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The Super League Hypothetical

John Roar Rookie

By John, John is a Roar Rookie

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74 Have your say

    David Gallop and the FFA need to start talking to the fans directly, rather than through the media. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

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    When David Gallop fronted the media at NRL HQ to announce his resignation, I realised that the last remnant of Super League was now gone from the top.

    As the chief News Limited lawyer during the War, Gallop’s tenure was often marred by accusations of his favouritism to News Limited.

    Favouring News Limited was regarded as detrimental to the game, because they have never and never will care about rugby league. They waltzed in with their ‘vision’ and destroyed the game for their own selfish purposes.

    They destroyed the game at a time when it was doing so well.

    Who didn’t love the era of the Winfield Cup?

    The 1989 grand final, the advent of the three-game SOO series, Tina Turner’s ‘Simply the Best’, the introduction of nine new clubs, record crowds, wonderful football, and legends like Mal Meninga, Brett Kenny, Steve Mortimer and Wally Lewis.

    What an era, what a time!

    Recently, I haven’t been so sure.

    If the game was going so well, how was News Limited able to entice eight clubs to their new competition, and many more close to signing?

    If the game was going so well, why did some of the best players in the game sign with the new competition when there was no guarantee it would take off, when they would lose their privilege of playing for their country and their state?

    As many celebrate News Limited’s exit from the game and herald a new era of independence, a couple of questions should be asked.

    Was the Winfield Cup really the greatest era in rugby league’s history or has nostalgia set in because of the period that followed? And where would rugby league be now if it weren’t for the War?

    The growth of rugby league under the leadership of Ken Arthurson and John Quayle from 1983 until 1995 is self-evident.

    In 1983 when the two men took over, the average crowd in the 14-team competition was 7715. It was a very low and costly average.

    Clubs were insolvent and the game’s reputation poor.

    The game had to be cleaned up and it was. Players got heavily sanctioned for on-field flare ups.

    State of Origin became an important rugby league fixture.

    Tina Turner was introduced as the face of the game, with the purpose of attracting more women and children. It was a marketing ploy that worked wonders as more women than men began attending matches.

    The 10-metre rule was introduced, as well as the interchange, which was designed to make the game faster and more open to scoring.

    By 1995, the competition included 20 teams, boasting an average crowd of 14,642 people. It was a wonderful increase by the ARL.

    When you crunch the numbers though, despite the spike in crowds, mass marketing and confidence in the product, the Sydney ARL clubs were still the ones struggling the most.

    Wests, Sydney Tigers, Parramatta, Souths, St. George, Penrith and Sydney-City all averaged less than 10,000 people a game.

    With the Sydney clubs struggling and the ARL keen to expand, they commissioned a report in 1992 that encouraged the league to cull the number of Sydney teams from 11 to 5.

    Something the ARL were seemingly willing to do.

    They kicked out Newtown and Wests in 1983 (Wests took the game to court and won re-inclusion), and in 1995 ARL CEO Ken Arthurson publicly admitted that the Tigers would have difficulty surviving in their present form.

    What would the repercussions of such decisions be, especially considering what transpired when South Sydney were expelled from the competition in 1999.

    Having said all that, and the ARL keen to go ahead with rationalisation, would the game have been able to maintain such aggressive expansion?

    A common belief is that clubs like South Queensland Crushers and Western Reds would have survived had it not been for the Super League War. Perhaps the ARL would have had the patience to persevere with them if it weren’t for the distraction that was Super League, but in the case of the Western Reds they already had tremendous problems before the War.

    The Western Reds joined Super League basically because they had to. With the ARL refusing to prop up clubs and the Reds swamped in 10 million dollars of debt, News Limited was perceived as the club’s saviour.

    A mixture of poor results, a bad stadium and having to pay the air fares of travelling away teams contributed to the inflation of their debt. If there was no Super League, would the Reds have been able to survive?

    And what about the South Queensland Crushers? They averaged a very healthy 21,000 in their first season, but they had to compete with the News Limited owned Brisbane Broncos, resulting in a significant drop off. Had there been no war, would Brisbane still have two teams?

    This of course is just hypothetical, but who doesn’t like the hypothetical? Hypothetical debates are the lifeblood of sports fans. We love pondering the implications of events had they gone a different way. Every fan’s suggestions plagued by their inherent biases.

    But the questions remain:

    Where would rugby league be right now if it wasn’t for the Super League War?

    And, was the game really in such great shape prior to it?

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    The Crowd Says (74)

    • July 25th 2012 @ 1:48am
      Johnno said | July 25th 2012 @ 1:48am | ! Report

      -Super league war uncovered lots of things about rugby league.

