Would you watch rugby league all year round?

Steve Mascord Columnist

By Steve Mascord, Steve Mascord is a Roar Expert

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    Serious question: if you live in the Southern Hemisphere, would you watch a variation of rugby league this time of year?

    We know you would if you live in England. You did it for 100 years. Scores from a number of festive friendlies will be coming through as you read this.

    But in Australia and New Zealand would you support a nines circuit? And, specifically, what sort of circuit?

    Nines is seen as the great potential area of expansion for our sport. I’ve written about it countless times before – how it resembles rugby league but allows teams without established stars to compete with full-time pros.

    In developing countries its biggest advantage is you don’t need to be able to rustle up 13 or 17 players.

    But things are now finally moving. We have an international nines likely to be played in an Australian city at the start of the 2019 Lions tour of the Pacific. Rugby league nines will hold its second Commonwealth Championship to tie in with a Commonwealth Games next year at Redcliffe.

    So the question is how to manage the expansion of nines. What should the objectives be? Should the focus be on clubs or provinces or countries? Should the sport start small and build up or will we require significant investment from the get-go with all the bells and whistles?

    I’ll declare an interest – though definitely not a financial one. For the last six months I’ve been networking with people who are interested in developing nines.

    (AAP Image/Paul Miller)

    One of these is a fellow called Graham ‘Jumbo’ Oliphant, who runs the London Nines and has designs on an international circuit. He’s quit his job to focus on his dreams. Others are interested in financing, broadcasting and sponsoring whatever pops up.

    The fact is that there are already nines tournaments played roughly every three weeks – maybe two – around the world. Rotterdam, Vancouver, Hong Kong, Queenstown – often much nicer places than our club games are played!

    But they have no link. They don’t share sponsors or even information. They may not even be played under the same rules. That just seems daft.

    If these tournaments were to be broadcast and get a decent social media push behind them, would you watch without the product itself being enhanced? Would you take an interest in Dutch and Serbian and New South Wales Southern Highlands players having a run in the NRL offseason?

    Or would you only take an interest if it’s the big names you know? Or if it’s young up-and-comers and blokes who’ve just retired? Do you want clubs or national teams or maybe provinces?

    Would you care if every tournament involves completely different teams? Or would you need the same teams to back up from one tournament to another?

    How big a difference would it make to you if the teams were attached to NRL clubs? Would you go down to your local stadium for a summer beer and a jolly but not bother watching on TV or online?

    In short, what would make a nines circuit work for you, and what would ensure you’d take zero interest?

    This stuff is happening, people. It’s just a matter of figuring out how it’s going to happen, how it should happen.

    The more people who have their say on all this, the better the product should end up being.

    Steve Mascord
    Steve Mascord

    Steve Mascord has covered rugby league in 15 countries and worked for most media organisations that regularly feature the sport, on both sides of the globe. He started off as an 18-year-old cadet at Australian Associated Press, transferring to the Sydney Morning Herald just in time to go on the last full Kangaroos Tour in 1994. He spent three years at Sydney's Daily Telegraph from 2006 before going freelance at the conclusion of the 2008 World Cup. Steve is the author of the book Touchstones, host of the White Line Fever podcast, partner in international rugby league merchandise start-up Mascord Brownz, and proprietor of rugbyleaguehub.com, hardrockhub.com and hotmetalonline.com. He is married to Sarah and splits his time between London and Sydney.

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    The Crowd Says (59)

    • January 3rd 2018 @ 7:13am
      Peter Phelps said | January 3rd 2018 @ 7:13am | ! Report

      I am surprised the question is being asked.

      Of course I would watch it if it was meaningful and if the best RL skills were on display, I wouldn’t I ?

    • January 3rd 2018 @ 7:39am
      Duncan Smith said | January 3rd 2018 @ 7:39am | ! Report

      NO. You need a rest from it and to get the hunger back.

      • January 3rd 2018 @ 7:57am
        Jeff Morris said | January 3rd 2018 @ 7:57am | ! Report

        Exactly. Scarcity of product helps grow market share in many cases. A great example is the NFL, which only plays about 5 months per year.

