Last night League Freak suggested taking an entire round of games to New Zealand, an idea taken from the Super League Magic Weekend. A very good idea indeed to create extra interest across the Tasman.
After Sunday’s game in Mudgee I’d suggest taking an entire round of games to the bush so to speak. By bush I don’t exactly mean the middle of nowhere, I mean to areas where they do not get top level rugby league played often, if at all.
Unlike League Freak’s idea/Super League’s round all games would not be played at one massive stadium but instead spread across 8 different areas.
Obviously finding 8 “bush” stadiums with a capacity to suit an NRL level game would be quite difficult but to even attract ten or so thousand to a game in areas without regular NRL level games would be great for the game.
For the record I do not count taking a game to Gosford as taking a game to the ‘bush’. They get 2 or 3 games there a season.
Location wise I’d be looking at:
1. Cairns/Rockhampton/Roma (QLD)
2. Bathurst (NSW)
3. Hobart/Launceston (TAS)
4. Darwin (NT)
5. Fremantle (WA)
6. Southern NSW
7. Geelong (VIC)
8. Adelaide (SA)
I have not checked stadiums in each area but that’s the location setup I’d be looking at. Obviously Hobart, Darwin, Geelong, Adelaide, Freemantle and Cairns for instance have suitable stadiums although I’m unsure as to if there’s one available in Roma and exactly where you’d put the Sothern NSW game (perhaps Parks).
Below is how I’d set up the games in each area –
Take Brisbane or the Titans to Roma, or the Titans or Broncos to Rockhampton. Obviously a QLD side should be the home side here.
You could take any of the Sydney sides to this game. I’d be looking at Penrith as the home side.
I don’t know if any of the NRL sides have a particularly big following in the Southern State but I do believe there would be a big crowd no matter who played. I’d be looking at taking an exciting, open style game there. Perhaps the Tigers vs. The Bunnies.
I’d 100% recommend the Cowboys be the ‘home side’ for this game. Thurston and Bowen are heroes in the indigenous community and would draw a massive crowd. Their presence in particular would give the entire event a huge buzz.
Whenever teams take games to Perth they get a decent crowd. WA want their own team, this is a chance to prove they have the support for it. I’d take the Warriors over as the home team. A few years ago the Sharks ‘hosted’ the Warriors and were massively outnumbered fan wise.
Obviously the Dragons or Canberra would be the obvious choice being the most southern positioned teams. Maybe put them up against each other and see if the Dragons can beat the Hoodoo in Southern NSW.
Only an hour South of Melbourne obviously the Storm would have to be the home side here. My only concern would be the Storm would have a home ground advantage over most other teams being Geelong is so close to their base. If this was a concern obviously they could take the game further South or west but it’d be nice to turn fans of the Cats into Storm fans.
As with Hobart, I’m not sure anyone really jumps out as a ‘home team’ here. The Sharks got a medium size crowd playing here a few years ago but pulled out of their deal after it became financial unsustainable. Have the Sharks be the ‘away side’ and play up that the Sharks bailed on the state. Good for business.
Of course you could take the games anywhere, the above is just an off the top of my head list.
Financially this round would not be overly successful for the league as crowds would not be anywhere near the normal average. The NRL has spoken about investing millions in developing league in non-traditional locations … this would be a great start.
The weekend before I’d cut the Monday Night game and have teams engage the communities for the entire week leading up to the game. Say what you want about City/Country, the area hosting the game always benefits greatly from player involvement.
Even an hour an afternoon from a few players going to local schools, shopping centres etc. will get the players and the league itself out there.
There are many drawbacks in this plan but I think for a one off, to promote league in non-traditional areas it would be well worth the risk.