Dear NRL,

Dear NRL,

‘Grow the game’ is a term that you will hear more often than ‘Stop the boats’ during an election campaign. I wonder where those three words rate on the presentation offered to you by broadcasters?

Just yesterday, I watched a really good State of Origin clash, which reignited an entire state, and introduced Kalyn Ponga to the largest audience possible. Well, maybe.

On a Sunday night, at 8:14pm, the whistle blew to start Origin II. My 8 year old boy was allowed to stay up til half time, which was 30 minutes past his bed time (8:30pm).

He didn’t make it, falling asleep on the couch before NSW scored, or Kalyn Ponga took to the field. You could imagine his surprise and disappointment (he is a QLDer) when he heard the result the next morning.

Don’t mistake this for lack of passion. This same 8 year old boy will happily travel 130kms each way every week to play for 40 minutes in under 10’s. In fact, it was on Sunday morning that he last did that. He got up, as did I, my 9 year old daughter and my 4 year old son, and we drove to Mt Isa, as we do every week, so he could take the field at 10:30am. In that game, he got his hands on the ball only once, made about 10 metres and got tackled. He made a couple of tackles, then game over, into the car, and 130kms home.

I marvel at that fact that he still wants to do this. He trains twice a week, spends 3 hours on a Sunday in a car, all for 1 run and a couple of tackles? Surely that won’t last.

I tell you what would help, being able to sit down at a reasonable hour to watch a great game, where a young player debuts and gives hope to all the young players out there. – Makes them dream of playing on the big stage.

Unfortunately, like the majority of his team mates and anyone under 12 most likely, it all happened while he was fast asleep.

I love sport. I have spent my life following all kinds of sports from all over the world. I have been a die hard Rugby League fan since I was born. But when I was his age, my only option was League. I could watch a game on Saturday and Sunday through the day. I could watch the mid week comp at 7pm on a Wednesday, and sometimes was lucky enough to watch a Friday night game, starting at 7:30pm, if mum and dad let me.

Now, on any given week, two games start after 8pm. One of these is on a School night. A third game starts after 7:30pm. Every Origin starts well after 8pm, on a Wednesday or Sunday, both School nights. All but 3 finals games start after 7:30pm.

Do you even know what your competition is these days? If you think it is AFL, you are completely wrong.

Do you know who my son’s favourite player is? Mookie Betts. Mookie who, you ask?

Mookie Betts is a Left Fielder for the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox play 162 games a season, not including finals. More than half of those games are on between 9am and 1pm Australian time. It is extremely rare that they don’t play on a Friday and Saturday night, which broadcasts live here on a Saturday and Sunday morning.

His second favourite player is Ben Simmons. What a story! A young Australian player playing beyond his years in a league full of superstars. Sounds a lot like Ponga.

But my son can’t see Ponga play every week. In fact he can’t see any player every week, as 4 teams are out of the question – those that play on a Thursday or Friday. Plus the late game on a Saturday is a bit of a push.

He can see Ben Simmons though. 82 games a season (not including finals) in the NBA means that he can guarantee at least one game a week where he gets to watch him play.

I’m not arguing for the NRL to increase games. I am arguing that in order to ‘grow the game’, you need to SHOW THE GAME to the youth. You need to understand that sports-mad kids these days aren’t able to watch their favourite NRL team every week.

I live in North West QLD. Nearly everyone out here is a Cowboys fan. Nearly every Cowboys game starts after 7:30pm on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night. The kids that would normally plaster themselves in Cowboys gear are now starting to wear Cav’s singlets, Yankees caps and Oakland Raiders jackets.

What is your solution, NRL?

How can you compete with the fact that every Australian youth can watch any american sport easier than they can watch the NRL?

How can you compete with the fact that every child can pick up a copy of NBA 2K, FIFA, Madden or MLB the Show on their Playstation and get a really polished game, yet every League game ever is about as polished as a 1979 Mazda 323?

Know your competition. Actually, forget your competition. Don’t make every decision about this game on how you can beat another sport. Make this game that I love your focal point. Trust your product, and let it be seen by as many people as possible, especially those who might end up playing it if they do.

Finally, think of the School Teachers today. It is possible that a few of their students stayed up til 10pm last night, and those teachers would have had to deal with a class full of tired and cranky kids on a Monday morning. Pretty sure you wouldn’t want that, and i am certain they didn’t.

Oh but Channel Nine are happy. Guess that’s all that matters.

 

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