The NRL is falling behind the AFL

Thomas Costigan Roar Rookie

By Thomas Costigan, Thomas Costigan is a Roar Rookie

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232 Have your say

    For so many years, I have argued with mates that rugby league is neck-and-neck with AFL. They make the argument about crowd sizes, then I make the point about TV ratings.

    For so many years, I have been reluctant to say that AFL is years ahead of the NRL.

    Until now.

    Last week I was assured the AFL are 15 years ahead, and they don’t seem to be slowing down.

    Last week, the AFL announced that Etihad Stadium and its surrounding precinct will undergo a $225 million revamp, and that a deal has been struck with the Victoria Government to allow for the game to grow exponentially.

    There was $241.6 million in upgrades to facilities at suburban venues, including $20 million to redevelop Ikon Park as the home of women’s football.

    It also included a $15 million Female Friendly Facilities Fund, $13 million for stage two of the Moorabbin Oval redevelopment and $10 million to improve playing conditions at Casey Fields and Whitten Oval for AFLW.

    “These sorts of deals means we have got more money going into the clubs,” AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said.

    “And when you do that we can work hard to make the game affordable.”

    Wow. This is a landmark deal which shows just how much can be done when people are able to put their egos aside and do something for the better of the game.

    Meanwhile, in 2017, it took the NRL over a year to reach an agreement with the RLPA on the collective bargaining agreement, all the while the NRL couldn’t get a loan of $30 million to pay back the clubs.

    And who could forget former chairman of the Australian Rugby league Commission John Grant promising to fund each club up to 130 per cent of their total payments from 2018 onwards, only to backflip on it?

    Now, Peter Beattie – the new chairman – can’t even differentiate between Newcastle and a Barcelona jersey.

    I know the NRL has just established a women’s competition, but what about other areas of the game? Every team needs to send at least one home game to country towns and keep the game spreading. This will result in a sell-out crowd every time, breeding huge excitement.

    From this, introduce more grassroots funding. How are we meant to find the next Johnathan Thurston or Cameron Smith if we don’t endorse them at the fundamental level? We need to grow the game from the bottom up, before kids start going to rugby union, AFL and football.

    I plea to the NRL and the clubs bosses to stop fighting and get over your differences, otherwise the race with us and the AFL is over.

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    The Crowd Says (232)

    • April 20th 2018 @ 5:24am
      farqueue said | April 20th 2018 @ 5:24am | ! Report

      Thanks for the article captain obvious. I might write an article next week and state that football is a far bigger world game than AFL..
      The AFL has had bigger TV rights than the Nrl for the last 15 years at least.
      There was a game played in Gladstone….one played in Toowoomba…now Tamworth this weekend. Mudgee is an upcoming venue. Double header in Perth. How many regional AFL games have we had.
      While beattie is a drop kick I don’t blame him for confusing a jersey….teams have so many away jerseys these days I couldn’t pick them all in a few seconds…and I watch every game every week and have done for years.
      Didn’t the Nrl just announce a touch footy comp this week.
      Rugby league is no 1 in the biggest and third biggest states. AFL has 2,4,5, and 6.
      Yeah AFL is winning but rugby league is a great game.
      We can only dream of the great cooperation that all the AFL clubs have for the betterment of their game…it’s a massive love fest between Collingwood.. Carlton.. Hawthorn etc….they putting aside differences to help AFL.
      I hope the tooth fairy and Santa still visit me this year.

      • Roar Guru

        April 20th 2018 @ 9:56am
        BigJ said | April 20th 2018 @ 9:56am | ! Report

        I would agree the nrl has never been on par or even ahead of the Afl. Possibly the 95/96 seasons when we had 22 teams in the competition with the Reds in Perth but once Super League Rock around it stuffed everything up and the game hasn’t recovered since

        • April 20th 2018 @ 10:48am
          Kangajets said | April 20th 2018 @ 10:48am | ! Report

          The VFL was cactus and going broke in the 80 s. before they introduced the West Coast Eagles and Adelaide crows teams .

          • April 20th 2018 @ 1:20pm
            Perry Bridge said | April 20th 2018 @ 1:20pm | ! Report


            That’s a popular simplification.

