For what it’s worth, we like it.
And Sydney Rugby Union (and Warringah Rats) President Phil Parsons sees merit in it, too.
It’s the plan of Manly Marlins coach Matt McGoldrick to finish off the Covid-interrupted 2021 Shute Shield season.
They’ve called it “radical” – probably because it would feature a finals series involving all 13 clubs.
That’s right: everyone from high-flying Sydney Uni to bottom-placed Western Sydney Two Blues – and yes, cynics, 3rd-last Manly Marlins – would be involved in a four-week finals series.
The “Goldie standard” – as it was coined by Oxford Falls sports-writer Mark Cashman in Rugby News – is dependant on the final three rounds (11, 12 and 13) being played and thus every club playing the others once.
It would reward the best teams: top-3 finishers would have the first weekend off.
Week one would be five sudden death qualifying finals:
- Game One: 4th vs 13th
- Game Two: 5th vs 12th
- Game Three: 6th vs 11th
- Game Four: 7th vs 10th
- Game Five: 8th vs 9th.
The five winners head into Week Two and we’d have four quarter-finals:
- 1st vs winner of Game Five (ie 8 v 9)
- 2nd vs winner of Game Four (7 v 10)
- 3rd vs winner of Game Three (6 v 11)
- Winner Game One (4 v 13) vs Winner Game Two (5 v 12).
The four winners would advance to Preliminary Finals and play-off for the grand final.
“It would be a good month of footy and anyone could win it,” McGoldrick told Rugby News.
“Play them at night, double headers and all that sort of stuff and it would keep the interest in playing footy for teams like the Two Blues and Penrith to come back after the break.
“The best teams would still have a definite advantage from their early season wins and it’s something that’s worth a bit of a go.”
As Cashman wrote there have been numerous models bandied about to finish off the Shute Shield season including the original six team series, an eight-team model and also a 10-team model.
Parsons said he could see merit in McGoldrick’s thinking. He said that SRU has also thought of a top-6 and bottom-6 finals series with the latter playing for a plate.
Yet it’s all moot at the moment as everyone sweats on Gladys Berejiklian’s daily infection numbers.
Parsons told Beaches Champion that the Shute Shield needs at least nine weeks.
“We don’t how long we’ve got at this stage, and we don’t know how many clubs we’ll have along for the ride.
“We do know we’ll need three weeks for conditioning, three weeks to play the remaining round games, and three weeks of finals.
“What we do want to do is for guys to play as much rugby as possible across all grades,” Parsons said.
Sydney is due out of lockdown midnight on July 30 but given case numbers many believe it will be extended to mid-August at least.
if that’s true the clubs could get their conditioning in (whatever form that takes) in the first three weeks of August.
Then the last three round games could be played August 21, 28 and September 4.
A finals series – whether that’s McGoldrick’s 4-week all-teamer or just the normal three week top-6 – could run from September 11 through to a grand final either on September 25 or October 2 of the long weekend.
Then: cricket season. Though Parsons did raise the possibility of Manly and Warringah playing a post-season derby match.
McGoldrick told journalist Adam Lucius in the Marlin Fillets newsletter that “Manly will meet whatever commitments we need to, but I can see some of these other clubs may struggle to field teams if it’s just to complete rounds 11, 12 and 13”.
“There’s no great incentive for them, so that’s why I’m suggesting we dangle a play-off carrot.
“It gives teams something to strive towards,” McGoldrick said.
McGoldrick added that there was the Shute Shield broadcast partner to consider, too.
“Stan has been very understanding of the situation but they’ll understandably grow anxious for some content very soon.
“Under this plan, they will get a 12-match finals series instead of the current six,” McGoldrick said.