Australia’s rookie star Len Ikitau has revealed his first thought when Dave Rennie messaged him last year to invite him into the Wallabies camp.
The season is done and dusted. Time for some lightweight pondering. Who will be the stars in next year’s Channel Nine and Stan promos? It won’t just be about promoting rugby, but also their new Stan Sports offering.
Off the top of my head, who are the stars? Charlotte Caslick, Ellia Green and Taniela Tupou, to name a few.
Let’s be honest: there are currently no bona fide rugby stars in Australia. Most people couldn’t name one or two Wallabies, let alone provincial players. At best, maybe a womens 7s player.
In a recent Instagram list of the top Australian sports influencers, the only rugby players in the top 250 were Quade Cooper (third), Charlotte Caslick, Ellia Green, Emma Tonegato and Shannon Parry. It really says something. No point going into the comparisons of followers between NRL, AFL and rugby, but it is good to see Nine have their ‘Rugby on Nine’ Twitter account up.
Free-to-air TV and the promotion by Channel Nine will bring recognition in due course.
Louise Ransome of ABC Sport and The Aussie Rugby Show was speaking with 7s player Ellia Green and asked how she found the NRLW. One of the biggest differences was the recognition Green received in public and her social media accounts went wild.
So here is a star world rugby player and gold medal-winning Olympian who was in the 7s program for over six years and she gets more recognition from a six-week stint in the NRLW.
Obviously it would be logical for Nine to leverage off the women, especially as a number of them were in the NRLW and will probably be in the Super W squads. Apart from the 7s women who are stars, Grace Hamilton, Sera Naiqama, and Emily Chancellor are some who come to mind.
On the coaching front, Dan McKellar is the man. He comes across very well, plus he is a smart-looking rooster. You have Brad Thorn who may have the advantage of the cross-code recognition, but he’s not particularly dynamic. Unfortunately, two real country characters are heading overseas: Ned Hanigan and Lachy McCaffrey.
Matt Toomua and James O’Connor? Sure, they fit the elder statesmen category, but they will not cut it as the stars Nine will be looking for.
As for the next generation, Noah Lolesio and Will Harrison get a tick: they are confident, articulate, and smart rugby players. Up at the Reds, Taniela Tupou has star quality, has personality and likes a chat.
Then you have the new brigade in Tate McDermott, Harry Wilson, and captain Liam Wright with that beard. In the promos, I could see Brandon Paenga-Amosa belting out the anthem, the running of Jordan Petaia and Hunter Paisami hits.
With the Tahs, they have characters such as Harry Johnson-Holmes and Lachlan Swinton who could provide value – then you have a bunch of clean skins Jake Gordon Angus Bell, Jack Dempsey, and Jack Maddock: quality players, professional and articulate. They might not be big stars but will provide some promo highlights. If he gets back into the team, Mark Nawaqanitawase has a bit of something.
As for the Force, maybe the influx of Argentinians can be leveraged off. Otherwise, Ian Prior is very professional, and obviously Irishman Rob Kearney is there but I have no idea what he is like.
Down at the Brumbies they have some great personalities like Allan Alaalatoa and Scott Sio. I would add in Pete Samu with his tucked-in shirt, as well as Tom Wright and I hear Andrew Muirhead is a bit of a character.
From the Rebels, Dale Haylett-Petty and Reece Hodge are quality interviews. For character, maybe Pone Fa’amausili. I’m sure the promos will include a flying Marika Koroibete and a bulldozing Isi Naisarani.
I can’t say there are too many attention-grabbing stars or next big things yet, so it will be interesting to see who gets the focus.