Where to next for Ben Barba, asks Andrew Voss.

NRL can be more than a game of two halves: Voss

Andrew Voss suggests NRL games should be split into four quarters, selects his best Englishman in the NRL for 2015 and asks what's next for Ben Barba.

Should the NRL remain a game of two halves?

No. I would like some serious discussion around the prospect of four-quarter football.

And yes, the move is television motivated, but I believe there are other benefits for the code.

Obviously with four quarters there is scope for more full-length ad breaks during a telecast and thus more advertising dollars.

The way I see it come 2018, Channel Nine, to maximise commercial revenue, will want to have two ad breaks leading into kick-off on Thursday and Friday night football. Good luck with a game starting much before 8pm.

But I believe that four quarters may also enhance the game-day experience for fans getting to the matches. And growth in crowds has to be a major concern with such an attractive television product being churned out.

There is obviously a greater outlet for entertainment other than the game.

Ask any parent with young kids how tough it is to sit through an entire 40 minutes without interruption. Ask league fans without children how hard it can be in a crowd to get served food and drinks and make it back to your seat in one half-time break.

Leave the teams in huddles with the coaches on ground at first and three-quarter time just like in the AFL. That's great theatre.

With four quarters, let's reduce the interchange to six.

Opponents to such a big change will argue two more breaks is an 'attack' on the fabric of the game. Well, with the referee's bunker to be introduced we are told we will be getting time back from shorter video referee referrals.

And for those who remember fondly the old midweek competition, I believe the four quarters aspect was one of the highlights.

I vote yes for four-quarter football.

 

Who has been the best Englishman in the NRL this year?

Lock me in for Canberra's Josh Hodgson with a late season rush.

And I'll clarify my point by saying the likes of James Graham and George Burgess are better players, however Hodgson has been a real surprise packet.

Hodgson's improvement is highlighted by the fact for the last two weekends he has played the entire 80 minutes, and been close to the Raiders' best in both.

The former Hull KR man gives great service from dummy half, is a good defender, has a fair turn of speed, has proven his toughness, and throw in an effective kicking game that has produced three 40/20s this year.

I'll put my praise another way. If he was a New South Welshman, I'd have no trouble picking him for State of Origin next year.

What next for Ben Barba?

Well it can't be as a bench player called into a match with 15 minutes to go as was the case on Monday night for Cronulla against Melbourne.

Sadly in the few minutes Barba was on he suffered an injury and is now sidelined.

But the fact is the 2012 Dally M medal winner has started from the bench in 11 of 17 games this year.

For mine, he's either starting fullback or he is nowhere.

This year, among his key stats, are three line breaks and three tries.

In 2011 at the Bulldogs it was 30 line breaks and 23 tries. In 2012, 25 line breaks and 22 tries.

I speak as a selfish league fan that only wants to see Barba back to his entertaining best when I say he is wasting his time at Cronulla, and the Sharks are wasting a spot if he only plays a part in the final quarter of a game.

Released by the Bulldogs from his contract; released after one year by the Broncos; now on the evidence of Monday night he needs a release from the Sharks for what could be one last shot at recapturing his scintillating best.

How big of a setback was Monday night for the Sharks?

It was significant.

Only last week I wrote here, "why not the Sharks?" when talking about genuine premiership contenders in 2015.

Their performance against Melbourne lacked all of the energy I had witnessed against the Cowboys a week earlier. They had so much to play for and barely fired a shot. 

Both Brisbane and the Cowboys have recently suffered back-to-back losses after seemingly riding the crest of a winning wave. Cronulla can't afford the same slip-up this close to the finals.

But historically, what a danger game a clash with the Tigers is. Put simply, Wests are the Sharks' bogey side.

Head-to-head Cronulla has won just seven of 25 clashes between the teams, and a lot of the poor results have come at Remondis where the home team has won only three of 12.

The Tigers have won seven times from their last eight visits to Cronulla.

It's going to be a big match to start Super Saturday!

Who wins Roosters v Broncos?

Roosters. But they are no certainties.

And just as the Tigers have a great record at Cronulla, so too do the Broncos at Allianz against the Roosters.

14 victories from 21 clashes, and 10 from the last 13, makes for good reading if you are a Brisbane fan.

But to the here and now, and I think we will see an 80-minute performance from Trent Robinson's side this week.

There is no question it is potentially the match of the season, and remember it was golden point back in Round 6 to Brisbane. 

I reckon the Roosters will square the ledger Saturday night. Maybe then we will need a 'decider' in the finals.

There is still work to do on the NRL schedule, right?

Yes there is. And allow me to argue the case on behalf of New Zealand rugby league because they don't seem to have much of a voice in Australia when it comes to the NRL.

I highlighted last year when the Warriors were drawn to play Souths in Perth, that it was with total disregard of the Kiwi television audience that it was allowed to kick off at 7.30pm WA time. That was 11.30pm in New Zealand.

To their credit, we corrected that situation this year.

But then how did last Saturday manage to go through to the 'keeper' if we are truly trying to grow the game across the Tasman?

The Panthers v Warriors game kicked off at 5.30pm which was 7.30pm in NZ, and directly opposed to the All Blacks Bledisloe Test.

As a result, only 15,000 viewers watched the league last Saturday, a massive drop of more than 90 per cent on an average game day audience.

More work needs to be done when planning out the schedule in terms of time zones and clashes with other big sporting events.

I'm off to Remondis and Cbus Super Stadium this weekend. See you at the footy.

Giddy Up!

Twitter: @AndrewVossy