By STEVE MASCORD
BRAD ‘Freddie’ Fittler’s announcement that he is playing in the Nines dovetails nicely with our final column of last year, in which we discussed the possibility of a summer circuit for the truncated version of the game.
As commenter Matty rightly said, NRL players already complain about the length of the season so it is unreasonable to expect them to play all summer as well. So the teams would be made up of fringe first graders, up-and-comers and retired stars.
The main question of this first Discord of the year is: would you support a Nines series held that included retired players, or would this erode its credibility in your eyes? Titanic says he was willing to give the Auckland tournament a go – until Fittler’s announcement.
“Keep it serious and then you may well have your niche summer market … you’d at least get me,” he wrote. Do you agree?
In writing about this subject two columns in a row, we may be tempting you to think we have a financial stake in the proposal! Certainly, some of the rather “forced” publicity about the Auckland Nines so far has been interesting to see – it’s being shoved down the public’s collective throat.
But here at Discord we are interested generally in rugby league’s place in the wider sports market and the southern hemisphere summer seems ripe for the picking if the vehicle is right. Players who have not picked up contracts for the following season, for instance, could prove themselves on the Nines circuit.
Maybe we could have national teams, or states, instead of NRL clubs. Or a mixture? Tell me what you think.
WELCOME to 2014. This column comes to you from New York City where it is freakin’ freezing.
The game has undergone enormous change in the lifetime of Discord, which has been around since mid 2009 on various platforms. The NRL is awash with money and is making sizeable corporate strides with strategic decisions that should ensure its long-term viability.
Television and cinema are just about the only media platforms making money today so it’s fortunate for professinal sport that one of them provides the biggest slice of its income. But David Smith is still savvy enough to look elsewhere.
In the UK, things are less stable. There is a dispute over the future structure of the professional game which seems more about political opportunism than real strategic planning. The game is stronger, proportionally, at the grassroots level outside the heartlands than it is in those areas in Australia – but the London Broncos remain a basket case. Big changes, good or bad, are afoot.
Internationally, we seem at the cusp of something really great. The most recent rugby league game of note was a world record for internationals even though the host nation was not involved and anecdotally, in England and Ireland, I have had people with no interest in the sport quote a perception that rugby league is “coming back” after years of invisibility.
That comes from being on the BBC on Saturday afternoon, I guess. Imagine if there was a Super League game on every Saturday afternoon for 30 weeks! But the real worry is that we know little about the international calendar even this year, the RLIF still don’t have fulltime employees and office and any sponsors who were involved in the World Cup have now gone back to what they were doing beforehand.
Our officials don’t want international football to start commercially competing with the club game. But it has to. It’s time we showed confidence in both levels of the game to co-exist and flourish.
COMMENTS new and last week’s column dealt with the spectre of supplements and prescription medicine – and also the future of the Nines format in rugby league.