On Saturday night, we saw our second Golden Point game of 2020, with Canberra forcing an expected comfortable loss against Parramatta to extra time. After seven minutes of Golden Point, Clint Gutherson iced the 25-24 win for the Eels, causing heartbreak for Canberra, who could have used at least one point after a tough few weeks (and with big games against Melbourne and the Roosters ahead).
While we’ve had this conversation before, I think it’s time to take a fresh look at the validity of Golden Point.
Let’s be honest, Golden Point can be cruel: the teams battle for up to 10 extra minutes and the losers still walk away with nothing. The only benefit to Canberra’s GP loss was shaving 11 points off their differential.
The first Golden Point game this year – Newcastle vs Penrith – ended in a draw, and it was a fair result. Newcastle showed tremendous spirit to come back from 14-0 to force extra time, while Penrith would have been happy to hang on and take the point. At the end of seven rounds, that extra point has nudged them into second place: one point behind Parramatta, and one point ahead of the Roosters.
As for last night, Canberra didn’t deserve to get as close as they did: they only forced Golden Point through two brilliant Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad tries (how good is CNK? That’s a story for another day), but still left with nothing.
Below, I suggest three ways to make Golden Point fairer: two are serious, and one is a bit fanciful, but hear me out.
First of all, let’s assume that Golden Point isn’t going away: the broadcasters love the manufactured drama and the extra eyeballs for that little bit longer, and we all know that broadcasters always get what they want (insert tin foil hat here).
MAKE EXTRA TIME A MANDATORY 10 MINUTES
Rather than have the heartbreaking first-scorer-wins rule, go all out and make it a mandatory 10 minutes. This rule has been adopted for finals games, and it works. In 2016, North Queensland beat Brisbane in the semi-final. Tied at 20-20, the Cowboys took four of the 10 allotted minutes to score the winning try (through Michael Morgan), and then defended their way to victory.
A year later, Morgan kicked a field goal in the 84th minute – with the Cowboys successfully defending their line for the next six minutes – as they knocked out Cronulla in the first week of the finals, beginning their fairytale grand final run.
The mandatory 10 minutes has changed team’s tactics: rather than turning it into a predictable field goal shootout, team have more time to set up for a try, and the field goal madness won’t begin until the last couple of minutes. It also means that errors close to the tryline early in the extra-time period aren’t as fatal (insert mandatory Ben Hunt joke here).
While the loser still goes home with nothing, at least they had plenty of time to win and weren’t sunk by a random field goal with no chance to hit back.
ADJUST THE POINTS
If you’re going to put teams through the pain of Golden Point, at least give them some reward.
Give the winning team three points and the losing team one point. The victory would mean more for the winning team, and the one point would slightly soften the blow for the losing team.
Let’s say Parramatta earned the three points and Canberra the one point. The Eels would stay in first place, two points ahead of Penrith, and three points ahead of the Roosters and Melbourne. The Raiders, with that extra point, would be level with Newcastle, both one point outside the top four.
FIELD GOAL SHOOTOUT
Buckle up, as it gets a bit silly here.
With most Golden Point games turning into predictable field goal contests, why not give up the charade and turn it into an actual field goal shootout?
Using a best-of-five format, each team would have two players on the field: the attacking team would have a dummy half (to pass the ball) and the designated field goal kicker; the defending team would have two defenders (probably the quicker players) to try and stop them. Each teamn would take turns, which adds to the drama (and gives broadcasters more time to shows ads as the teams swap over).
Field goal attempts would start from the 10 metre line, and move an extra 10 metres out with each each (20 metres for attempt two, 30 metres for attempt three, 40 metres for attempt four, 50 metres for attempt five). As a bonus, teams would earn a point for each successful kick.
Let’s say Parramatta beat Canberra with a 5-4 field goal count: the Eels would take away seven points (two for the win, and five for the successful field goals), and Canberra would earn four points for their four successful field goals.
Yes, it sounds ridiculous, but it would blow the ladder wide open, be entertaining to watch, and would place more importance on teams having decent kickers.
SO WHICH ONE IS BEST?
I like the mandatory 10 minutes best, as it’s the fairest method, gives both teams a decent chance to win in extra time (without becoming a predictable field goal shootout), and it’s been successfully used in the finals.