takes a little while to get your head around but this format is designed to keep the NZRU ticking over, at least for the next three years. The opening weekend of competition showed us why.

Canterbury 45 Hawke’s Bay 0
Auckland 40 Manawatu 10

In the second part of the new format the only games we will see are top teams versus top teams, no blow outs (hopefully). This system gives the newer teams (and older teams that aren’t so good, Northland) a chance to play top grade rugby against similar strength teams. After three years of the competition the smaller provinces should have enough playing experience and money for the format to change slightly.

Slightly. The salary cap won’t have evened things out until at least 2012 (assuming no radical change in NZRU policy). The big unions with their larger stadiums are going to be pulling in more money than the smaller provinces so even if Manawatu becomes awesome they won’t make great money and will haemorrhage players.

When they do change the format, I’ve got the perfect plan for them…I'll tell you all about it later.


backin15 said...

I'd not realised how radical the new structure was, thanks for this background. Do you happen to know how the salary cap will work and whether or not there will be any rules regarding protecting players (as per super 14) or drafting more generally. One of the things that really works in the AFL is the draft which insures, over time, that no team can dominate for long periods of time and there's few really weak teams.

Gibbs said...

YOu dont really like watching all rugby do you? I mean come on. Would you really like to watch Taranaki vs Southland? I've told you i like watching cricket, but you couldnt pay me to watch India vs Bangladesh.

Hadyn said...

Well as you can see in my very next post, close contests aren't popular. But games with well known players are.

I'll admit I wouldn't watch Taranaki/Southland but for the same reason I've never watched Australia play anyone other than the All Blacks: there's no attachment. I don't care about the players or the outcome (except as it pertains to my teams).

There are only two exceptions I can think of.
1. During the recent World Cup I watched games between teams I didn't really care about.
2. The NFL. Due to the lack of coverage here in NZ I will watch any game. Even the Browns vs the Lions (damn that would be a sucky game) but I would probably talk a lot during it.