Field Theory by Hadyn Green

21

When First is Worst

Gigantic boatloads of congratulations need to go to the Southland Rugby team for not only beating Canterbury but also ending that 50 year drought.

And of course that means Southland get to put the Shield away for the rest of the year and only bring it out to thump Heartland Division teams until the new and improved Air New Zealand Cup next year.

And let's talk about that a bit shall we? Around the country the smaller unions that have sniffed out that they might get dropped to the new First Division next year have started kicking up a stink.

"If it ain't broke don't fix it!" they yell at the NZRU. But of course that's the problem, it was broke. They said it. All of the unions agreed that it was broken and agreed to the change. We all said it.

The salary cap was a good idea, the fourteen teams were too ambitious, the conferences were stupid (and dropped quickly). So we're back to a system of promotion and relegation, but with some of those good ideas kept on, and a bunch of grumpy teams who have forgotten they agreed that a bunch of them would be dropped.

In my opinion what made the competition so good this year could be seen last night: the All Blacks not being removed. Look at the performance of Wellington, Auckland, Waikato and Canterbury when their top players were taken away (or not played). Suddenly league-wide parity was achieved. Some teams were able to build on this (Southland) others fell back after a while (Bay of Plenty).

And if I'm posturing, has anyone noticed that the "close-loss" bonus point may have kept teams in the hunt for the play-offs who shouldn't have been there?

One of the things the unions on the chopping block complain about is that nobody knows how popular the new First Division will be. And they're right, because if you did know then I imagine a lot of companies would like to hire you for your prediction abilities.

I do wonder why Māori Television didn't bid for the broadcast rights. What was it $3M for a one-off event? Why not that for a few seasons of First Division rugby?

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So who has plans for the long weekend? I plan on spending Monday on the couch revelling in the fact that I will be able to watch the Sunday Night NFL game between the Cardinals and the Giants. Should be good.

The time difference is the worst thing about following an overseas sports league. I imagine those 3am viewers of the Champions' League et al would agree.

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