The results are in: NSW rugby participation sees positive growth in 2017

Vinnie Gorham Roar Guru

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    Rugby registration numbers have been a hot topic among rugby tragics.

    That was highlighted by Brett McKay’s popular article slamming Roy Morgan’s ‘fake news’ earlier this year which generated almost 200 comments.

    The good news is that the number of people lacing up their boots – in New South Wales at least – is trending up.

    The regional part of the state is putting the grass back in grassroots, seeing a handy 4% growth for boys aged between 4 and 18.

    The city-slickers did their part with senior 15s participation spiking 5% in the metro region.

    It’s a positive sign following a cracking season of Shute Shield rugby with the Grand Final once again drawing a bumper crowd at North Sydney Oval.

    The success of the Aussie Women’s Sevens in Rio continued to aid in growing the short-form game with the Sydney Junior Rugby Unions Girls’ Sevens team numbers up from 17 in 2016 to 48 in 2017.

    7,896 players have been in action this year in Club Sevens tournaments, a further 11,317 youngsters had a run in schools sevens events.

    Overall, there were 37,987 registered NSW club rugby players in 2017 compared to 37,379 in 2016.

    That may not seem like a huge spike, but put that overall figure in context with Roy Morgan’s supposed estimate of 55,000 registered players Australia-wide and it paints a far rosier picture.

    However, it wasn’t all good news for rugby fans in New South Wales.

    There was a worrying 5% drop in the number of registered 15s women’s players in the metro region, alongside a 3% drop in junior participants.

    Women’s participation is a key growth area that Rugby Australia outlined in their 2016-2020 strategic plan.

    In the bush, there was a 2% drop in the number of registered senior players.

    Here are the statistics:

    Metro Junior Competition 2017 Players Growth / Decline
    Sydney Juniors 11382 -3%

    *Note that this decline was anticipated due to the change in the reporting system / Team numbers were higher in 2017 than 2016.

    Country Junior Competition 2017 Players Growth / Decline
    Central Coast Juniors 1154 -3%
    Central North Juniors 955 -17%
    Far North Coast Juniors 1069 21%
    Illawarra Juniors 1177 4%
    Mid North Coast Juniors 707 -3%
    New England Juniors 156 56%
    Newcastle Hunter Juniors 1780 6%
    Western Plains Juniors 98 92%
    Central West Juniors 1703 12%
    Metro Senior Competitions 2017 Players Growth / Decline
    Premiership & Subbies 8713 5%
    Sydney Women’s 258 -5%
    Country Senior Competitions 2017 Players Growth / Decline
    Country Women’s 216 3%
    Central Coast Seniors 989 -10%
    Central North Seniors 765 9%
    Far North Coast Seniors 831 7%
    Illawarra Seniors 1066 4%
    Mid North Coast Seniors 886 16%
    New England Seniors 415 -21%
    Newcastle Seniors 1655 -9%
    Western Plains Seniors 375 -2%
    Central West Seniors 1606 -6%

    Statement from NSW Rugby General Manager of Development, Andrew Hill:

    “It is important for us to grow our established club and school competitions while at the same time, attracting new players through our programmes and other formats of the game. Ultimately we have to retain and grow our current competitions, while expanding into non-traditional areas and schools.”

    “It is no secret that rugby has had a tough year across the country at the professional end of the game. At the community level, people are still loving rugby and there are a number of vibrant, growing clubs and schools. This is mainly due to the incredible work of the volunteers in the Clubs and schools, as well the support from the NSW Rugby Development Officers across the State.”

    “NSW Rugby contributed $2.06M direct to community rugby this year, $1.16M of which came from the NSW Waratahs and this amount is over and above the contribution of Rugby Australia. Community rugby is at heart of what we do and we are committed to growing the game,” Hill said.

    In reference to the decline in participation in certain key areas, Hill said:

    “If we are going to grow the game in all areas, we need to follow the lead of some of our successful clubs and competitions, who are providing opportunities for men and women, girls and boys and juniors and seniors. If we provide these opportunities, the next challenge for us is to retain not only our players but also our coaches, managers, volunteers, administrators and all the people who make rugby great,” Hill said.

    So Roarers, what do you think about these results?

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    The Crowd Says (16)

    • December 20th 2017 @ 10:40am
      Working Class Rugger said | December 20th 2017 @ 10:40am | ! Report

      Well, it wasn’t a decline. But when you break it down the growth rate was a little over 1.6%. Which isn’t great. We need to be looking toward something like 5-10% annually. We achieve that and we could be pushing around 55,000 players in a decade (at roughly 5% per annum) potentially 100,000 if they manage to hit the high water mark.

    • December 20th 2017 @ 11:10am
      Sydneysider said | December 20th 2017 @ 11:10am | ! Report

      It’s going to be tough but at least they are trying something.

