Future of the NRL rests in fostering communities
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Rugby league has, up until 1995 (or the Super League era), been before its time. It was one of the first codes to become professional and the sport that made mid-week games popular in Australia. Rugby league made changes to traditional rules because the public wanted it.
However, lately (maybe due to recovering from the Super League war), it seems rugby league has now become lost in the past.
One thing rugby league has going for it is the athletes and stars the game is producing. No one can dispute that. But it seems this is the only thing going for this game at the moment.
Rugby league is spreading well, especially in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) area and America, but in the heartlands (which are overemphasised sometimes) the game is struggling.
The Brisbane Broncos are a prime example. They have lost more players to other codes than any club. The cross-coders speak volumes: Folau, Hunt, Sailor, Tuqiri, Thorn and Barnes.
But what can be done about it?
The answer could possibly be found in the rarest of places – Lebanon.
Mikhael Shammas is a Lebanese business graduate who founded the Wolves RLFC (American University of Beirut) and is now starting the Boston 13′s. Mikhail formed both clubs whilst at University.
He has just graduated from Harvard’s Business school.
Last year, in the midst of completing his post-graduate work, he founded the Boston 13′s and was selected into the American National Rugby League, in which his team made the play-offs.
He specialises in creating cultural legacies within communities through sport. So he may be the right man for the advancement of our game. His credentials speak louder than our Independent Commission could ever hope for.
However, we don’t necessarily need Mikhael. We need his ideas.
Mikhael would probably serve rugby league better in America and Lebanon. However, the idea of creating cultural legacies is one that should be tapped into.
Community is what the Sydney based teams are founded on, yet it seems they, along with the game in general, have forgotten this. One must wonder why crowds aren’t selling out when TV ratings are similar to that of the AFL (and with less potential viewers).
The answer seems to lie within community.
The taste of the future is part of our past. Tap into the community and the NRL will find it has new fans.
The future lies in creating a new community. Australia has a lot of immigrants, therefore, a lot of new viewers, which is where the potential may lie.
The Brisbane Broncos need to focus on the Sudanese community; Bulldogs and West Tigers on the Lebanese community; Panthers on the Islander community; and other clubs on the people that make up their society that their club encapsulates.
Rugby league must not rest on the money from the TV deals, but on the community that surrounds them.