The scores of floggings at the weekend have led to Paul Gallen drawing attention to the fact there are no consequences for players tuning out once their teams can no longer qualify for finals footy.
The ugly issue was laid bare as five of the eight games in round 23 were decided by 34 points or more.
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The accumulative scoreline between the winners and losers of the round read 362-104.
Scrutinising the players of clubs no longer in the hunt for finals berths, Gallen summed up their attitudes perfectly on Nine’s 100% Footy when he said: “You’ve got the Wests Tigers who can’t wait to go to Bali in three weeks’ time”.
“They’re still earning half-a-million dollars next year,” Gallen added.
“What’s the consequence for them? This is the problem … as professional athletes and as rugby league players you’ve got to have pride in your performance and just turn up and put in … I don’t think there’s any consequence for them not to play well. That’s what worries me.
“The hard thing is at the back end of the season … we’ve got to try to keep these players motivated somehow.
“A relegation system, for me, would be ideal, but it’s not possible. It’s not possible in this country. We don’t have enough players, we don’t have enough teams. It’s totally out of the question. In theory, I think it’s a good thing, but it’s just impossible for it to happen.
“But we need to somehow find a way to keep these players and teams motivated so we’re not getting scores like this the last three rounds of the competition.”
Despite the Eels dealing his Bulldogs a 42-6 thrashing in Parramatta, Phil Gould showed no hesitation in lashing the woeful performances of the round.
Canterbury’s general manager of football renewed his gripe on 100% Footy, saying NRL players have every reason to be hungry on the field.
“Isn’t the fact that they’re professional footballers playing for money in the biggest competition in the world … isn’t that enough motivation to show pride in their performance?” Gould said.
“Kids today aren’t like this. Kids change mobile phone plans a week later.
“No one sticks to anything, they can’t stick to a task.
“As the season wears on it’s kind of like, ‘Well, it’s OK; we’re out of the running’.”
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Gallen, a 348-match Sharks legend, believes some players give up unintentionally once out of finals contention.
“I think subconsciously they do … no one goes out there and intentionally misses a tackle or drops the ball on purpose. No one does that,” Gallen said.
“But when the game gets a little bit too hard in the 70th minute when it’s 10 all and you can’t make the eight and you’ve got to run, chase down field or chase a kick really hard or pressure someone, you don’t do it. You just don’t do it.”
Stream the NRL premiership 2022 live and free on 9Now.
Gould thinks the NRL’s 25-round regular season is too long.
But the NRL could be set to play its longest season in history by starting next year’s competition a week earlier and giving each club three byes over the course of a 27-round regular season.
Teams would still only play 24 games each, but players would have to endure a longer period of time between farewelling one off-season break and diving into the next.
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“I think the competition is five weeks too long,” Gould said.
“I think 20 rounds is plenty to find out who are the best eight teams in the competition to go to the finals.
“You could expand the competition by having a bigger international and representative … middle part of the season where everyone can represent Pacific Island nations and New Zealand and other nationalities … and give the competition a little bit of a mini break.
“We don’t need 25 rounds. Our players can’t do it. Look at what they’re producing now. They just can’t go that long. They’re not ready for it.”
There are two rounds remaining in this year’s regular season, with a clash between the Broncos and Eels in Brisbane on Thursday night getting round 24 underway.
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