      All sports are pushing harder to get participants and registered players.

    • Roar Guru

      December 20th 2017 @ 12:03pm
      Riley Pettigrew said | December 20th 2017 @ 12:03pm | ! Report

      Wow, massive decline on the Central Coast. -3% in juniors and -10% seniors. In regards to seniors I know a large number have moved on to Sydney competitions but the juniors figures surprise me. Soccer is making some serious ground with their 5s programs.

      Overall though there is some massive growth in other parts of the state.

      • December 20th 2017 @ 1:54pm
        Bakkies said | December 20th 2017 @ 1:54pm | ! Report

        The New England figures look horrific for juniors and seniors.

        • Columnist

          December 20th 2017 @ 4:04pm
          Geoff Parkes said | December 20th 2017 @ 4:04pm | ! Report

          I think it was in protest at Barnaby being outed as a kiwi

    • December 20th 2017 @ 12:35pm
      Working Class Rugger said | December 20th 2017 @ 12:35pm | ! Report

      Rugby needs to be leveraging each any every format it has as well. It has three. Set up distinct seasons for each and look to spread the net wide in terms of offering playing opportunities to a wider audience. A set 15s season followed by say and 8-10 weeks 10s season targeted as a more social competition. During the spring/summer months run a combined 7s/Touch 7s competition two or three nights a week with 10 minute halves instead of 7 minutes. give teams the option of playing once or twice a week. Mixed teams in both genders and ages etc.

      Use existing clubs as the focal points to start and have them really concentrate on emphasising the community aspect of the game and trying to capture as many new players as possible to participate across a number of different format within the club.

      • Roar Guru

        December 20th 2017 @ 1:25pm
        jeznez said | December 20th 2017 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

        Do 10’s and 7’s deserves seasons though? Or are they best catered to as individual tournaments as they have been historically?

        I can accept the case for 7’s having something more structured in order to feed the professional tour.

        10’s I think should remain as one off tournaments played in pre or post season.

        The biggest shame is the demise of the Bondi 10’s. It will be back in a limited format this year but will take a while to build back to what it was, if it ever gets there again.

    • December 20th 2017 @ 1:33pm
      Worlds Biggest said | December 20th 2017 @ 1:33pm | ! Report


      I played in the Bondi 10’s a couple of times for the Sydney Schooners, it was fantastic culminating in a ripper of a party down at the Beach Road Hotel !

      • Roar Guru

        December 25th 2017 @ 5:30am
        Train Without A Station said | December 25th 2017 @ 5:30am | ! Report

        Bondi 10s is a great weekend. I incorporate it into my pre-season every year.

    • December 21st 2017 @ 9:41am
      Mike said | December 21st 2017 @ 9:41am | ! Report

      It’s actually refreshing to see a code report on it’s actual registered playing numbers without resorting to spurious ‘participation’ figures that one code in particular trots out regularly. Whislt the figures aren’t huge I think even a small rise in the current climate should be seen as a success.

      Re the tables: I used to live in the Riverina and there were a couple of senior comps down there as well as attempts to get juniors up and running in my time. I can’t see any numbers for southern NSW supplied though. Does anyone know what’s happening down there??

      • December 21st 2017 @ 3:52pm
        concerned supporter said | December 21st 2017 @ 3:52pm | ! Report

        I am sure that the Riverina and parts of southern NSW are now with the Brumbies.
        You are spot on on the subject of “actual playing members”rather than “participation numbers”as per the gospel according to Arch Bishop Gil McLachlan presiding over his flock at the MCG.
        The ARU Board are bad, but probably less hypocritical than the AFL people,,,,although the ARU is miles & miles behind in Marketing & Promotion, in fact miles behind all Australian sporting organizations in this regard.

        • December 21st 2017 @ 9:11pm
          Bakkies said | December 21st 2017 @ 9:11pm | ! Report

          ‘I am sure that the Riverina and parts of southern NSW are now with the Brumbies.’

          Correct. Southern Inland and far south coast. Monaro up to Goulburn and across to Yass have been part of the ACTRU for a long long time.

      • Roar Guru

        December 21st 2017 @ 7:40pm
        The_Wookie said | December 21st 2017 @ 7:40pm | ! Report

        And if you read beyond the headline figures, you’d note that the AFl has consistent;u published registered club playing numbers for at least 20 years.

      • Roar Guru

        December 25th 2017 @ 5:34am
        Train Without A Station said | December 25th 2017 @ 5:34am | ! Report

        Codes report on participation to maximise sponsorship and grants. It’s not some devious plot to hoodwink fans.

        Why would a business look to maximise their sponsorship and government grants by presenting numbers in the Best way possible?

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