A bizarre display of gymnastics from New Zealand Warriors’ veteran hooker, Nathan Friend, has captured the imagination of sports fans worldwide.
Friend defied his age (34) to pull off an audacious piece of skill during the Warriors’ 28-14 victory over the Melbourne Storm when leaping to claim a Chad Townsend bomb near the defensive line.
The number 9 seemed to defy gravity as he was back-flipped over an opponent and still managed to pass the ball perfectly between his legs whilst upside down.
His pass reached its intended destination and led to a sensational try for the Warriors as Tuimoala Lolohea went over in the corner, but the ripples from the incident went much further as footage of Friend’s flip was shared on social media accounts around the world in the aftermath of the game.
The pass was dubbed “upside down tunnelball” by some commentators, and Twitter users responded by photo-shopping friend into images of gravity-defying acts ranging from space-walks to motorcycle stunts.
— Vodafone Warriors (@NZWarriors) July 13, 2015
— Bodie Friend (@BodieFriend) July 12, 2015
The coverage didn’t end there, with sports writers in the United Kingdom dubbing the try “the best of all time” and US media giving significant column inches to a sport that barely registers on sports fans’ radar most of the time.
A rise in popularity of NRL in many countries is long overdue, although it is true that sports fans in England do tend to take an interest, particularly those who like to put a bet on their favourite rugby league teams.
Sites like betfair offer odds on the NRL action, but also give users of the site the chance to utilise a betting exchange and go head-to-head with each other, rather than a bookmaker.
If the NRL can continue to deliver moments of magic like Friend’s world-famous flip pass, there might be a surge in the sport’s popularity for more than just betting reasons.