      -The story in here that Arthurson and John Quayle growed the game may or may not be totally true. They may of grown it a bit, but they sure could of grown it more. And Arko was a Manly man. Arko was not liked by any other fans other than Manly fans.

      -Arko put rugby league backwards overall, and men like ex bulldogs head Bullfrog Moore on of the nice guys of rugby league did far more for the sport than Arko, and the rest of the Manly machine.

      -Manly have doen more harm than good for rugby league, as shown by there defiance of progress and super league, and the way they had believe and fall for Arko’s croccidile public tears about where the greatest game was headed.

      -Wow he had them all fooled while, in reality these tears during the the super league war just propped up Manly’s tv deal with optus with getting public support, so more fans would buy opts pay tv subscriptions over fox.

      -George piggins and boz bob futon another manly man all just as bad.

      -And reality is now super league won the war overall.
      -news ended up running the game and for mine still do as foxtel and pay tv are vital. And with Manly we are still seeing the problems they have caused with the much talked about story of the problems of brookvale oval. They are geographically not central to any major stadiums in sydney and getting over the spit is tough for away fans. Do manly care if no one likes them no. If Manly signed with News and super league the ARL would of fallen over. But Arko and the boys at the ARL wanted a pice of th pay tv deal and signed with opts, that was what the war was about not about Loyalty.

      -Loyalty to what. Manly’s bank accounts and the ARL coffers and bank accounts, and Optus. So much for the slogan by the establishment. For the people or the people’s game.

      -At least news wanted to grow the game globally, and create thousands of jobs globally an in Australia by expanding the game eg Perth, adelaide rams, a 2nd brisbane team, and a newcastle team.

      -In reality pay tv and capitalism won, not crhony capitalism and monopoly that the ARL and men like arko, george piggins, bozo, wanted.

      -Foxtel ran the game rugby league was stalled in growing globally to the amount that news wanted to. Like John Ribot’s vision that rugby league would be played in Beijing and Beijing teenagers would be kicking around a rugby league ball.

      -English super league went pay tv with sky another arm of Murdoch’s news limited. So in reality foxtel, and news limited, and BskyB won, and the ARL did lose overall.

      -And now Australians realise pay tv is here to stay and the only way to make money and you have to do what makes money no 1. An example of this is south africans and kiwis acceptance of the currie cup and NPC having to be reduced and embracing super rugby as it is what pays the bills.

      -Now aussies are more educated about the beinifts of pay tv. If Manly or cronulla or souths were kicked out of the comp there would be no big street protests like the save souths 1 in 1999 . People would accept it as economic rationalisation.

      -So in reality i am happy news limited won the super league war, and Manly and Arko and George piggins and the ARL were reduced in influence and the NSWRL , and the NRL was formed for the better. Also the ARL stuffed up in my opinion the brisbane rugby league scene and should of done more when the broncos came in to help keep that comp strong.

      -So to dinosaurs from a different generation like Arko and George Piggins, i am happy they no longer have any influence on the great game of rugby league, and i wouldn’t as would most rugby league fans shed any tears if Manly were kicked out of the comp or re located. Brooky is too far and Manly only care about Manly. And it was shameful what Manly did to the much loved North sydney bears, with the Northern eagles merger too.

      -But super league won the war overall and rugby league was modernised with pay tv and the NRL formed for the better for the sport overall. Tv ratings have never been higher far higher than in the 1980’s and early to mid 90’s 90-95.

      -Rugby league overall has been far more profitable and players wages went up with news basically in reality winning the super league war. Just like world series cricket gave a better deal for the players, so did news limited overall victory in winning the war and foxtel coming into rugby league help player’s right and a bigger piece of the profit.

      -And the IPL cricket to is another example of a win for the players not the establishment. Player power is strong in rugby league now coz of the super league war, hearing Laurie Daley during the war saying super league offered him a better deal made me so happy . As it showed players come first and making money for there hip pockets and bank balances and people like Arko come 2nd and Manly to and souths types like George piggins.

      -And the crocodile tears of loyalty made me laugh. Once again loyally to what establishment. The ARL and NSWRL and clubs like Manly who did nothing for any other club in there history of to grow rugby league.

      • July 25th 2012 @ 3:12am
        Gremlin said | July 25th 2012 @ 3:12am | ! Report

        Your last name isn’t Ribot per chance Johnno.

        • July 25th 2012 @ 8:53am
          oikee said | July 25th 2012 @ 8:53am | ! Report

          I thought i was the only one with a cob on about Manly, gee whiz Johnno, you really sinking the boot into them today.
          Just dont mention the war. 🙂

          • July 25th 2012 @ 2:00pm
            Johnno said | July 25th 2012 @ 2:00pm | ! Report

            oike i’ll get stuck into Manly too mate they in my view have held the game back and had to much influence in rugby league.

