Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Country Cousins Dudded By NRL's Skewed Priorities (2016)

On Monday the NRL announced that the annual City v Country match will not be continuing after the 2017 fixture takes place in Mudgee.

It’s been stated that the game is to be replaced by sending NRL games to the bush every year instead.

While on the surface it sounds like a fair trade-off, it still isn’t a good decision in my view. To a lot of people in the bush, it’d be akin to killing State of Origin back in 1987 and taking the odd Sydney club game to Queensland instead. A lot of bush players want to represent the area they came from, and some cherish that jumper as much as any other.

Sydney has been keen to kill the game off for decades, usually for the same ignorant reasons: it’s an exhibition; Country always loses (in past years); It’s not an Origin selection trial anymore; it only attracts small crowds; blah blah blah.

No one stops to think of the impact that one game can have in these small area and the impact it will have when this contest is removed. Country people will turn up to watch their side take on the city slickers. While many may still turn up to watch two NRL sides play, the passion behind such games won’t be the same.

That’s not a criticism of the country people. It’s a commentary about how people want to see THEIR team play.

There’s no reason why the City v Country game cannot be retained and made into a more important fixture on the calendar, while also having NRL games played in the bush.

If I had my way, I’d have City v Country be more than a just a NSW game – make it a national game played in a different state every year.

Country players from around the nation would go up against players hailing from the city. Essentially make it capital cities versus the rest of Australia.

The NRL’s statement announcing this decision contained comments which only made the decision more perplexing – this excerpt from the official NRL release, in particular:

NSWRL CEO Dave Trodden echoed the sentiments of the CRL, saying that NSW city players had enjoyed playing in matches against the country teams.

“The Country v City clash is one of the most exciting days on the rugby league calendar for the host country town,” Mr Trodden said.

“This match will be a great opportunity for fans in the country to see some of the state’s best players in action as we say farewell to this special event.”

If it’s a special event, why kill it?

The fact that it is one of the most exciting days for the host town shows the value and importance of it to the people in the bush, so why kill it?

If the players enjoy the entire experience, why kill it?

No mention was made as to why it wouldn’t continue, though. Only talk about how there will be a big condescending celebration, akin to dancing on the grave of bush footy.

With our national side showing little interest in playing any other nations than England and New Zealand, Test matches are fast becoming more of a pointless exercise than City v Country, which actually has some benefit as it could very easily be used to help promote and strengthen the growth of the game nationally.

Now we will be left with the Country Rugby League constantly begging for one or two NRL games every year to try and fill the void of a game that was so incessantly disrespected by Sydney that it will soon no longer exist, but a game which meant a huge amount to those in rural NSW.

 ****This article appeared on Commentary Box Sports website on  November 23, 2016****

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