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Everyone versus AFL, but NRL shakiest

sexton1 Roar Rookie

By sexton1, sexton1 is a Roar Rookie

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Popular article! 6,032 reads

    Chris Sandow celebrates his try during the round 21 NRL match against the Canterbury Bulldogs. AAP Image/Action Photographics, Renee McKay

    Chris Sandow celebrates his try during the round 21 NRL match against the Canterbury Bulldogs. AAP Image/Action Photographics, Renee McKay

    The balance of power in Australian sport was clearly visible in Sydney University’s Manning Bar on Tuesday afternoon.

    Speaking to around forty students, with no cameras or journalists in sight, CEO of the NRL David Gallop and SANZAR head Greg Peters made the cases for league and union in a forum entitled, “This is Our House: The Battle for Bums on Seats.”

    Conspicuous in his absence was Andrew Demetriou, or any of his representatives.

    I understand why Demetriou wasn’t there. The flight from Melbourne is a long one, particularly when you’re flying first-class, and the Big Dog doesn’t stir for small-time events like a student forum.

    But why couldn’t the AFL at least have sent someone − maybe a junior executive, or, better yet, a minor employee from AFL House, someone who would have really underlined the gap between the country’s dominant code and the rest? You send your CEO, we send a cleaner. Take that, rivals.

    The AFL can afford such arrogance, because unlike league and union, it doesn’t have to battle for bums on seats. While Gallop proudly delivered a ream of statistics about how well the NRL is doing, especially in Western Sydney, the fact remains that, in attendance at least, the AFL reigns supreme.

    At Monday night’s match between Souths and Parramatta (albeit two struggling teams) there was a little over 10,000 people, and Andrew Johns commenting for Triple M thought that was a “good” crowd. If the AFL got a crowd like that for a match between say, Richmond and Melbourne, there’d be an inquiry.

    True, the NRL’s major source of revenue is not from attendance but from television, and Gallop emphasised televised league rates very highly. Indeed, it rates so highly that it’s possible the upcoming TV deal between the NRL and its various suitors may be bigger than the AFL’s massive deal struck earlier in the year.

    If so, then league people will be crowing. But the dollar signs should not blind them to the underlying weakness of league vis-à-vis AFL.

    The NRL is strong in Western Sydney and Queensland, as Gallop says, and there is no prospect of its heartland falling to AFL any time soon. But the very fact that the AFL is expanding into these territories and that the NRL perceives it as a threat is a sign of the codes’ relative positions.

    One is national, and growing, and the other is regional, and largely staying steady. The AFL’s biggest problem at the moment is that one of two clubs in South Australia is failing. Wouldn’t the NRL love to have this problem?

    Union is a different case altogether. As the manner of Peters indicated (relaxed and jovial, where Gallop was pre-emptively defensive), the “game they play in heaven” − or what amounts to heaven in this world for rugby fans, the all-boys private school − has little to worry about.

    Its international status means it’s not dependent on a single league or national competition in the way league and AFL are, though one might doubt whether it’s the “truly global” sport the New Zealander Peters says it is.

    The least played and followed of the three codes in this country, Australian rugby nevertheless has a ready supply of cash from its hard-core of supporters on Sydney’s North Shore. While the domestic competitions get virtually no crowds, and Super Rugby teams (except the Reds this year) get small ones, the Wallabies are a national brand.

    So while union will never be able to compete with AFL for dominance of the market, it doesn’t really have to. Content with its niche position, it can watch from the sidelines as AFL and league fight it out, perhaps hoping (though Peters was much too polite to say so) that league will ultimately fail and its supporters and fan-base can then be absorbed into a new super code.

    Impossibly distant as that event may seem (and I don’t believe it will ever happen), it must be on Gallop’s mind. One of the most interesting things he said during the forum was that the reason the NRL doesn’t have a draft is that, if boys were faced with the prospect of moving from Sydney to Townsville, or Auckland to Melbourne, or vice versa, they would choose to play union rather than the league.

    This is not, of course, something the AFL has to worry about. Though many of its youngsters could play any of the three codes, the possibility of leaving home does not deter from them choosing to play the unique, distinctly Australian sport.

