Not since 1987 had Rugby League been so passionate about being aligned with a world renowned musical act to help promote their game than this year.
Over two decades ago the NSWRL launched the game through the unlikeliest of people, Tina Turner. It was the greatest piece of marketing the game had ever seen.
Since then, they have struggled to get anywhere near that sort of publicity and popularity.
In 2011, the NRL announced an affiliation with 80’s rock group Bon Jovi. But the NRL has got it all wrong.
In 1988, there had been no Superleague or mergers and the game had expanded into new territory. It was an exciting time where support by fans was at an all-time high. So too, was the career of Tina Turner. All the stars were in alignment.
An alignment with Bon Jovi is not reflective of an attempt to move forward, it’s almost an attempt to go back to 1988 with one of music’s biggest acts at that time.
The world has advanced a long way in a short time since 1988. Rugby League has gone through Hell and back, it has reinvented itself. They need an internationally renowned, successful music act that has shared a similar journey, whose sound properly conveys the power, speed, strength and excitement Rugby League provides, as well as recognising all that it has gone through to get to this point.
They played their first live show in 1983, the same year that the first four point try was ever scored. Their sound was fast, loud, persistent. It never relented. Just like the game of Rugby League.
On September 27, 1986, Metallica’s bass guitarist Cliff Burton died in a bus accident while they were on tour in Europe.
The day after, Parramatta beat Canterbury 4-2 in the first tryless grand final.
In 1987 the NSWRL launched their game with Tina Turner, launching their game to dizzying new heights.
A year later Metallica created their first ever music video, which would see them also move to new heights.
In 1991 Metallica released their first big album and made it to number 1 on the charts across the globe. It was a decade of parties, alcohol, drugs, women and crazy times, followed by death, consolidation, focus and working on a new direction.
Similarly the NSWRL had coasted along; battling to grow the games appeal beyond Sydney, then expansion before Tina Turner essentially gave them a new direction.
Both were sitting in the greatest positions of their existence in 1991.
Metallica then tried to expand their audience by changing their sound and image in the mid 90’s.
The NSWRL expanded to even newer territories, but in-fighting and the emergence of a take-over bid began to eat away at the game.
In 1997 Superleague was born, but its life was short, yet the damage was evident and far reaching. The NRL was formed in 1998 to consolidate and move the game forward into a new era.
1997 saw Metallica perform a live concert with a symphony orchestra. Their inconsistent jumping from mainstream to their original sound had many fans dismayed.
Interest was waning.
From 2001 til 2003 Metallica almost completely disbanded. Their second bass player left, their frontman entered a rehab clinic while the remaining two were left uncertain of their bands future.
Then their leader returned, they found a new bassist and released an album which received a lot of criticism but still managed to reach top spot on the charts.
In 2008 Metallica released their best album since their 1991 best seller. They had reinvented themselves, come full circle and were now back on top again.
Similarly, The NRL worked hard at cleaning up its image, increased crowd and viewers had seen them make their best progress since the Superleague.
Metallica released a single off its latest album which sums up their career, and Rugby league perfectly over the 30 years and it should be the song for the NRL.
The aptly titled: “Broken, Beaten and Scarred.”
Its fast, its powerful, its raw, its honest. Every part of the song rings true for both Metallica and Rugby league.
From the opening repeated lines: “You rise, you fall, you’re down and you rise again. What don’t kill you, make you more strong!”
To the last line: “We die hard”