Rugby league is crippled in South Australia
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Astonished, I crouched down to retrieve a triangular banner lying in the soggy soil of Hindmarsh Stadium.
As my fingers dug into the surface, minute white shards fell from the moist banner as I tightened my grip.
The sign’s pale blue background made each word illegible but the faint outline of the letters revealed a message, which is why I collected it. It read:
‘Go the Adelaide Rams!’
Bewildered by the discovery of an unexpected souvenir I ventured back to my apartment to read South Australia’s Sunday Mail.
I flipped the newspaper to its back pages expecting a series of AFL splashes. My assumption was correct.
I had continued reading from back to front in search of the rugby league section but when there was no sign after reaching the thoroughbred articles I knew I was out of luck.
But on closer inspection I had come across three sentences on the bottom right corner of page 65 summing up the Saturday’s NRL fixtures.
Disgruntled, I headed down to the local park to kick a Steeden around.
There was not a crossbar in sight as I drop punted my Steeden straight through the middle for six points.
But despite these petty experiences, there is still cause for concern.
Rugby league is dead in Adelaide.
Aussie rules and the round ball code are dominating the Southern states in Australia.
The depth of junior AFL talent, the success of the A-League franchise and the quick departure of the Adelaide Rams have left the state of play in South Australia very grim for rugby league lovers.
South Australia has always been a great breeding ground for AFL talent.
For example, last year’s draft produced current Port Adelaide youngster Chad Wingard, who is having a strong first season.
The South Australia National Football league (SANFL) produced 10 draft picks in the 2011 AFL draft with one player in the top 10 and two in the top 20.
The number of SANFL draft picks was similar to the number produced in 2010.
The SANFL and the WAFL produce the most talent behind the premier Victorian competitions the VFL and TAC cup.
AFL is the flagship sport in Adelaide.
The success of both the Adelaide Crows and Port Adelaide Power has won over the fans in South Australia.
With a strong crop at grassroots level, both South Australian franchises have been very consistent despite some mixed seasons.
The Adelaide Crows are currently in the top four and enjoying a strong season after a lacklustre 2011.
The Crows have soared since their inception, making the finals eight times in twelve seasons since 2000.
Port Adelaide is currently in the middle of the bottom eight and has struggled in 2012.
But the power have experienced success since the turn of the century, as they were finalists in the 2008 grand final and won the flag in 2004.
But the South Australian success doesn’t stop with the Sherrin.
Adelaide United is an A-League foundation club and has been very strong since the club’s inception in 2005.
The club boasts two grand-final appearances despite not having won the premier’s plate.
Since 2005 they have maintained a crowd average of 11,000 fans.
Hindmarsh Stadium is the smallest of all A-League stadiums, with a capacity of 17,000 spectators.
The 2011-12 season was a disappointing one for the South Australian franchise, which in turn saw their crowd averages drop to 9,000.
Although Adelaide United struggled in the A-League, they progressed to the quarterfinals of the Asian Champions League.
The achievement makes Adelaide the first Australian football club to reach that stage of the tournament.
But with such success in the AFL and A-League, the NRL experience did not work in Adelaide.
Granted, the A-League project began after the rugby league franchise, but rugby league did not fit in like soccer does.
The Adelaide Rams joined the ARL in 1995 and played in the 1997 and 1998 seasons.
The Rams were disappointing, having won only 13 of their 42 matches.
The code-war between AFL and NRL may have been the biggest downfall in the ARL’s plan to expand to South Australia.
The Brisbane Bombers, West Coast Pirates and Central Coast Bears will be unrivalled by a bid in Adelaide in the next round of expansion.
The AFL have more chance of launching a third AFL team in South Australia than the NRL have of launching their first, although South Australia’s current lack of resources means the idea is unlikely.
The NRL would be silly to attempt to resurrect rugby league in South Australia again.
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