Carl Ablett: Game needs to strike a balance between quality and quantity

Carl Ablett and Danny McGuire.
Carl Ablett and Danny McGuire.
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ONE THING we have got to get in Super League is on with the game.

We are a family sport and I reckon late finishes to matches are becoming a real problem.

Ryan Hall celebrates scoring his second try against Hull FC in the Challenge Cup semi-final.

Ryan Hall celebrates scoring his second try against Hull FC in the Challenge Cup semi-final.

Televised games sometimes go on past 10pm and that’s no good for anybody, especially on Thursday nights when kids have school the following morning and people have to get up early for work.

Kicking matches off earlier wouldn’t make much difference to us as players, but it might allow fans to get home a bit earlier.

Getting across the M62 on a weekday evening isn’t easy and 7.30pm might be pushing it a bit, but 7.45 would probably be a fair compromise.

It would also make sense to play derbies on a Thursday, so fans don’t have as far to travel.

But players, coaches and referees can play their part as well.

I’d be in favour of a shot-clock, so teams have, say, one minute maximum to take a conversion, or drop out.

Especially at drop outs, all teams take as long as they possibly can.

It is a repeat set, so you are going to have to do more tackling and you take the chance for a breather and to get your defence organised.

I imagine it is frustrating for fans and if teams were penalised for time wasting it would soon disappear from the game.

It would make it tougher for the defending team, but I think that’s part of the sport.

When players get fatigued the attacking team can exploit that and it adds to the spectacle and excitement.

Fans want to see the ball in play more often and I’d back anything that speeds the game up. I think that’s one way to attract bigger crowds. Another thing that slows things down is the video referee. That’s one of the reasons televised games can go on 10 minutes longer than non-televised ones.

Sometimes you can be standing around for four or five minutes waiting for a decision, or at least that’s what it feels like. I think it detracts from the excitement, rather than adding to it.

I can’t see why watching the same angle numerous times makes it any clearer, so I think – under the system we have at the moment – the video ref should have a couple of looks and if he’s not sure then go with the on-field decision.

More often than not the man in the middle gets it right anyway.

We now know that the Super-8s and Qualifiers will be continuing next year.

I think September is a bit late to be making an announcement like that, but I do think the eights format has added some more excitement to the league structure.

The Qualifiers have definitely been a success and the Super-8s is very competitive this year.

Last season a couple of teams fell over the line into the top eight and had no chance of making the semi-finals, but this time – mathematically at least – everyone is in with a shout with four games to play. That means there are fewer meaningless matches, which are something everybody in rugby league wants to get rid of, but even so I am not a big fan of the current system.

That’s because we play too many fixtures. It’s now a 30-game league season, before the play-offs and Grand Final and there’s the Challenge Cup on top of that.

Last night was the fourth time we’ve played Hull this year and there’s a good chance we might meet them again in the play offs. If we do, we’ll have faced them four times in just over two months.

Where is the sense in that? The competition has been exciting this year because everybody has been beating everyone else, but I am not sure it has been as intense as past years, or as high quality.

I am sure fans don’t want to see teams play the same opposition four or five times in one season and once you get over a certain number of fixtures – probably somewhere in the mid-20s – the quality is bound to suffer.

Obviously club owners want more games to maximise income. That is understandable, but maybe crowds would go up if the standard of play improved.

I think the sport has to strike the right balance between quantity and quality. At the moment the latter is being sacrificed for the former and in the long term the game will suffer.

Ryan Hall in action during the Rugby League World Cup. PIC: PA

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