As a loyal countryman all my life, except for the previous four years where I’ve been loyal to cities, rural NSW in particular, has been getting snubbed time and time again by the NRL. Other codes have not just crept into contention as the most popular game in the bush, but in most parts, they have won the battle already.
The biggest winner from the negligent and ignorant NRL has been the most confusing sport ever, AFL.
AFL has the fastest growing followings in rural NSW and if the NRL continues on its current trend of ignoring the people in the bush, then Rugby League may very well be competing with Hockey as the least followed game.
I shall bring a few numbers into the equation for you. After all, what’s an equation without numbers? (Probably still an equation, but lets not get into semantics.)
The state of New Souths Wales has a population of 6.6 million. Of that, 4.2 million live in Sydney, 150,000 live in Newcastle and 310,000 in Canberra, leaving 2 million people in the state without a team to follow.
Those three areas have 12 teams from the NRL competition representing them. So if you do the maths you’ll see that there are 388,333 people per NRL team in those areas.
But what about the 2 million living in the rest of NSW?
I recently read an article on the League Unlimited home page about the NRL abandoning the bush with its free to air and radio telecasts of the Monday games that are going to be played next season in the competition.
There are 2 million people that are not being represented by Rugby League, and AFL has picked up the ball and ran with it (well, in AFL parlance, they’ve fumbled the ball, fumbled it again, then kicked it by accident while trying to pick it up a third time, somewhere a commentator says, “That’s a very skilled player right there.”)
Since AFL started, competitions were trying to get off the ground in Sydney, but quite regularly they would fail, as the code just could not get the players or the interest due to Rugby Union and Rugby League. So the game headed inland, and it boomed. The Riverina has had one of the strongest Bush AFL competitions in Australia for many decades now and there doesn’t seem to be anything stopping that from continuing for many more decades to come.
Now with the NRL deciding to not broadcast the Monday fixture in rural areas, they are practically turning their back on the bush.
Sure they can’t get to the games to show their support, but when all the teams play in Sydney, its bloody hard to show your support.
And because they can’t get to the games, it means the NRL doesn’t get their money. Because they don’t get any money from the bush they believe the bush doesn’t care about them, or so I shall naively assume.
If AFL continues to eat away at the Bushland areas, they will get those 2 million extra viewers. They will get those confused young lads who aren’t too sure if they should play League or AFL.
There’s a few things the NRL should do to correct this worsening situation, as well as improve its fan base markedly. More matches in the Bush, more regularly. Who cares if the stadiums can hold 15 thousand?
Those stadiums will be packed. Beats getting a crowd of 8000 like most NRL regular season fixtures.
There needs to be some serious player development done in schools to get kids into Rugby League.
Finally, the NRL should consider letting players from the Bush represent country in the annual City v Country clash. Not players who are playing in the NRL.
If the Bushies have some local people to cheer on, people they work with, are related to, are friends with, it will make the occasion all that much bigger, and will really get them involved.
At present, Newcastle and Illawarra are considered country. What a joke! Two of the largest cities outside Sydney, that’s right, cities!
The NRL is losing its battle for the bush through pure negligence and ignorance. If it continues, then they will lose a large fan base that is already turning to AFL in droves.
I was once told by a former bar manager, “Sometimes you need to spend a bit of money to make a lot of money.”
Did you read that Moffatt?