What could league learn from the Super Bowl?
With billions tuning in, and a further 68,000 in attendance, Monday's Super Bowl at San Francisco's Levi's Stadium was the hottest ticket in town.
As the NRL season approaches, fans are sure to make comparisons between the two codes, and that usually means new rule ideas.
The NRL has experimented with rule changes during pre-season, with power plays, bonus zone tries and other ideas trialled in the Downer NRL Auckland Nines and Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars.
To pre-empt the chatter, NRL.com has come up with a few NFL rules that may or may not work in rugby league.
While all touchdowns are reviewable by officials, NFL coaches have the right to challenge rulings on the field. Similar to the Decision Review System in cricket, challenges are limited to two incorrect referrals, meaning coaches have to be judicial with their reviews. There is an incentive to not waste challenges, with teams awarded a bonus review if their first two are successful.
Such a system could work well in the NRL, given the introduction of the Central Command Centre in 2016. The new video referee "Bunker" will aid the decision-making process when it comes to ruling on tries, leading to quicker reviews that have little impact on the flow of the game. One thing holding a "coach's challenge" rule back is that NRL coaches are rarely seen on the sidelines, making it pretty difficult for them to throw the red flag from up in the stands.
Trialled in the 2010 NRL All Stars match, teams were given the option to attempt a "double try" or kick the conventional two point conversion. Teams were given the opportunity to score a second try from a single play-the-ball at the 20-metre line. The option was similar to the NFL, where teams can choose to kick for goal (worth one point) or attempt a two-point conversion (a single play from scrimmage from the two yard line). Teams rarely attempt this play, unless they are in desperate need of points. However, this tactic could work well in league, with teams able to transfer their Nines flair to the NRL. Teams would likely use this in windy conditions, or opt to go for the double try instead of attempting a tricky sideline conversion.
Each NFL team is granted three timeouts per half, to be used at their discretion. They can be used to halt the opposition's momentum, to discuss tactics, or to simply gain a breather. While they seem like a good idea, timeouts mightn't be as practical in the NRL. Unlike the NFL, where each play is a calculated set-up, rugby league matches encourage more ad-lib football, with playmakers able to play what's in front of them. Also, unlike the NFL, league isn't made up of several squads that need to be regularly rotated. While players would love to catch their breath, the game has moved forward, with shot clocks introduced to speed up the game.
The NFL goes all-out when it comes to the glitz and glamour of entertainment. Michael Jackson, Katy Perry, Bruce Springsteen and a host of A-list celebrities have wowed fans over the years, while Beyonce, Coldplay and Bruno Mars were the headlines acts at Super Bowl 50. As electric as the performances might be, it does come at a cost – and we're not talking financial. A regular half-time break lasts 12 minutes for NFL players. For Super Bowls, it increases to 30 minutes. For a sport that can literally come down to inches, it seems strange that they would jeopardise the preparation of players during the main break in the biggest game of the season. The NRL is blessed on grand final day to have a natural break between matches, so they can easily accommodate as much time as they want for entertainment. Cold Chisel had ANZ Stadium rocking in 2015. Who will we see this year?
NFL players celebrate tackles like they've won the lottery. They also love to dance when they reach the end zone. There have been some famous (and infamous) post-try celebrations in rugby league. From ten pin bowling to coconut cutting, teams have choreographed some ripping routines. Let's bring them back.