    Which brings us to what is really the rub for rugby league. Where AFL’s uniqueness is both its strength and limit − secure in Australia, it is hard to see how it could ever expand beyond it − and union’s international status ensures its safety, league is caught in no-man’s land.

    Like enough to union to be vulnerable to poaching, but not offering the opportunities of a truly international sport, it is the only one of the three codes which could (which doesn’t mean it will, or should) go under.

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    The Crowd Says (393)

    • August 14th 2011 @ 3:15am
      Mark said | August 14th 2011 @ 3:15am | ! Report

      I’d agree with this article, can’t help but think this is going to be another code war argument.

      Comment left via The Roar’s iPhone app. Download The Roar’s iPhone App in the App Store here.

      • August 14th 2011 @ 3:28pm
        Tony said | August 14th 2011 @ 3:28pm | ! Report

        Excellent article. However, the fact that Sydney crowds are so much smaller than AFL has always been the case. The early reports from Melbourne indicate the huge popularity of the local game, esp amongst women. Look at the VFL attendances in the 20’s & 30’s. But it’s not just a Melbourne thing. Growing up in Adelaide I was aware that SANFL attendances were bigger than Sydney League & Union. Like 20,000 in the 70’s at H & A games in a city 1/4 the size of Sydney. Aussie Rules has always attracted huge crowds in every state where it is the dominant code. Something to be proud of when realizing AFL is 3rd highest av attendance in world after NFL & Bundesliga.

    • August 14th 2011 @ 4:05am
      VikingSven said | August 14th 2011 @ 4:05am | ! Report

      “Where AFL’s uniqueness is both its strength and limit − secure in Australia, it is hard to see how it could ever expand beyond it”


      I strongly suggest you head down to Blacktown on Monday and Wednesday:

      • August 14th 2011 @ 1:25pm
        db swannie said | August 14th 2011 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

        Yes seriously..It is nigh on impossible to start a pro or semi pro comp in another country & be successful..

        • August 14th 2011 @ 3:31pm
          VikingSven said | August 14th 2011 @ 3:31pm | ! Report

          He didn’t say that, didn’t he. No criteria were provided except for a sweeping statement.

          Who knows what will happen in the next 50 years? Maybe we will have some semi-pro or even a pro league or two amongst them.

          The fact is there are 18 national teams assembled in Blacktown to play Australian Football (and not one ex-pat in any of them) right under the authors nose.

          If folks aren’t prepared to get out there and see for themselves with an open mind, they can’t actually be in a position to offer anything but an uneducated, speculative pot shot.

          • Roar Guru

            August 14th 2011 @ 5:18pm
            The Cattery said | August 14th 2011 @ 5:18pm | ! Report

            Hi Sven – plenty of uneducated, speculative pot shots on these pages! Do you have some sort of role with either of the two Scandanavian teams? The Danes gave the South Africans a bit of a fright in the first half.

            • August 14th 2011 @ 7:50pm
              VikingSven said | August 14th 2011 @ 7:50pm | ! Report

              Yes, I’ve been known to dabble within certain circles in Scandinavian footy.

              • August 16th 2011 @ 8:16pm
                Jackson said | August 16th 2011 @ 8:16pm | ! Report

                Scandinavian rugby union is bigger

            • August 15th 2011 @ 12:56am
              C.K said | August 15th 2011 @ 12:56am | ! Report

              Must be all the South Africans that can’t make it in Rugby.

      • August 14th 2011 @ 1:36pm
        Titus said | August 14th 2011 @ 1:36pm | ! Report

        With all games being blowouts, most teams failing to register a single point and some matches with a total score of 24, that whole IC thing has been shown up to be a massive joke, I’m sorry but seriously, you would be better off not refering to it.

        Congrats on your enthusiasm though!

        • August 14th 2011 @ 3:21pm
          VikingSven said | August 14th 2011 @ 3:21pm | ! Report

          That will change now since the competition has split into 2 divisions.

        • Roar Guru

          August 14th 2011 @ 5:19pm
          The Cattery said | August 14th 2011 @ 5:19pm | ! Report

          don’t tell me you have a concern about a team not scoring – heaven forbid!

