Building on grassroots rugby union
I had a dream last night involving a large lottery win, Brisbane Rugby and the grail. Like most nights I gave The Roar a look over before tucking myself in.
So, of course, I was tossing and turning, worrying about Australia’s lack of depth, lack of a second tier and how its grassroots is being neglected.
Then I had an epiphany; I thought, well, given megabucks, what you do?
So now I really couldn’t sleep.
I agonised about the millions apparently squandered on the ARC (oh what might have been!), tripled the salary cap of the five Aussie franchises, I even bought the naming rights to a certain stadium so that Lang Park might live again. But then I remembered State of Origin. (No don’t panic, this isn’t going where you’re thinking.)
I thought about why it worked and where it came from.
It worked because it had everything so many of us out there want to keep in rugby, ie. tradition, respect for fans (current eligibility issues aside obviously) and just a touch of visceral hatred.
It came out of a decades old format that never inspired much interest and, therefore, caught everyone by surprise. Maybe the first match was accompanied by loads of slick, clever marketing ploys, but it succeeded anyway.
The point is, the concept was so strong it was probably always going to build its own momentum. Nor was it TV ratings gold from day one. What can rugby learn from this? You don’t need the big bucks to get a bang from your sport.
Okay, but I still wasn’t sleeping, I had made progress with my problem, but was not there yet. So I ditched the big bucks and went back to the root of the problem. I needed a format that would attract a crowd, not cost the earth and involve the best blokes running around without a Super Rugby contract in their pocket. Well, next thing you know, I thought of one!
Before I delve into the details, lets just remember that even State of Origin started small. Therefore this comp is not designed with a TV audience in mind, but on the upside it is super cheap. It also might just have the legs to build its own success over time or evolve into something bigger.
So here goes. It is called “The Grail” (because “The Cup” sounded worse and I really wanted to get some sleep that night).
It is a Brisbane-based comp because it has to be cheap and localised. Sydney-siders can easily come up with there own version. (Why isn’t it called the Brisbane Grail? A: That sounds worse than the original and B: for the same reason the State of Origin isn’t called the Australian State of Origin. It was only originally aimed at Australians so including Australia in the name would have been redundant.)
How does it work? At the end of the season two teams are picked from the first grade comp. One team from the clubs north of the river, one team representing the teams to the south. It does get tricky cause only four are really south of the river, so maybe Sunshine Coast would have to join the Southerners. That is a bummer, but life isn’t fair.
Two weeks after the grade final, game one is played at the ground of one southern team, next weekend game two takes place at the ground of a northern team. The decider is played at Ballymore. Loads of free tickets are given out to school kids. Players of each team where their club socks and each team of 22 on game day must have at least one player from each club.
Like I said, no TV audience but that isn’t the point. You don’t need to generate much money to support this kind of comp. Three games enables the players an opportunity to develop their skill and team cohesion. Brisbane clubs get extra revenue on game day and QRU gets to get some bums on seats at Ballymore, or at least sell some beer.
Handled right, eg. lots of free programs with the players’ names, attractive jerseys, allowing the kids to invade the pitch after the game, etc, and the thing could really take off. Over time, it could evolve into something larger, or not. Either way, it would be great for the grassroots, test the mettle of the best of Brisbane and not cost much.
So what do you think Roar readers and I don’t just mean about the poxy name. As I said, it was late and I couldn’t sleep!
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