      • July 25th 2012 @ 9:24am
        sheek said | July 25th 2012 @ 9:24am | ! Report


        Your comments on Ken Arthurson are totally out of line. He was an outstanding administrator, & it’s YOU who is showing the bias & blinkered reasoning.

        Unfortunately for Arthurson & Quayle & the ARL at the time, their grave mistake was trying to expand the game TOO quickly. Introducing all 4 new teams – Auckland Warriors, North Qld Cowboys, SQ Crushers & Perth (Western) Reds – into the comp in 1995 was admirable, but also inadvisable.

        The Super League (News Ltd) model of 14 clubs (minimum 6 from Sydney) was sound business practice, but poorly implemented. Greed & egos on all sides ensured neither party was going to get their way, & they all collectively nearly killed the game. Don’t blame one side, because they were ALL equally culpable.

        Nothing was more laughable that John Ribot’s claim that the Changs of China, the Manfreds of Munich, etc, etc would all be following rugby league by the end of the century (1999).

        Still waiting………………..

        • July 25th 2012 @ 1:16pm
          Johnno said | July 25th 2012 @ 1:16pm | ! Report

          But sheek it is undeniable ark was a manly man. The most hated club maybe in Australia rivalling collingwood. I wouldn’t trust anything collingwood has done for aussie rules other fans teams hate them. And you have wached rugby league for years sheek and manly have been hated by other rugby league fans. Heck brookvale has a stand named after Arko.

          So for me during the super league war Arko did what he thought was best for Manly no 1and 2 for all other teams. It was as you said about greed and egos on both side yes true. But Arko took a lot of players from west sydney and brought them too manly. They Manly got the majority of favourable ref decisions in the 70’s and 80’s, and Arko was hardly a battler he made good money out of the sport. What got me about Arko was the croccidile tears when many of the Manly team that signed up for the ARL were hardly on peanuts they got good money a lot more than the so called people’s game the fans. So much for the players being in touch with the people and Arko when they were on big money. It makes mockery of the statement the people’s game when they are on big money.

          • July 25th 2012 @ 2:51pm
            sheek said | July 25th 2012 @ 2:51pm | ! Report


            You’re falling to the trick of criticising Arko because he’s a Manly man, & Manly is the most hated club, etc, etc. Forget that, & just concentrate on what he did or didn’t do while he was at the ARL.

            For heaven’s sake, back in 1995, every club & almost every player did what they thought was best for themselves. Doing what was best for the game didn’t come into it. You can’t critiicise Arko for what he did or didn’t do, without tarring everyone else with the same brush.

            Just about everyone, & I mean just about everyone, was running for the money trough……….

        • July 25th 2012 @ 1:26pm
          NF said | July 25th 2012 @ 1:26pm | ! Report

          Sheek being a union man I still recall you saying there be one rugby code in one of your articles and you talk about taking the league ‘icons’ branded into a rugby union competition.

          • July 25th 2012 @ 2:47pm
            sheek said | July 25th 2012 @ 2:47pm | ! Report


            We all make mistakes…..

            • Roar Guru

              July 25th 2012 @ 4:58pm
              tonysalerno said | July 25th 2012 @ 4:58pm | ! Report

              Johnno on fire!!!

              • July 25th 2012 @ 5:06pm
                Johnno said | July 25th 2012 @ 5:06pm | ! Report

                Thanks Tony i love sticking the boot into the most club in Australia manly, and maybe collingwodd is as hated. But Manly have done a lot of bad stuff for the games development in the 70’s and 80’s i could write an essay on that club. And now with the stadium problems at brookvale too.

    • Roar Guru

      July 25th 2012 @ 4:06am
      MG Burbank said | July 25th 2012 @ 4:06am | ! Report

      This is a worthy article. People forget that Arthurson and Quayle were keen to rationalize Sydney but just didn’t have the guts. They wanted to create a 12-team competition with News Ltd director Ken Cowley, but Packer scared them from doing it.

      League cannot hope to expand in Australia while retaining 9 teams. 11 was ridiculous- the 20-team comp was a farce, with as many as 6 reserve grade outfits running around at any one time. Once again, we’re faced with the prospect of expansion- a prospect I welcome- without any thought or action put into reducing the number of Sydney teams. How can a Perth team prosper when a Sydney player, looking for a new club, can just walk down the road to another team?

      We need no more than 6 Sydney teams. Penrith and Cronulla are the obvious choices for relocation/relegation to NSW Cup. One more could be eliminated with a merger, the most obvious being between Souths and Easts, which will never happen.

      The ARLC has some big decisions to make.

