Commission won't baulk at changing finals system

RUGBY LEAGUE'S newly formed independent commission will not hesitate to dump the NRL finals format if it decides the AFL system is better.

The Herald has been told the last thing the commission would be worried about is being branded a copycat for adopting the AFL system. Its only desire will be to use what it regards as the best system.

''If you weren't prepared to adopt a concept from another code, we wouldn't have State of Origin,'' a source said. ''League took that from the AFL. Football codes are always borrowing from each other. As far as the commission is concerned, it will be about whether an idea is good or bad - not where it originated.''

The eight-person commission, which is due to take control of the game on November 1, considers the finals system to be among the issues it needs to discuss before too much is locked in for next season.

The existing NRL system has come under criticism again during this year's finals series, because of the fact the Warriors have been able to make it to the grand final despite being thrashed 40-10 by Brisbane in the first week of the finals.

The Warriors finished the regular season in sixth place, but managed to survive into the second week because seventh-placed North Queensland and eighth-placed Newcastle were eliminated as the two lowest-ranked losers. The Warriors have since beaten Wests Tigers and Melbourne.

Under the system used by the AFL, any teams that finish from fifth to eighth and lose in the first week of the finals are automatically eliminated because the system cuts the bottom four off from the top four at that stage. Fifth plays eighth and sixth plays seventh.

Also in the AFL, first plays fourth and second plays third, with the two winners getting the second weekend off. The NRL pits first against eighth, second against seventh, third against sixth and fourth against fifth, with the two highest-ranked winners getting the second weekend off.

NRL football operations manager Nathan McGuirk said yesterday that at this stage no representatives of clubs had flagged a desire to have the finals system reviewed for next season. But, he added: ''We have the annual conference, and if it needs to be discussed it will be done there.''

McGuirk said that when the system had been reviewed at times in the past, a decision had always been made by the existing NRL board to stick with it in the end.

Asked about the potential for the commission to have an influence in the matter, McGuirk said: ''They will have a say in it if they wish. Any type of major change would involve them in the process, depending on when they come into power.''

The commission is still planning as if it will come to power on November 1, even though the possibility remains that legal issues could further delay the changeover.