On Saturday the 18th of February, I went along with my five year old daughter and four year old son to the Queensland Reds’ Fan Day at Ballymore in Brisbane.
This was a great, free event for three hours where the kids (and lots of adults) got to meet the players, get posters, balls, caps etc signed, and have photos taken with the players.
My kids were excited to meet and get photos with Quade Cooper, Radike Samo, James Horwill and the Fainga’a twins. All of them were very easy going and personable with the kids, especially the Fainga’a boys.
I thought that this must be something that every Super Rugby side in Australia did, but looking at the websites of the other teams it doesn’t appear so, which is a shame.
This Fan Day had fun activities like attempting to get lineout throws through a hole, jumping castles, sumo suits, dance performances player interviews conducted by the MC on the stage and wife carrying contests. All the junior rugby clubs were represented there to encourage sign ons.
Getting the opportunity for children to interact with the players that they have only seen on TV is great. It also allows them to see other kids who have joined up for junior rugby (my daughter is starting playing this season), and for parents to talk to other parents whose children are starting rugby. Also, it gives the players the chance to connect with their young fans.
Is this happening in other locations? To me, this sort of approach helps to grow the game, and get fans young and old engaged with the team. As we left my kids were twisting my arm to take them to Reds games and this is the sort of enthusiasm that teams want to generate.
Congratulations to Queensland Rugby for running this event and it was great to see such a good turnout. I think the other Australian Super Rugby sides could learn from this supporter engagement and I hope that it continues with more events like this.
Ideally they should take this sort of event out to the regional areas as well, but I know that this could be hard to organise.
There was a lot of signage up about a school based program for getting the Reds to come to your school (which my daughter was very keen on) called Rookies2Reds
This seems like a proactive endeavour to get more kids exposed to rugby, which has to be a good thing as well.