Like the other 13,138 people who saw the dog’s breakfast of golden point between Cronulla and the Roosters on Monday night, I’m relieved to read that the NRL coaches are demanding a review of the tie-breaking system. It’s become clear that the existing system of extra time is a field goal lottery where both sides are terrified of playing attacking football and the refs are equally frightened of blowing a penalty, allowing defenders to bend the rules in order to snuff out any aggressive football even if the intent was there. That neither NSW half, Todd Carney nor Mitchell Pearce, was able to break the stalemate this week is proof that golden point needs some serious scrutiny.
My preferred solution is golden try, where a four-pointer – not a field goal – would be the only scoring play that would end the game. Teams would be allowed to attempt a field goal, and if they’re ahead by a point at the end of 90 minutes they collect the competition points, but if the opposition scored a try they win the game.
For example, with the Roosters and Sharks locked at 14-all, if Mitchell Pearce kicks a drop goal then the scoreboard ticks over to 15-14, but play continues because neither side has claimed a touchdown. If Cronulla score a try, the game ends, and they win the game 18-15. If they fail to register points after 10 minutes of extra time, then the Tricolours win by a one-point margin.
The benefits are obvious. Golden try encourages running rugby league where both sides are striving to score tries, rather than roll the dice on wild field goal attempts. Also, it would empower the referees to penalise teams without the fear that a penalty goal would directly inform the result, facilitating a cleaner, more open style of play. And golden try would add a layer of tactical intrigue: would teams opt to kick a field goal and protect the slender lead, or gamble on potential try-scoring plays? The game would be much richer than the game of field-goal roulette we currently see every time a game is drawn after 80 minutes.
I’d make another minor adjustment to the way extra time operates, in the form of competition points. At the moment a golden-point win is worth the same as a regulation win: two points. But I think extra-time losers should be rewarded by competition points, so the ladder reflects their effort.
How about four points up for grabs in every game. If Canterbury beat Melbourne 20-10, Canterbury collect four competition points, and Melbourne none. If the Sharks and the Roosters are tied at 14-all after 80 minutes, then each team pockets one point. Then, in extra time, two extra points are up for grabs. So if Shaun Kenny-Dowall crashes over for a touchdown in the fourth minute of golden try, the Chooks go home with three competition points in total, and Cronulla claim one. It’s important than draws are accounted for by the ladder.
Imagine this. Over the 2012 home-and-away season, South Sydney win 14 games in regular time, win two extra-time matches, and lose eight games in 80 minutes. 16 wins plus two byes equals 36 competition points. Then take Manly, who win 16 games and lose eight, with none being drawn after 80 minutes. Like the Rabbitohs, they collect 36 points.
Now say South Sydney end up with a superior for-and-against than Manly, they would finish above them on the ladder – despite the fact that, effectively, they have ‘won’ two less games than the Eagles. Under the existing system, a club with a 14-2-8 record can trump a club with a 16-0-8 record if they have a superior points differential. This is not fair, especially under a new finals system where fourth place gets two bites at the cherry, while fifth place faces a sudden death elimination final in the first week of playoffs.
Golden try, and a consolation competition point for extra-time losers. You know it makes sense.