The National Rugby League is the most even competition in the world. And that’s not anecdotal. It’s fact. Mathematics prove it.
Early this year a mathematician from University Technology Sydney, Stephen Woodcock, posted a piece in The Conversation detailing results of a study into global sporting competition trends.
Using a bunch of ‘N’s and ‘D’s, and a complex equation like that one Matt Damon worked out in Good Will Hunting, and which the Harvard maths faculty answered with vigour, our man concluded that the odds of a repeat premier in the NRL – since the salary cap arrived in 1990 – were $3.80 against.
Doesn’t sound that high? It is.
The AFL, meanwhile – with multiple repeat premiers – was $1.06.
Others such as Serie A, La Liga, NBA, MLB, NHL, and 20-odd other comps including WNBA, IPL and Davis Cup were similarly long odds-on.
But the NRL has had 12 different premiers in a 16-team comp since 2000. And that makes it a global anomaly.
What can it all possibly mean?
For one, the salary cap is doing its job – with a vengeance. It’s been 25 years since Brisbane Broncos – with 16 Origin players and John Plath – went back-to-back in ’92-’93. (And we don’t count them going back-to-back in ’97 (Super League) and ’98 (NRL) because we just don’t, okay? End of.)
The salary cap has killed off any notion of ‘dynasty’ (again if you don’t count Melbourne Storm’s four grand final run from ’06-’09 and we don’t either, which is another story of the salary cap, the highly-effective, highly-vexed, method for evening out the national rugby league comp.)
Anyway the cap’s working and doing what it’s meant to, which is give everyone a shot every year.
And now and again there’s headlines because these silly Third Party Agreements have been rigged because you would get that given a player’s worth what someone’s willing to pay them, and people can find ways around artificial payment ceilings as they have since the Greeks invented money.
Another another story.
Anyway – the salary cap is working, and the NRL suits front the cameras occasionally and say Why yes that is good, aren’t we good, like Donald Trump the great gormless galoot taking credit for the Nasdaq despite not knowing how it works. He will find time to learn in prison.
Anyway! Yes, the NRL’s salary cap is working perhaps even better than they intended, and they say it’s the envy of world sport and that’s … I suppose that’s good.
It’s good if you mean ‘even’. Twelve different premiers in a 16-team comp in 18 seasons is very even.
Is such a really, really even competition that good?
Doesn’t it mean that the best players are just moving around between the teams?
Doesn’t it mean that after you’ve spent a few years building a team capable of winning the comp, that your players will be more valuable and thus you can’t hang onto them even if you’ve got the money to keep ‘em?
Doesn’t it mean fans watch their club leaking players and getting new ones like signing contractors at work?
What was wrong with clubs enjoying long periods of greatness?
The Raiders had a dynasty from 87 to 94, oh yes. Big Mal, Loz, Sticky, Clydey, Badge, and a coterie of guys around them from Sean Hoppe to David Furner to Noa ‘the Knees’ Nadruku, well – they were fast times at Ridgemont High.
In the 1980s Parramatta and Canterbury won eight premierships in ten seasons. The Raiders won one, Manly the other.
And that was still pretty good, wasn’t it?
If there was a salary cap in the 80s the Eels would’ve won the first of their three premierships and they couldn’t have kept Kenny, Sterling, Grothe, Cronin, Ella, Price, Bugden, Wynn, Muggleton and you’d be leaving out a couple like Paul Taylor and Graeme Atkins and Graeme Olling together.
Those guys would’ve been spread out through the comp.
Same as at Canterbury. Whether Berries or Bulldogs, Entertainers or Enforcers, they would’ve won the 1980 or ’84-’85 or ’88 premierships, and Terry Lamb, Steve Mortimer, Steve Folkes, Paul Dunn, Steve Gearin, and all the brothers Mortimer and Hughes would’ve been off playing for Balmain or Wests or the Illawarra Steelers.
I know some did anyway. But the Bulldogs won comps with a lot of the same players. They had a dynasty. And footy was still good.
Today there’s a cap and these bloody Third Party Agreement thingies which means paper bags at ten paces because there’s never been a way to put an artificial ceiling on wages, a person’s worth what someone else is willing to pay them, and clubs are about clubs and players are about players and agents are cowboys.
And here we are, with the world’s most even comp, maths says.
Read more: theroar.com.au