"Interesting comments but I would have to disagree. All the commentaries I
have heard/read/seen agree that RL in NZ in 1996 has been backpeddling fast.
First, the ARL/Superleague battle prevented early Warriors games and showed
clear rifts between players (pro SL)/NZRL (pro SL)/Warriors Board (Pro ARL).
The arguments and bitter images (eg: Bailey tearing up NZRL letters and
throwing in a dust bin) were prolonged and unedifying and turned off many
new found fans."
That's certainly true to some extent. However I get the impression that that unpleasant
period is pretty much behind us. I also wonder whether many if those 'new-found league
fans' are merely part of an ever present group of transient sports followers who have no
real loyalty for any particular code, but are quick to be involved with whatever is
'hot' at the time. The majority of true league fans would, I suggest, require more than
the missing of a couple of early season games and the exchanging of hollow rhetoric to
"Secondly, the Warriors failed to perform..showing a lack of consistency and
true top eight ability.Their crowds fell by a third, the hype died down,
they are looking at a huge loss for the season..."
Yes, certainly a frustrating lack of consistency - though by no means the only quality
side to have had that problem this season. This should not be confused with any absence
of top eight ability. The potential is overwhelming. Despite their inconsistency the
Warriors only narrowly missed out this season. Would you have said the same thing about
Brisbane and Canberra in their second year of competition? What's more, I don't believe
that NZRL's involvement with Superleague has played any significant role in this.
The hype is less than season '95, but you would expect that to some extent. It may be a
result of Superleague uncertainty in that marketing and TVNZ were forced to make a
standing start at the beginning of the season, rather than hitting the season at pace -
in stark contrast to the build-up to the Warrior's first season.
As to the "huge loss", my understanding is that it will only eventuate if Superleague
doesn't get off the ground, which remains to be seen...
"Thirdly, we have yet to see any international RL. The upcoming Papua New
Guinea is scarcely a crowd puller in a land used to the Wallabies and the
Springboks, and the GB side in the past have struggled to attract much
interest, usually content to base themselves in Auckland and fly to venues
on a day by day basis...scarcely the tactic to gain credibility from NZ's
Spoken like a true rugby fan. If I may be equally parochial, neither the Wallabies nor
the Springboks are of much interest to me. The Kumuls are a historical NZ Rugby League
rival, and have beaten many good NZ sides when played at home. I think you'll find the
GB side will attract more interest this time round with the increased profile of UK
Rugby League in NZ (through SKY for example), and the involvement of Betts and Platt
with the Warriors. The GB side does not have a credibility problem with the NZ public.
How could they with that much talent? The fact that Brisbane or Manly etc etc base
themselves in Australia and fly to Auckland the day before a game doesn't seem to affect
"Fourthly, with RU professionalism, the drain of top class RU players to RL
in NZ has well and truly stopped..in fact the reverse is starting to happen
with Dave Drummond and Earl Va'aa in Wgtn in particular going to RU."
The balance was bound to be redressed to some extent now that Union is finally starting
to get its act together. The pro-Union media has been quick to shout fire on this issue,
but the fact is that the top League clubs will still provide better and more
professional facilities, coaching, and non-league opportunities for some time to come.
You might also be interested to know that the Otago Rugby Union tried all out to
convince Timu and Ellis to return temporarily now that their league season is over.
Neither of them were prevented from doing so by their respective league club, yet
Secondly, there has been growth at the other end of the spectrum. League has experienced
phenomenal growth at the younger age group levels this season. Many secondary school
students are playing League for their school when before they could not have (even had
they wanted to) and would have instead played Union. This will impact on both codes in
around 5 years time when those kids become the next generation of players entering the
top-level. This is due in no small part to the Superleague funds that the NZRL had at
its disposal this year, allowing it to go beyond the bare necessity funding of the game
at higher levels.
"Fifthly, the domestic RL competition continues to flounder. Pitiful
attendances, minimal interest, lack of 'name players'..all contribute to a
Again the pro-Union media have done their part here, though the Footy Show contiues to
rate well. Attendances continue to improve. The Lion Red Cup will always struggle to be
more than a source of players for the overseas clubs. However, even in that respect it
is valuable. Players who are discovered via the Lion Red Cup get all the benefits of the
massive resources the overseas clubs have to offer and thus the Kiwis get stronger with
every passing season. The Grand Final today was not "...a big yawn.", and I think
"flounder" is a gross exaggeration. There is some very real talent on display.
"Sixthly, RU changed its rules to increase running, big hits, clean
possession, fewer scrums...
Seventhly, it worked!! RU has never had a better season. Starting off with
the Super 12 the NZ public was enthralled by the best 12 provincial teams in
the world playing spectacular, skilled, fast , open rugby. Attendances were
huge around the country and in Aus and in SA. Next the mighty All Blacks won
9 out of 10 internationals in engrossing and incredibly intense games. They
were feted in a huge ticker tape parade down the main street of NZ's biggest
city on their return from SA..true national heroes! And now we are seeing
the Ranfurly shield sparking intense emotional and parochial pride as it
travels from Auckland to taranaki to Waikato to who knows where next?
and finally of course the NPC is in full swing and interest, once again, is
Have you ever noticed how all the changes that the fans believe make Rugby a better game
have one thing in common? They all make Rugby more like League! League at its best, in
my opinion, will always be a more exciting spectator sport. Rugby, of course, is the
traditional main stay of New Zealand sport, however there are plenty of League fans
around the country and increasingly pockets of support where Rugby comes very much
second. So while this season is shaping up to be a good one for Rugby fans, to true blue
League fans....it's only Rugby.
"Eighthly, to cap it all off, the NZ Barbarains will travel to UK at the end
of the year (rumoured to include John Kirwan and Mark Ellis) to rout
They can have Kirwan (he should have stayed in retirement), and I doubt Ellis will be
"RL in NZ in 1996 has lost a lot of ground."
SOME ground, but when the Superleague appeal comes through much stability will be
restored and Rugby League will be consolidated in Australia and the UK, continue to grow
in support in NZ, and continue to develop in new countries as it has been over recent