          • August 14th 2011 @ 5:25pm
            Titus said | August 14th 2011 @ 5:25pm | ! Report

            Well in AFL I do, how is that even possible. One team didn’t have enough possession in the opposition half to give the ball a mighty kick towards goal and at worst get one point.

            Did anyone see these games? How is that possible? Has it ever happened in the AFL?

            What makes me laugh even more is a score of 24 to 0, so both teams struggled to have the skills to hit the ball towards goals and presumably spent the majority of the game fumbling around in the middle of the park. Must have been painful to watch.

            • Roar Guru

              August 14th 2011 @ 5:39pm
              The Cattery said | August 14th 2011 @ 5:39pm | ! Report

              The first day of games were short games, to confirm seedings into Division 1 and 2.

              The weaker teams playing against the stronger teams will fail to get their hands on the footy, they can’t just fall back and cover up the goals and hope for a result – if you can’t get your hands on the footy, you can’t score and you’re going to cop a hiding – why is that so hard to understand?

              Yes, of course, the game is easy, until you’re the one out there who has to win the footy.

    • August 14th 2011 @ 4:13am
      JVGO said | August 14th 2011 @ 4:13am | ! Report

      Your argument is too facile and smug in it’s attempt to attack RL. Rugby Unions private school nursery is way too small for it to remain internationally competitive purely on that basis. It has always depended on a symbiosis with League in players, coaching etc. AFL is probably a bigger threat to Union than league because of this smaller demographic. And you are also way too cocky in regards to AFL’s success in the north. both the Lions and Swans have been going backward rapidly in the last few years. It is far more likely that all the AFL’s northen ventures will be never ending money pits than that the NRL will ever fall over. You argument doesn’t really make any sens eanyway, it i think could equally be argued that RL strong domestic comp coupled with its international and representative elements makes it the strongest of the three codes. It just depends which side of the border you’re yelling from though I guess. i imagine at least 50% of the country will continue to think that AFL is tedious and provincial.

      • August 14th 2011 @ 5:39am
        JVGO said | August 14th 2011 @ 5:39am | ! Report

        By the way, would SU even bother to invite Demetriou. I’d imagine Gallop and Peters were both there because Sydney University was a founding club in both the Sydney Rugby codes competitions and thus has a significant place in the hundred plus years history of both these international codes.

        • Roar Guru

          August 14th 2011 @ 9:29am
          The Cattery said | August 14th 2011 @ 9:29am | ! Report

          Sydney University Football Club is viewed as the founding father of rugby in Australia, and with good reason, but there is a lot of conjecture about whether SUFC started playing rugby in 1863 or 1865.

          Club historian Tom Hickie, in his book entitled A Sense of Union . “reveals that the SUFC, which began playing under the rugby rules, flirted with ‘Victorian Rules’ in its formative stages but it finally resolved to play the English code rather than the Australian game.” (from Sydney Uni aussies rule web site, and also mentioned on Wikipedia).

          • August 14th 2011 @ 9:52am
            punter said | August 14th 2011 @ 9:52am | ! Report

            It looks like even back then Sydney Uni even had intellience, as 1 game grew & is played in over 100 countries & the other well…..

            • August 14th 2011 @ 10:52am
              Andrew said | August 14th 2011 @ 10:52am | ! Report

              Given it was amateurs versus professionals, it was always doomed to fail at that level.

            • August 14th 2011 @ 12:32pm
              NF said | August 14th 2011 @ 12:32pm | ! Report

              ‘It looks like even back then Sydney Uni even had intellience, as 1 game grew & is played in over 100 countries & the other well’

              Yeh you ‘support’ the Dragons thanks for showing you true colors.

          • August 14th 2011 @ 12:57pm
            Sean Fagan said | August 14th 2011 @ 12:57pm | ! Report

            @ The Cattery – “flirted” shouldn’t be taken to mean the SU played football by Aust rules. There is some evidence the SU club in late 1860s may have played by rules that were not rugby, but something that shared some of the Vic rules. The story often gets lost in the telling, but the closest SU came to playing Vic rules came at a NSWRU meeting in 1877 when the SUFC pushed for changes to do away with scrums and adopt rules modelled upon the VFA’s, but ultimately said it would abide with a vote taken by all the clubs – it’s obvious which way that vote went. Vic rules clubs started in the wake of that meeting, but SUFC didn’t join them. An Aust rules team was formed at SU in 1887 but was extinct by 1889. The current SU Aust rules club claims to be one of the oldest AR clubs in NSW & in Australia, citing 1887, but there was no new SU team founded until 1947.

