I am not a Sydney Roosters supporter by any stretch of the imagination, but I enjoy watching their games when I can tune in and see stars like Sonny Bill Williams, Anthony Minichiello, Michael Jennings and James Maloney playing for them.
I’m not a North Queensland supporter but I love watching Johnathan Thurston, James Tamou and Matthew Scott play.
I’m not a Parramatta Eels supporter but I love nothing more than seeing Jarryd Hayne at his best, William Hopoate getting his form back, and even Chris Sandow getting that spark back into his game and proving all of his critics wrong.
From day one, Rugby League in Australia was driven by star power. The founding fathers of the game in Australia knew what they needed to draw the punters through the gates. They pushed hard to get Dally Messenger, not just because he was the best footballer of his time, but because they knew he was a player they could sell the sport with.
Over a century later not much has changed. Sport is sold on the back of its star players. If you don’t believe that then you haven’t seen all the people wearing Miami Heat jerseys who have no idea who Tim Hardaway or Alonzo Mourning are.
People these days tend to think that sports are fighting against one another for peoples attention. That is not the case. Sport is fighting against every single entertainment product for peoples attention.
Rugby League needs to sell the general public on the idea that you should brush going to the movies, that you should turn the Xbox off, that its too cold for a BBQ, that you should record your favorite TV series. Forget all of that, come and see what Rugby League is offering up. You want entertainment? Rugby League will provide you with entertainment!
It is hard to know what goes into making a true star of the game. It isn’t always just talent. Stars have something that you can’t quite put your finger on. People just gravitate towards them, they want to see how they go.
Benji Marshall might have been terrible in 2013, he might be stuck on the bench playing Rugby Union this year. Stick him in an NRL jersey and run him out on the field though and people will want to see how he goes!
Sonny Bill Williams proved that people can hate you, they can call for you to be banned from the game and hate the team you play for….but they’ll tune in to watch you play!
That is a lesson the NRL needs to take on board…and its something I think they are slowly waking up to.
How many of us would watch every single South Sydney Rabbitohs game if Greg Inglis wasn’t playing for them? I’m a Penrith Panthers supporter and I never miss a Rabbitohs game because I love seeing Greg Inglis play!
If the Sydney Roosters can lure Israel Folau back to the NRL I will tune in every week to watch him play.
As the NRL salary cap rises there is the opportunity for clubs to sign star players and keep them. Everyone has the opportunity to lure star players to their club. The only thing that will separate the top clubs from the bottom clubs will be the quality of the coach and the ability of their management to make a good deal happen.
Every single club in the NRL right now has the capacity to carry a $1 million plus player on their books. The salary cap is high and getting higher every season. The money is available to be spent. By the end of the current broadcasting deal every club will be offering million dollar contracts to the best players they can find.
The NRL is easily the biggest “Rugby” competition in the world. It is in rude health financially and you get the feeling that the administrators of the game are working towards a greater goal that is truly impressive.
It is up to the games administrators and clubs to bring together the best players in the world, no matter where they are playing, and make sure they are playing in the National Rugby League.
Recruitment of stars will drive everything. It will even drive expansion which in turn will push up profits and make the NRL even stronger.
So if Israel Folau is even thinking about playing for an NRL club right now…GET HIM!
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com
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