The fake news that’s actually fake.
With the 2022 season almost here, it’s time for The Forward Pass to deliver their (no-so serious) predictions. Will any of these come true?
SIX AGAIN AXED FOR GOOD
An off-season adjustment to the Six Again rule (teams are awarded with a penalty for off-side and ruck infringement offences in their own half, rather than the six again) proves enormously popular, and stops team cynically giving away Six Again’s early in the set. The amount of Six Again’s falls away so dramatically that the rule is finally axed just before the lucrative Origin period. It sees the number of blowout games reduced, with struggling teams able to compete again.
The Man of Feathers (Peter V’landys), while refusing to concede that the Six Again rule was a bad idea, did suggest that teams had learnt to live with it. “I still believe the expansion of the Six Again rule made footy faster and more exciting, but teams were able to counter it by playing smarter footy. Back to the drawing board, I guess.”
The scrapping of the rule benefited the Canberra Raiders most of all: hovering around the middle of the table before Origin, the Raiders go through undefeated from June to September to finish top four and finally break the second-longest premiership drought with a 20-10 grand final win over Penrith.
THE SHOCK DOLPHINS MERGER
Struggling to buy new players, and with their NRL entrance getting closer, the (Redcliffe) Dolphins opt to merge with the Illawarra Steelers for 2023, allowing the St George Dragons to play on as a stand-alone club for the first time in over 20 years. This merger allows the renamed Greater Queensland-Illawarra Dolphins to become the first multi-state team.
“We thought the Steelers would be a good idea as we have the same colours and the St George old guard clearly don’t give a s*** about them,” said GQ-I Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett. “And we get a bunch of talented ex-Dragons who are dying to play for a decent coach for a change.”
The merger will see eight home games in Redcliffe and four at WIN Stadium. Similar to the Brisbane Lions AFL side (who wear Fitzroy jerseys in Melbourne), the Dolphins will wear classic red and white Steelers jerseys when playing in Sydney and Wollongong.
Dragons coach Anthony ‘Hook’ Griffin was happy with the change. “Good riddance to them! We know this club is still the old St George Dragons anyway, so why bother pretending anymore.”
THE RETURN OF THE KNOCKOUT CUP
In a move sure to please romantics, the NRL announces the return of the knockout cup, to be played during the Origin period.
Sick of teams complaining about losing Origin players, NRL CEO Andrew Abdo announces the suspension of the NRL and the formation of the Bundaberg Rum Challenge, which will run every weekend from June until mid-July.
“While it’s not quite the classic AMCO Cup of the good old days, it’s still a pretty good knockout comp featuring some of the best second-tier teams. If some NRL clubs don’t wanna participate, then play your reserve graders, take the round one loss, and start preparing from the NRL again,” said Abdo.
The competition will feature all 16 NRL teams, plus the top eight teams from the QLD and NSW Cups (based on the rankings after 11 rounds of the 2022 season), and will coincide with the three Origin games.
The format is below:
ROUND ONE PART A: Thursday June 2 to Sunday June 5: the first half of round one (six games).
ROUND ONE PART B: Friday June 10 to Sunday June 12: the second half of round one (six games).
ROUND TWO: Thursday June 16 to Sunday June 19: the remaining 12 teams play knockout games (six games).
ROUND THREE: Thursday June 23 to Saturday June 25: the remaining six teams play knock out games (three games) – the team with the best for-and-against qualifies for the grand final.
ROUND FOUR: Friday July 1 and Saturday July 2: the two remaining teams play in a preliminary final.
GRAND FINAL: Saturday July 9: the team with the best for-and-against verses the preliminary final winner.
NINE NO LONGER ‘THE HOME OF FOOTY’
In an incredible coup, Channel Ten steal the free-to-air rights from Channel Nine barely a month into the 2022 season! Frustrated by Nine’s dwindling interest in their coverage, with more focus on their commentary team telling self-indulgent stories of how good they used to be (and Nine’s top brass making no effort to stop them), a sports-hungry Ten take over the free-to-air coverage, starting on the blockbuster Easter Weekend. Ten brings back fan favourite 80s/90s commentator Graeme Hughes as the marquee caller, steal Paul ‘Fatty’ Vautin, and convince Peter Sterling to come back. While Nine mainly recruited recently retired players as commentators, Ten instead focus on actual footy journalists, which gives their coverage a far less biased and more in-depth tone. This also allows Ray Warren to enjoy a well-deserved retirement. Ten broadcasts half the games live: Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday afternoon, as well as State of Origin and the Rugby League World Cup. Ten’s decision to not flood their Thursday/Friday coverage with Broncos games at Lang Park is a huge hit with grateful fans, delivering massive ratings.
THE ORIGIN EXPANSION
Another sold-out Origin in Perth in 2022 sees the NRL introduce a special fourth Origin match. This one-off game sees an Allies team (made of up of players from Western Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, and Darwin) playing the winner of the 2022 Origin series at Perth’s Optus Stadium, which is held after the grand final and before the Kangaroos go to England for the Rugby League World Cup. In a massive signing, Western Australian-born Kalyn Ponga is recruited to captain the Allies.
While the Allies format didn’t work in the AFL, NRL CEO Andrew Abdo is confident the one-off game will become an annual fixture of the NRL representative calendar. “Everyone complains that we’re too NSW/QLD-centric; well, this is the perfect chance to give the ‘non-traditional’ states a chance to play against the best of the best, and also gives Perth a chance to show us they deserve to be the next NRL expansion team.”
The Forward Pass is a fictional and deliberately ridiculous look at the NRL. References to real people is for satirical purposes only. Check it out on Twitter @thefwdpass