            • Roar Guru

              August 14th 2011 @ 2:49pm
              The Cattery said | August 14th 2011 @ 2:49pm | ! Report

              I don’t know the history at all, but this Tom Hickie is the club historian, and he’s talking about 1863 (which is very early indeed).

              • August 14th 2011 @ 3:36pm
                Sean Fagan said | August 14th 2011 @ 3:36pm | ! Report

                @ The Cattery – if you’re surmising that from the clumsily worded Wiki page…The SU club itself defers to 1863 (not Tom or me), and the reference to Melb rules being played is re the 1887-89 team I mentioned above. I had really close look at the 1863-5 matter here >

              • August 14th 2011 @ 5:10pm
                sheek said | August 14th 2011 @ 5:10pm | ! Report

                Sean (& Cattery),

                You present a very confounding case against SU continuing to insist their rugby birthdate is 1863, especially since, as you further suggest, they wouldn’t have had enough students to form an internal comp.

                It boggles my mind that SU continue to follow this line that they started playing rugby in 1963, when all the available history suggests otherwise.

                Furthermore I believe (although I’m not 100% sure) that Tom Hickie himself agrees rugby didn’t start at SU in 1863. But there they are……….

              • August 14th 2011 @ 5:28pm
                Sean Fagan said | August 14th 2011 @ 5:28pm | ! Report

                @ sheek – in the end it is up to the club. The club can prefer to give greater weight to the traditional story handed down through the club’s members. Plenty have pointed out that the Melb FC was founded 1859 and not the 1858 they mark. The original rugby clubs at Parramatta (1879) and Randwick (1882) disbanded and disappeared, but the current clubs pin their founding to those dates rather than when each suburb formed another club years later. Whether that is appropriate or not appropriate is really up to the club. I think if a NRL club tried that, other clubs (fans & even officials) would enter a strong debate about it – but in Aust rules & RU it doesn’t seem to matter as much to anyone.

              • Roar Guru

                August 14th 2011 @ 9:28pm
                The Cattery said | August 14th 2011 @ 9:28pm | ! Report

                In relation to AFL clubs, at least the documentation exists in virtually every case, plus there’s stacks in the papers of the day, going all the way back to the earliest days. In the case of Melb FC, I think the inaugural minutes of the club are dated 1859, some might argue that some form of club organisation pre-dates that inaugural meeting – personally, that sort of differential is unimportant to me – 1859 is plenty old, and not only that Melb FC is marked by having existed and played in the top level of the game, in whatever guise since that moment – which is probably unique in world sport (referring to the period of time elapsed).

    • August 14th 2011 @ 5:24am
      betamax said | August 14th 2011 @ 5:24am | ! Report

      It’s easy to characterize RL in terms of its popularity in Australia alone, particularly from the blinkered petri dish confines of certain southern capitals.
      However, a cursory glance at the UK Challenge Cup Final at Wembley on August 27th in front of 80k, and the recent 90mill broadcast deal secured by Sky in the UK would suggest that RL is doing just fine elsewhere on this planet, thanks for asking. Not global by any standards, but it still has a healthy professional comp which is seemingly growing in the UK and Europe.

      • Roar Guru

        August 14th 2011 @ 8:22am
        Damien said | August 14th 2011 @ 8:22am | ! Report

        I agree but how is RL in the UK going to keep Australian talent in Australia.

        International matches in League just don’t have the same appeal that Union Test’s do. Even though they should be the pinnacle of League is State Of Origin.

        At least with the Wallabies (if you’re good enough to make them) you can still have a taste of Northern Hemisphere rugby through Tests and touring matches while still basing yourself in Australia.

        • August 14th 2011 @ 11:15am
          Rugby League Nut said | August 14th 2011 @ 11:15am | ! Report

          The comment you make about the Wallabies also applied to the Kangaroos. They are playing a four nations in England and Wales at the end of the year and might even get over to France for a test.

          So as you can see RL does give players opportunities to play overseas in Europe.