      • July 25th 2012 @ 7:38am
        DamoS said | July 25th 2012 @ 7:38am | ! Report

        I can’t see Sydney ever losing Penrith or Parramatta. When the mergers of the late 90’s took place the Tigers and Parra should’ve merged as should have Canterbuy and Wests however at the time they would’ve been seen as take overs. There was talk of a Dragons/Roosters merge which would have been very successful and a few whispers of a merger to create the South Sydney Sharks.
        Mergers may have had their day, I’m not sure but relocation should be looked at. The fans don’t loose their team and they would be in Sydney at least 8 times a year so plenty of time to see you team in action while building a new base in another location. Cronulla comes to mind and would be perfect for a relocation to Brisbane and within 10 year would have a healthy following and corporate dollars behind them, an ARLC carrot to relocate would assist in the short term.

        • July 25th 2012 @ 8:52am
          Rabby said | July 25th 2012 @ 8:52am | ! Report

          Tried that, carrot of $1m + has been dangled in front of Cronulla to move to Perth on more than 1 occasion and they have flatly refused. They don’t deserve another bite at that particular cherry.

          • July 25th 2012 @ 1:00pm
            DamoS said | July 25th 2012 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

            It’s going to have to be way more than $1M, probably looking at $8-10M. If Cronulla’s development fails (and I’m not sure what chance it has) then they can’t be bank rolled by the ARLC as Cronulla has been bailed out 3 times before.

        • September 30th 2014 @ 11:31pm
          Nuttybott said | September 30th 2014 @ 11:31pm | ! Report

          @DamoS: “The fans don’t loose their team”


          @Johnno: ” But Manly have done a lot of bad stuff for the games development in the 70′s and 80′s i could write an essay on that club.”

          Ok, Johnno…we get it. You don’t like Manly. But it is unfair to blame one club for all rugby league’s problems the way you seem to be trying to do. Remember, Manly were just about the ONLY club who behaved with complete loyalty and integrity during the Super League War: they remained 100% loyal to the ARL throughout, refused to negotiate with News Ltd or even meet with them, were involved in no shady backdoor deals, and were straightforward and upfront about their position from beginning to end. And their reward for such integrity was that the club was almost forced out of existence three years later when – due to increasing financial pressures – they were railroaded into a shotgun marriage with North Sydney that neither side wanted, and which was doomed to failure from day one.

          Now, if you want to write an “essay” disagreeing with any of what I have said, please feel free to do so. But please restrict yourself to verifiable facts, not just spout another lot of prejudiced anti-Manly bile as you have done in your previous posts…

      • July 25th 2012 @ 1:07pm
        dishes said | July 25th 2012 @ 1:07pm | ! Report

        Cronulla was open to merging with Souths, even though they would probably have lost their identity. That way there would have been games played at Toyota Stadium. The carrot would have to be a lot bigger than $1 M for them to even seriously consider relocating.

    • Roar Guru

      July 25th 2012 @ 5:42am
      steve b said | July 25th 2012 @ 5:42am | ! Report

      MG why would you want to relocate Penrith,,, their population is going to be huge in the next ten years,, a huge JNR league so whats so obvious ?

      • July 25th 2012 @ 8:42am
        solly said | July 25th 2012 @ 8:42am | ! Report

        I agree.

        Penrith ought to stay in Penrith.

        They are a future powerhouse of rugby leauge.

    • July 25th 2012 @ 6:37am
      Robert said | July 25th 2012 @ 6:37am | ! Report

      Got a problem with Manly hey Johnno?Let it go,they are the defending premiers after all

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    • July 25th 2012 @ 8:32am
      solly said | July 25th 2012 @ 8:32am | ! Report

      Was it really a delay in the construction of their stadium that forced the Bears out? That seems a poor reason for their exclusion from the competition given the efforts they seemed to be making for inclusion. Whether it is true or not, it is hard not to imagine a Manly hand or two nudging them over the edge.

      The rally supporting Souths was not simply about rugby league; it was about the average person’s concerns over globalisation & corporatisation and the way these things were moving faster than the average person could comprehend or accept. Souths exclusion from the competition was the spark that lit the fire.

      While I supported their inclusion in the league, I did not support Souths management and the waythat they did not understand the forces moving around them. That is a sign of poor management. They weren’t the only ones though to suffer from this though.

      I’m a Bulldogs supporter but if they were to eventually merge or be excluded from the competition, I wouldn’t worry much.

      The world is bigger than any one sport and the whole ‘Super League’ episode simply highlighted that.

    • July 25th 2012 @ 8:33am
      Rodney McDonell said | July 25th 2012 @ 8:33am | ! Report

      Are you serious?

      “If the game was going so well, how was News Limited able to entice eight clubs to their new competition, and many more close to signing? ”

      “If the game was going so well, why did some of the best players in the game sign with the new competition ”

      You don’t have to be a genius to realise it was money!

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