What is eating rugby league in this town’ I was at home watching the Sydney Roosters play the Penrith Panthers the other Friday and was amazed to see how few people bothered to turn up to the Sydney Football Stadium.
Before you say, ‘Well, get off your arse and get out there,’ I’m a Knights fan. I have hated the Roosters ever since that infamous game (’99 I think it was) when they ran down and eventually flogged Newcastle in one of the finest second half performances I have seen.
The Sydney Roosters are based at Bondi Junction and play home games at Moore Park. How is that representative of all of Sydney’ Sydney Eels or Sydney Panthers, anyone’ Even the commentators on Channel 9 forget themselves and say ‘Easts’ from time to time. The past, it seems, is hard to forget.
Rugby League is at best in flux, at worst in serious trouble. The game is propped up by revenue from the sale of television rights to Channel 9 and News Limited (which has a stake in or owns outright at least two clubs).
First grade games are played in cavernous, mostly empty stadiums (yes, yes I know, there are exceptions), with commentary by ex-players who daren’t bite the hand that feeds them by mentioning the whole ridiculous situation.
When Rugby League was growing strongly (1950s – 1980s) local teams represented local communities who were in turn members of the respective clubs they supported. Demographics have changed since then, NRL – or haven’t you heard’ A lot of people who would be in the NRL’s target market (16-45) and live in the East weren’t born here and therefore don’t give a toss about ‘local’ teams. Since the game was sliced and diced for the media moguls the soul is disappearing and so are the punters.
How to go forward’ The game needs new blood in the boardroom and behind the mike. Also, make us care about local teams. A step back to smaller venues to rebuild crowds, confidence and parochialism couldn’t hurt.
I just heard Phil Gould say on the Channel 9 call, ‘If they don’t sell out the 3rd Origin game in Sydney, the public should hang its head in shame’. Utter bullshit! I doubt State of Origin in Queensland could get 90,000 either. Let’s face it – the game is being puffed up to be far bigger than it really is because the reality is too terrifying for the stakeholders.