Before coming to Leeds, I was not especially aware of rugby league. Although by no means an avid rugby union fan, it commanded far more of my attention during the year, with the Six Nations being one of the highlights of the sporting calendar.
It has therefore been a pleasant surprise to have one of the biggest clubs in the world, Leeds Rhinos, right on my doorstep. Their exhilarating treble success was one of the most impressive seasons put together in any sport in recent memory, while the crowds at both the games I attended in 2015 were tumultuous. One of the virtues of league that appeals to fans is the frenetic nature of the play. Scrums play far less of a pivotal role, and lineouts are dispensed with entirely. A team has six phases of play in order to score a try (a phase ends when the player is brought to ground). Once these six phases are up, the ball is turned over.
For this reason, the game has an almost basketball-like feel, with successful teams needing an abundance of agile, attacking players, as well as being strong enough to absorb the massive collisions that occur on a regular basis. Having only 13 players on each team as opposed to 15 players also encourages a fast, expansive style of rugby.
This emphasis on offensive play is why I think bonus points should be introduced. It would be a reward for those teams who go out there and look to blow the opposition away. In the Aviva Premiership, teams are rewarded a bonus point for scoring at least four tries, while a losing bonus point is given to teams who stay within seven points of their opponents. If such a system was implemented in rugby league, the most recent matchday featuring all twelve Super League teams would have seen Warrington, Castleford and Hull FC claim one bonus point, with Widnes and Salford claiming two bonus points following their shock demolitions of the Rhinos and St. Helens respectively. Huddersfield Giants would have been the only side to claim a losing bonus point. Over the course of the season, such a system would give the league table a very different complexion.
It might not have made a difference to the outcome of last season’s competition, but it would certainly have given hope to teams lower down the table that they could chip away at the points deficit to the teams immediately above them. It seems unfair not to reward sides for trying to put on a thrilling display for the fans. There is obviously a risk in playing expansive rugby, as the chances of letting in a try yourself are that much greater. Whether its introduction would see more tries scored throughout the season is another matter, but it seems right to give teams the option to push themselves up the table, should they want to take on the gamble.