          Does AFL do anything outside a hybred match against Ireland?

          • August 14th 2011 @ 2:11pm
            Emuarse said | August 14th 2011 @ 2:11pm | ! Report

            ‘and might even get over to France for a test’ – you mean if they can find 15 league players in France, maybe get the 15 Welsh players (from the north of England) to go on to Paris. LOL.

          • August 14th 2011 @ 4:23pm
            ClipperWithChipsOnBoth said | August 14th 2011 @ 4:23pm | ! Report

            Yeah maybe Emuarse, I guess they could ask all those Aussies in the Catalans side and some of the other Aussies in the other 70+ locals Froggy teams if they would step up and play for France.

            • August 14th 2011 @ 5:01pm
              Crosscoder said | August 14th 2011 @ 5:01pm | ! Report

              And to the wonderful flippant ïnsight of Emuarse and ClipperWithChips onBoth
              As per the January squad details for Catalans 15 of the 25 registered players for that team ,were French born and bred.Let alone the u18 squad.
              That excludes of course French born rl players involved in Pommy SL clubs.It pays to do your homework chaps,before trying to secure public point scoring.It’s so FitzSimons.

              • August 14th 2011 @ 5:04pm
                ClipperWithChipsOnBoth said | August 14th 2011 @ 5:04pm | ! Report

                Hahaha CC, I was being sarcastic, I know exactly what is happening in France, I’m on the good side with you mate 😉

              • August 14th 2011 @ 6:54pm
                Crosscoder said | August 14th 2011 @ 6:54pm | ! Report

                Clipperwithchipsonboth.You mean there is an addtional rl poster on here? You deserve a medal for bravery. LOL.

              • August 14th 2011 @ 7:18pm
                ClipperWithChipsOnBoth said | August 14th 2011 @ 7:18pm | ! Report

                No worries CC, I’d have used my usual name from somewhere else if someone hadn’t used it to troll here.

      • August 14th 2011 @ 8:54am
        Bakkies said | August 14th 2011 @ 8:54am | ! Report

        It’s growing in northern England and that’s all

        • August 14th 2011 @ 10:07am
          Adrien2166 said | August 14th 2011 @ 10:07am | ! Report

          also growing in france

          • August 14th 2011 @ 5:07pm
            ClipperWithChipsOnBoth said | August 14th 2011 @ 5:07pm | ! Report

            Of course it is Adrien, 10 years ago the playing numbers were close to 7,500, this year to date has the numbers at just under 40k.

          • August 16th 2011 @ 8:37pm
            dave said | August 16th 2011 @ 8:37pm | ! Report

            is that the rugby league calculator?

            • August 17th 2011 @ 7:30am
              Crosscoder said | August 17th 2011 @ 7:30am | ! Report

              Bonjour !No its the French rl calculator dave.The 40,000 are participants including registered and school students playing.

            • August 17th 2011 @ 9:42am
              dave said | August 17th 2011 @ 9:42am | ! Report

              so include those kids who turn up afterschools for a clinics and all because the number of clubs and schools playing doesnt add up to 10,000 players at all in france according to french posters on trl. is this the same as the 140,000 rugby legue players that was mention for england a few year ago as well?

              • August 17th 2011 @ 3:45pm
                Crosscoder said | August 17th 2011 @ 3:45pm | ! Report

                So a few years ago? Yes let’s all live in the past Dave.
                The stats come from the FRL.Argue with them and Larrat and all your secret detectives scattered around the sporting world.
                The stats are in the RFL website.and in the London rugby league website for their players.I have never seen 140,000 registered players .
                They are the ones involved in development and the local clubs. Your struggling .
                Or the 500,000 mentioned as ru players in England?

              • August 17th 2011 @ 4:12pm
                Crosscoder said | August 17th 2011 @ 4:12pm | ! Report

            • August 17th 2011 @ 9:53pm
              ClipperWithChipsOnBoth said | August 17th 2011 @ 9:53pm | ! Report

              Why are you trolling here for dave, bored or something?

              Seniors Leagues in France 2011/12 season.