        • January 3rd 2018 @ 8:40am
          Norad said | January 3rd 2018 @ 8:40am | ! Report

          Another American league is starting up. Pacific Pro League. They explain on their website why the XFL did not succeed long term. One reason generally given is that due to excessive adjustment of ‘standard’ football rules, the viewing public felt the game presentation deviated too much from the game of football it was familiar with. Since the USFL and XFL, other spring football leagues have been attempted, all to varying degrees of success. The NFL created NFL Europe and the World League of American Football. Another group tried the United Football League. http://www.pacificprofootball.com/league/principles/

        • Roar Guru

          January 3rd 2018 @ 8:42am
          BigJ said | January 3rd 2018 @ 8:42am | ! Report

          I agree you need a break otherwise you would lose interest. Its like hot cross buns for three months instead of three weeks. After a while you just get slack for it. The footy season needs a break, to be up anticipation for the next season

      • January 3rd 2018 @ 9:07am
        Peter Phelps said | January 3rd 2018 @ 9:07am | ! Report

        I disagree

        If it was NRL all year round then yes, the interest would wane. It would be like those never ending american series that never reach a conclusion but what we are talking about here is different competitions and formats. Whole different ball game if you excuse the pun.

    • January 3rd 2018 @ 7:41am
      BA Sports said | January 3rd 2018 @ 7:41am | ! Report

      There is no metric out there that would suggest, more league is in demand and more league would benefit the game.

      The season is already too long. More league just detracts from the NRL which if one wants to demand premium media rights and attention, needs to be maintained.

      Modified versions of the game have detracted from interest in the traditional formats of the game in both Cricket and Rugby. A push towards making the Nines anything more than a one-off annual event, would only take away from the NRL, not add to it.

      I have worked in Sport for a fair while. It is important in Sports bodies to have people who are passionate, but you need people who counter that passion. One of the reasons Tennis has lost touch with Joe Public and lost participation numbers, is that its programs and structures are all designed by the people in the top 1% of passionate tennis people. They don’t represent the vast majority. You will get a tonne of people on here saying, they would want more League – because they are the 1% who click on a Rugby League tab on a Sports site in January, but it doesn’t represent the population.

      • January 3rd 2018 @ 2:56pm
        Not so super said | January 3rd 2018 @ 2:56pm | ! Report

        Sevens has not affected 15 a side rugby

        • January 3rd 2018 @ 3:00pm
          Justin Kearney said | January 3rd 2018 @ 3:00pm | ! Report

          If anything it’s increased rugby’s international profile which feeds into it’s continually growing World Cup in 15s.

    • January 3rd 2018 @ 7:42am
      Chris Wright said | January 3rd 2018 @ 7:42am | ! Report

      I think we need to focus on developing International matches first before Nines.

      • January 3rd 2018 @ 9:50am
        woodart said | January 3rd 2018 @ 9:50am | ! Report

        best post here

    • January 3rd 2018 @ 7:43am
      Bryan said | January 3rd 2018 @ 7:43am | ! Report

      Think tying nines to clubs or states or countries is good. Being in western Australia, online is where I would watch it

    • January 3rd 2018 @ 8:00am
      Waterboy said | January 3rd 2018 @ 8:00am | ! Report

      After watching Fox Sports News each night and seeing nothing but A League, EPL, yachting and Aust basketball and the same 20/20 game played over and over again each night only with different teams……my answer is a resounding YES!!!!l

      For me personally beginning of Oct to the end of Jan. apart from Test cricket is a sporting wasteland. A time to go on holidays and binge watch tv series.

      You do need a break, but two months is plenty. Starts the nines at the beginning of December and run it to mid to late Jan.

      I think the NRL Womens comp should run in the same window.

      To have the woman running during the NRL finals is disrespectful for them and everyone will be focused on the men that time of year.

      A womens game on Thursday, Friday, Sunday nights over that period, and the Nines tournaments running both day and night sessions on the Saturday and day/afternoon sessions on the Sunday over the 6-8 weeks would be perfect.

      People can still watch their Test Cricket, schedule around it.

      We have a great advantage over the AFL with these different proven formats and International competition. RL is mad not to exploit it.

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