            The VFL was struggling due to Govt over regulation – the VFL was banned from playing on Sunday (however the VFA was able to). The state Govt blocked the move of the VFL GF to Waverley which thwarted the VFL potential revenue gold mine of VFL park memberships.

            But the Swans went to Sydney – and played every 2nd week on TV into Melbourne on a Sunday afternoon. The media landscape was changing – ch.7 had paid 3.5 mill in ’86 but only offered 2.7 mill for the ’87 season. Broadcom came along – won the rights, onsold to the ABC for 1.5 mill and channel 7 saw how much their ratings fell – – this at the same time as the Eagles and Brisbane Bears licences were being confirmed – they entered the comp the next year (’87 their first season).

            Ch.7 came back with a $30 mill 5 year offer (88-92) and from then on the VFL-AFL would be building their revenue base. And during this phase (’88-’92) the AFL locked into the MCG and the new Great Southern Stand was built – including the ‘home’ bays of the VFL/AFL members. The next broadcast deal $100 mill for 93-98.

            The tricky period of ’86 going into ’87 was a bunch of factors at play. It’s simplistic to put it down to the interstate sides.

            Note too – the Crows were 1991. And a SANFL construct. It was far less about licence fees then.

    • April 20th 2018 @ 5:34am
      Simon Murray said | April 20th 2018 @ 5:34am | ! Report

      Yeh I agree the AFL is way ahead. A good analogy is how China and Russia plan versus how America plans. Trump (the nrl in this case) is thinking about today, is fairly reactionary and incapable of planning beyond the present. Xi and Putin (the AFL) are planning decades in advance. Pretty hard to win a chess match when you are thinking 1 move in advance the opponent 20.

      • April 20th 2018 @ 10:34am
        Perry Bridge said | April 20th 2018 @ 10:34am | ! Report

        #Simon Murray

        I wasn’t going to comment on this thread however……

        Isn’t that in no small part because the ‘NRL’ is the league. The AFL is both the league and the peak body of the code in Australia and internationally.

        Some of what people attribute to the AFL needs to be compared with the ARL, or with the NRL or with the RLIF.

        However – think back 50 years to when the VFL folk in Melbourne were dreaming of and managed to buy land and build VFL Park, the SANFL folk in Adelaide dreamed of, bought land and built ‘Football Park’ and meanwhile in the NSWRL they were just happy to blow money on the pokies and have cheap beer.

        (apologies if an over simplification).

        • April 20th 2018 @ 10:57am
          Kangajets said | April 20th 2018 @ 10:57am | ! Report

          The VFL went broke and had to be bailed out by the Victoria and Mrlbourne cricket club grants in the 1980s .

          VFL Park was terrible and hard to get too , total waste of money

          Although Kerry packer cricket used the v f l park

          The Nrl was purchased by Rupert Murdoch , although many wish he hadn’t , so the need for poker machine money wasn’t needed

          • April 20th 2018 @ 12:00pm
            Aligee said | April 20th 2018 @ 12:00pm | ! Report

            VFL park actually led to the situation we have today with the AFL owning a billion $ asset.

            The VFL built Waverley because they were getting the rough end of the pineapple from the MCC as far as returns went, they took away big games from the MCC and sent them to Waverley, the VFL wanted to control its own destiny and of course $$.

            It worked, it was sort of like China and US sanctions on North Korea, effectively they have starved them of food, in the VFL case it was $$.

          • April 20th 2018 @ 1:38pm
            Perry Bridge said | April 20th 2018 @ 1:38pm | ! Report

            #Kangajets –

            the Murdoch purchase of the NRL wasn’t a factor 50 years ago – I’m talking about when the VFL in particular built their own destiny.

            VFL Park – yep, was cold, grey, drab, wet, hard to get to unless coming from Gippsland or the Peninsula. It was built around the same time as Monash Uni out at Clayton – which was nicknamed ‘the farm’. The suburban sprawl was coming though – – but the promised public transport link never did. I quite liked VFL Park – no issue getting a seat….granted wooden benches – from our dorms at Monash Uni we could decide at 1pm to go to the footy and be there via bus in 20 minutes. It did the preseason great with the sun setting behind the Sir Kenneth Luke stand.