              Eite 1 has 11 clubs
              Elite2 has 11 clubs
              DN1 has 8 clubs
              DN2 has 8 clubs
              DN3 has 7 soon to be 9 clubs this season if two Paris clubs get promotion next month.
              IDF ZONE has 6 clubs (Île-de-France), could go up or down depending on DN3 above
              Federal division has clubs scattered all over the joint.

              Plus Les Catalans.

              All these teams are senior teams and they are all working on juniors, so how do you know what the numbers are? Is it because someone on a forum wrote something negative so you just have to believe it?

        • August 14th 2011 @ 11:10am
          Rugby League Nut said | August 14th 2011 @ 11:10am | ! Report

          RL is the fastest growing sport in London and Wales. France has also seen increases and their Elite comp has been around since the 1940’s. What about the growth in NZ over the last few years? What about PNG. What about Europe and lets not forget the US and Canada.

          SOO for RL from a TV perspective is like having 4 Grand finals a year to the AFL’s 1. RU will rate it’s socks off come the RWC.

          The code with all its TV eggs in one basket is the AFL. It really is dependent on Victoria.

          • August 14th 2011 @ 4:42pm
            Pockman said | August 14th 2011 @ 4:42pm | ! Report

            Links to prove any of those statements, also Union is the fastest rugby code in north America, recently a sports committee in America determined Union was the third fastest growing sport in the States.

            Agree with you about AFL having all it’s eggs in one basket but it doesn’t bother them that there code is not international.

        • August 14th 2011 @ 11:27am
          Crosscoder said | August 14th 2011 @ 11:27am | ! Report

          Incorrect.Also growing in Wales,despite the demotion of the Crusaders.

          • August 14th 2011 @ 5:38pm
            clipper said | August 14th 2011 @ 5:38pm | ! Report

            It wasn’t a demotion. They withdrew their application for SL for ‘fiinancial reasons’

            • August 14th 2011 @ 6:00pm
              ClipperWithChipsOnBoth said | August 14th 2011 @ 6:00pm | ! Report

              Well why don’t you post a link where it says they are dead clipper?

            • August 14th 2011 @ 7:00pm
              Crosscoder said | August 14th 2011 @ 7:00pm | ! Report

              Clipper Ok. you are correct and i am aware of their pulling out.They however can if they so choose play in a lower division ,which is in if you want to be techical is a demotion from a position they once held,whether by self destruction or not.

              • August 15th 2011 @ 9:40pm
                clipper said | August 15th 2011 @ 9:40pm | ! Report

                Well, technically they haven’t taken that course yet, so whether they do or not it the future, they are at present not demoted but withdrawn. But thanks for the confirmation so I don’t need to post any links for the above poster.

          • August 14th 2011 @ 8:02pm
            Crosscoder said | August 14th 2011 @ 8:02pm | ! Report

            And your point champ,to throw out your chest and show my code is bigger than yours?
            Go into the London rugby league site and the RFL site,if you are that concerned.
            No one is silly enough to make comments like that ,and leave themselves open.
            There has been a 300% increase in playing numbers in Wales over the last few years,so something is happening.

          • August 14th 2011 @ 8:07pm
            Crosscoder said | August 14th 2011 @ 8:07pm | ! Report

            • August 14th 2011 @ 9:04pm
              Pockman said | August 14th 2011 @ 9:04pm | ! Report

              No I merely wanted proof on where you got the fastest growing sport in London and Wales from, and if you read my post on your links I didn’t mention Wales because you provided a solid link for the rise in RL in the country.

    • August 14th 2011 @ 5:25am
      gusbrisbane said | August 14th 2011 @ 5:25am | ! Report

      I think this article should be ignored. Not that I could…

      It’s silly stuff really.

      The battle of the codes makes fans of all sports angry and argumentative.

      Stop playing with (yourself??) such an opinion. Please, sir.

    • August 14th 2011 @ 6:40am
      Nick the second said | August 14th 2011 @ 6:40am | ! Report

      Wow how did this pass the Roars editors?

      Comment left via The Roar’s iPhone app. Download The Roar’s iPhone App in the App Store here.

      • August 14th 2011 @ 11:28am
        Crosscoder said | August 14th 2011 @ 11:28am | ! Report

        It is a dig at rughy league,the Roar’s editors seem to let these fly through to the keeper.

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