NRL: A look at the concept of a bye week before the grand final

Column: @Hayward_AdamK

In the NFL, it is standard procedure to have a bye week before the Super Bowl – two weeks after each team won their respective conferences championship game.

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The purpose of the week off prior to the Super Bowl was to give the promotion of the game more time to build. The concept works incredibly well, with 29 of the top 30 most-watched programs in American television history are Super Bowls.

Having that extra week also gives the NFL more time to promote the game to a worldwide audience.

With the NRL looking to expand and tap into the global sporting market, particularly the US, an extra week to promote the games showpiece event could be beneficial.

In non-pandemic years, there are so many events crammed into grand final week making it difficult for players and coaches to escape the limelight in order to rest and prepare for the game.

If the NRL had a bye week before the big dance, there can be more time and emphasis put into pre-grand final events such as the Dally M awards, functions, fan fests, television specials and players fulfilling their demanding media commitments as part of promoting the game.

The bye week also gives each team more time to rest and recover from injuries, ensuring the players who take part in the biggest game of the year are as fit and refreshed as possible, which may increase the possibility of a high-quality contest.

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Both teams competing in this year’s NRL grand final, the South Sydney Rabbitohs and Penrith Panthers, both have a number of players carrying niggling injuries.

Panthers co-captain Nathan Cleary is still hampered by a shoulder injury, with teammates Brian To’o and Tevita Pangai Jr are racing the clock to be fit for the premiership decider. Souths captain Adam Reynolds is also carrying a groin injury.

They are key players to their sides chances of premiership glory, and could have used the extra week off.

The flip side to having a bye week would mean one or both teams competing for the premiership may only play two final games in over four weeks leading into the grand final, which can derail a teams momentum.

For example, if there was a bye week before this years grand final, the Rabbitohs would have only played two finals games in 29-days.

That did not seem to trouble the AFL’s Melbourne Demons though.

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Out of necessity, the AFL implemented a bye week prior to their grand final in Perth to comply with quarantine protocols, meaning the Demons played just two finals games in 28-days compared to their opponents, the Western Bulldogs who played three finals games in three weeks.  

The fit and firing Demons won the grand final in emphatic fashion by 74-points.

The other negative to a bye week before the grand final, is fans having to wait an extra seven days for the big game. Excitement could turn into agitation and the slow build could feel more like a lull period.

It would depend on the perspective of each individual.

Some may care little about the build to a grand final and will just want to watch the game. Others may enjoy the excitement of a slow build and allow the hype to simmer for an extra week.

But looking at the big picture – for the NRL to have an extra week to promote the grand final, they could generate more interest and bring in more viewers from all over the world with the view of growing the game internationally.

The bye week could also be used to allow the spotlight to shine on big games from the lower grades, including the NSWRL and QRL grand finals.