            VFL Park certainly provided leverage – and even come the late 1980s when the negotiations around the MCC/AFL and the construction of the Great Southern Stand – it was clear the value that the MCC recognised in locking in footy and big finals in to the MCG.

            It also allowed the AFL to drive a harder bargain re Docklands stadium – the only way to get the AFL in would be to ensure a process would provide the AFL with a fully owned stadium/land at the end of it – something they would have to foresake at the outset. Thankfully instead of the full 25 year lease term – the buy out came early.

      • May 2nd 2018 @ 2:31am
        John Templeton said | May 2nd 2018 @ 2:31am | ! Report

        Trump is thinking longterm. He knows economics are what matter and that the US is being ripped off in trade by China and other countries.

    • April 20th 2018 @ 5:35am
      Terry Wogan said | April 20th 2018 @ 5:35am | ! Report

      Life was so much better before the internet and national media. None of this AFL v NRL comparison ever happened. Melbourne does sport bigger than Sydney. Startling news. Whoopytidoo.

      • April 20th 2018 @ 10:37am
        Perry Bridge said | April 20th 2018 @ 10:37am | ! Report

        It’s been going on since the 1880s in NSW and QLD (the code wars via the letters sections of the news papers), and between WWI and WWII there was such concern on the topic that there were serious suggestions made to morph RL and Aust Footy together.

        The internet and national media effectively condense the debate into the one level rather than city based paper by paper.

    • April 20th 2018 @ 6:06am
      Mick the clown said | April 20th 2018 @ 6:06am | ! Report

      The NRL is controlled by the clubs. When Grant stood up to them he was forced to back down and then he got rolled anyway

      The clubs received a collective $40million in 2017 to contribute to head office expenses. These expenses were previously met by the clubs (predominantly through pokie revenue)

      After the World Cup last year, the fans were calling for png or pacific island teams to enter the competition but
      1. There is no money to fund them (because $50m has been given to existing clubs instead of investing in the game
      2. It means more competition for the existing clubs. (Why would they agree to that)

      The NRL is controlled by the clubs and the independent commmission is not interested in the health of league as a whole.

      The afl has it right

    • April 20th 2018 @ 6:35am
      Busty McCracken said | April 20th 2018 @ 6:35am | ! Report

      ^ Good anology. Is funny how much Greek tragedies have warned about hubris , yet here’s America proudly beating their chest while other nations slowly go about their business.

      And yeah, unfortunately we are so far behind the 8 ball when it comes to just about everything compared to AFL

    • April 20th 2018 @ 6:36am
      AR said | April 20th 2018 @ 6:36am | ! Report

      The AFL has been miles in front of the NRL for about 30 years now. Financially, it dwarfs everything around it.

      Aggregate TV ratings have always been about par when you include Origin (which are notably included into the broadcast deal).

      For its part, one of the best things the AFL did was ditch Origin.

      Probably the biggest advantage the AFL has is it’s unity. The independent Commission, set up in 1985 when the game was broke, governs the grassroots game nationally as well as the professional competiton. Rugby league continues to bitch and fight and whinge amongst itself.

      • April 20th 2018 @ 9:36am
        Kangajets said | April 20th 2018 @ 9:36am | ! Report

        The biggest advantage is their is no knock on rule in afl, so poor skills don’t get punished as much as league

        Both games are watchable and have their merits and toughness.
        Afl players are fitter aerobically and faster and have much better hand eye foot eye skills
        League players are stronger and deal with far more contact and play with more structure

        • April 20th 2018 @ 1:29pm
          David said | April 20th 2018 @ 1:29pm | ! Report

          “Afl players are fitter aerobically and faster and have much better hand eye foot eye skills”

          I can concede that AFL players are aerobically fitter and the majority of AFL players would have better foot eye co-ordination skills, because that’s fairly obvious.However, I’d be interested in any scientific evidence which supports AFL players being faster and having better hand eye co-ordination than NRL players.

          If you’re unable to provide scientific evidence, I’d be interested in any evidence, because your claims are rubbish.

          • April 20th 2018 @ 1:41pm
            bbt said | April 20th 2018 @ 1:41pm | ! Report

            I took some friends and family (Melbourne) to an introductory Storm game.

