Revealed: The radical plan to change NRL's last-round draw

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The Cronulla Sharks, pictured here in action against the Broncos.
The Cronulla Sharks can seal their spot in the finals wth a win over Melbourne. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

It was one of the most dramatic moments the sporting world has ever seen.

We talk of Manchester City's pulsating English Premier League title win in 2012, sealed in the dying seconds of the season as neighbour and arch-rival Manchester United sweated on the result.

United had just beaten Sunderland to take top spot on the live ladder with City, needing to beat QPR to claim their first crown in 44 years, headed for a draw as the clock hit 90 minutes.

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City grabbed an injury time goal and then a late, late winner to trigger scenes of bedlam at Etihad Stadium and utter despair in the United camp.

It was unscripted sport at its best. So what's this got to do with rugby league?

This weekend the NRL has three teams – Cronulla, Canberra, Gold Coast – shooting for the last spot in the top eight.

Penrith and Melbourne are jostling for the minor premiership, while Manly, Parramatta and the Roosters are all gunning for fourth spot.

And while it doesn't quite hold the same worldwide attention, passion and drama of an ELP title finish, it should be creating massive interest in NRL land. But it isn’t.

Coaches across the competition have opted to rest star players, preferring to risk defeat rather than injury, suspension or fatigue.

The Eels have given eight players a breather, basically giving up on a top four berth.

The Storm have similar thoughts about the minor premiership, handing leave passes to half a dozen top-line stars.

Manly will do likewise if its match against the Cowboys is made redundant – as far as the top four is concerned – by results earlier in the round.

Suddenly all the headlines are about who ISN'T playing rather than who is.

Thanks to the inflexibility of the NRL's schedule and strict broadcast requirements, the air is fast seeping from the balloon.

Unlike the EPL and some other major competitions around the world, the NRL does not play the final day of the season at the same time on the same day.

Australian Rugby League Commission Chairman Peter V'landys, pictured here in Sydney.
Australian Rugby League Commission Chairman Peter V'landys. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

It means all the tension, uncertainty and excitement around eighth position could pretty much be over at full-time in Thursday's Roosters-Raiders clash.

If the Raiders lose they are out and the Sharks, who play 22 hours later, are in the box seat as long as they beat Melbourne or at least don’t lose by too many.

The Titans may still be alive but could need a big win over the Warriors on Sunday – four days after the Canberra result – to sneak in. Or they could be playing a dead rubber.

Now, imagine for a minute if all three games were played at the same time on Sunday afternoon.

Throw in the Penrith-Parramatta and Manly-North Queensland fixtures, as they will have a huge bearing on the minor premiership and top four make-up.

Suddenly you would have fans from eight clubs fixated on every point scored, furiously switching channels to check on the progress of games directly impacting their side.

Coaches would be less likely to field weakened sides because all eight games would finish at the same time, the outcomes not known before 6pm. A Super Sunday in its truest sense.

Broadcasters would no doubt ark up but who's running the game?

Peter V'Landys could make it happen with one stroke of his powerful pen.

Why are the players allowed on the sideline?

It's been nearly a week since the Roosters-Rabbitohs clash exploded before our eyes and still Molotov cocktails are being lobbed by both camps.

What we can’t work out is why players not in the match day squad are allowed to prowl the sidelines like vigilantes dressed up as ball-boys.

Much of the nastiness following the Latrell Mitchell hit could have been avoided if the non-playing members of the Roosters squad were seated in the grandstand.

It doesn’t take six of them to throw the ball back into play.

Expect stricter sideline regulations this round.

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