One concept many Australian Rugby League fans would like to see return is a midweek knockout tournament to act as an alternative to the regular competition and give teams an opportunity to win a different piece of silverware.
There has been a similar tournament in the past between 1974 and 1989 known most notably as the Panasonic and Amco cup.
It was contested between NSWRL, BRL, Country, New Zealand and PNG based clubs, with the Balmain Tigers winning the cup a record three times. The rules of the competition very were simple, you lose and you’re out.
The oldest knockout tournament in Rugby League is actually still around today and is known as the Challenge Cup which has been running since 1896.
The Challenge Cup is contested between teams in the English Rugby Football League system and is open to other teams around Europe and now North America as well with Toronto recently joining. The British Army also compete and the new New York Rugby League franchise are set to participate also.
Wigan Warriors have won the Cup an astounding 19 times with the Leeds Rhinos next best winning 13.
Considering the fact that Australian Rugby League has partaken in such a concept in the past and that the Challenge Cup has been running for well over 100 years, the NRL is very capable of sustaining this format.
A huge reason to implement such an initiative is to give lower division clubs the opportunity to prove themselves on a big stage and win a top grade piece of silverware, whilst also giving young talent the chance to gain experience and exposure. Then there’s the added sponsorship and TV revenue it would bring.
The way it should work is that in the first round, the Canterbury Cup and Intrust Super Cup teams plus teams from other lower grade competitions face off before the 16 NRL clubs enter from the second round with the fixtures decided by a random draw. To avoid a ‘Parramatta v Parramatta’ type of scenario, clubs with teams in the NRL and Canterbury Cup comps would only enter their top tier squad.
Establishing a knockout tournament in the NRL will mean fans of clubs who are struggling in the main competition will have reason to remain invested in their team with the club still having something to play for and giving lower grade teams a chance to go up against first grade opponents.
Imagine the North Sydney Bears drawing South Sydney or if an Auckland based club made it to the second round and met the Warriors. Now that would be great to watch.