            The first observation they made, when the teams ran out to warm up, was NRL players are built like sprinters, good for short bursts whereas AFL players are built for distance running.

            Thus faster is an interesting claim. Is a 10Km runner faster than a 100m one?

          • April 20th 2018 @ 3:19pm
            Kangajets said | April 20th 2018 @ 3:19pm | ! Report


            My only evidence re the fitness requirement is playing both sports at a decent level as well as doing triathlons ..
            I never said rugby league players were not fit , my claims are based on being a midfielder in afl and a hooker or second rower utility forward in league , so basically involved a lot of gut running

            You have taken far too much offence at what I said about fitness of both sports

            Chill mate

            • April 20th 2018 @ 4:20pm
              David said | April 20th 2018 @ 4:20pm | ! Report

              I didn’t say anything about fitness, I questioned your comment about AFL players being faster and having better hand eye co-ordination.

              I am very chilled champ, I’d just like you to justify your comment, especially around hand eye co-ordination. I see these kind of comments a lot and I don’t understand the rationale for them.

              • April 20th 2018 @ 7:15pm
                Kangajets said | April 20th 2018 @ 7:15pm | ! Report


                No worries
                I misread your comment

                From my evidence of about 500 games , I would say afl footy has better hand eye , call it rubbish.. I can’t give a hoot

                If you asked me, I probably enjoyed playing league more , the toughness of league was my favourite aspect , playing in the forwards requires a certain lack of self preservation that I love .

                I’m not getting goaded into some kind of code issue , leave that for Perry and aligee .

              • April 21st 2018 @ 4:03am
                Simon Murray said | April 21st 2018 @ 4:03am | ! Report

                Im with David here. Test claims. If you are going to throw about statements like that you need evidence for your claim. Otherwise we are no better than Israel Folau.

              • April 21st 2018 @ 8:49am
                Kangajets said | April 21st 2018 @ 8:49am | ! Report


                its an opinion site .

                Go play a few hundred games and get your own evidence ..

            • April 23rd 2018 @ 10:13am
              David said | April 23rd 2018 @ 10:13am | ! Report

              I don’t know about you, but I like my opinions to have some factual basis. But that’s just me I guess.

              You’re free to give your opinion, but it doesn’t mean you won’t be challenged, regardless of whether you’ve played park football or not.

              You can try and convince yourself and everyone else here that you’re an objective everyman of sport, but you’re clearly an AFL fan first and foremost. You just happen to sprinkle some sugar on rugby league when you’re doing it.

        • April 20th 2018 @ 5:12pm
          AR said | April 20th 2018 @ 5:12pm | ! Report

          It’s fun to read comments from Kangajets occasionally.

          Gems like:
          – VFL Park was a waste of money (yes, that silly investment that lead to the AFL owning the billion dollar Docklands Stadium)
          – the biggest advantage the AFL organisation has is the no knock-on rule and lack of skills (yes, funky rules and player skills are a commercial advantage).

          Rugby league is a fine game. Its simpler than its parent rugby and has a true American-sports-fan appeal.

          It’s just unfortunate that the NRL been run so poorly and without any vision so as to become a tv-first second rate comp.

          Support in Sydney has always been mainstream without being strong, but I’m sure it will continue to have a presence for 50+ years.

          • April 20th 2018 @ 7:20pm
            Kangajets said | April 20th 2018 @ 7:20pm | ! Report

            A R

            Happy to provide fun for you

            It’s good that someone can give an aspect of Aussie rules. Rugby league and soccer that is not blindly one sided in love with every thing about each sport

            They all have their good and bad aspects. There is so much spin from each sport ,, someone needs to cut through the rubbish. 👍🏼

      • April 20th 2018 @ 9:57am
        Steve said | April 20th 2018 @ 9:57am | ! Report

        Yeah. let’s all forget a little thing called “Super League” that knocked League back to the stone age, and which it is still recovering from, all thanks to corporate greed.
        The game reached it’s zenith during the Winfield Cup era under Arthurson and Quayle with committees made up of ex players and those with a love of the game. It has since been taken over by business and corporate experts that have given us what we have now. Which doesn’t include sitting down watching 3 grades of football.

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