'Club Call': Should the NRL consider this crazy finals idea?

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The Melbourne Storm, pictured here in action against Manly.
Should the Melbourne Storm be able to pick their preliminary final opponent? (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Brett Finch would be the first to admit he's had a few 'out there' ideas in his time, not all of them sound.

But a suggestion he floated on Sydney radio over the NRL finals format was a pull-the-car-over-and-listen moment.

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Discussing the play-offs with co-host Joel Caine, Finch told his radio SEN audience: "Melbourne finished first and are minor premiers. How's it an advantage they (now) play second-placed Penrith?

"Souths, who finished third, get to play a team that finished fourth (Manly).

"How is that fair? Melbourne Storm have got a harder draw than Souths.

"They were probably better losing (in week one) and getting on the weaker side of the draw.

"By winning they've had a harder path to the grand final. That's crazy."

Taking up the baton, Caine then explained how there might be a fairer system.

"You could make a very strong argument they (Manly) are in a better position than the minor premiers," he said.

"But what about after week two, the highest-ranked winner out of week one, which in this case is the Melbourne Storm, sees what happens – who's injured, who's going to get suspended – and they say who they want to play in the prelim final.

"This would be wonderful theatre. Wouldn't that be fascinating? You'd televise it. It would be riveting."

Under this scheme, the Storm may have elected to play a Sea Eagles side they thrashed just a fortnight ago or stick with a Penrith team coming off a bruising encounter with Parramatta.

They would have to make their decision by Sunday night on live television. Riveting indeed.

If truth be known, the idea is not completely new to rugby league. The system was called Club Call and used in Super League in the early 2010s.

And Finch's Wigan side was both a beneficiary and then victim of it.

The top-ranked Warriors elected to meet Leeds in the preliminary final of 2012 and were beaten by a point.

It seems the Rhinos, slighted by Wigan's inference they were the weakest side left, used it as motivation to win the game and go on to win the grand final.

Brett Finch, pictured here in action for the Melbourne Storm in 2013.
Brett Finch in action for the Melbourne Storm in 2013. (Photo by Stefan Postles/Getty Images)

Pressing the press

His press conferences might seem all over the shop at times, but Des Hasler puts almost as much thought and time into them as plotting victories.

It's not unusual for Des to ring a journo after a presser and ask "how did I go?" Or he will seek out a journo who he's just given half a bake to, put a consoling arm on the shoulder and say "no hard feelings, eh".

His press conference after the Roosters win was a Des masterclass. He knew exactly what he was doing.

It took just 17 seconds in to give credit to the beaten opposition (Roosters), there were two "sorry, I can't hear you" moments, a wrap for next week's opponent (Souths) and their rookie fullback (Blake Taafe), a smart-arse reply to a Dylan Walker question and an attempt to walk out early.

Then came the old "get the reporter's name wrong" trick (calling Jake Duke by his surname instead of first name) and finally a "couldn't have said it better myself" reply to a question and exit from the room.

The Hasler-Wayne Bennett press conferences promise to be almost enjoyable as the game this week.

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