NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 10: Johnathan Thurston and Greg Inglis of Indigenous All Stars look on before the game during the NRL All Stars match between the 2017 Harvey Norman All Stars and the NRL World All Stars at McDonald Jones Stadium on February 10, 2017 in Newcastle, Australia. (Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)

The NRL has come out this week and announced that they will be re-formatting the All Stars game, which will be the season opener for 2019. Once again I can’t help thinking that they are off the mark with this game as the showcase to launch the rugby league season.

I love the fact there is some footy on earlier in the year but I fail to see how this match provides anything of long term value to the game of rugby league. There is all this talk about how we should be growing the game and quite frankly it astonishes me that the powers-that-be think that this is the way to go.

What is the value of the All Stars game?

The All Stars game did not make an appearance in 2018 and I for one did not miss it. This is not a game that is of any significance and the re-hashing of it just shows that it is not a winning strategy. It was introduced to try and highlight Indigenous players in the comp and whilst I am not trying to diminish the great contribution that indigenous players make there is a whole indigenous round which we should capitalise on and do better. What I am saying is there has to be a better way to launch the rugby league season.

This one off game does not allow players to develop, they do not form combinations with other “rep“ players, it puts star play makers in jeopardy before the start of the regular season and it lets be frank here it not a ratings winner.

I’m curious to understand how this game fits into the strategic vision of the NRL of growing the game. How does this grow the game? How does this make people more interested in watching rugby league? How does this make junior players want to play rugby league? I’m not privy to the conversations that happen at rugby lLeague headquarters but this is meant to be a showcase game and I just don’t think it reaches that status.

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What about recognising the Indigenous Community?

I understand the value that this game has to the indigenous community, but as previously stated there is an indigenous round every year in the regular comp. If you want to be serious about honouring the Indigenous players of this game do it in that round, where it has context and proper recognition. Do not have a mediocre game and try and dress it up as the best that the Indigenous community have. Do the players, fans and the game justice.

How should we start the season?

Simply put, highlight the international game. The game has to look beyond Australia and New Zealand, which is the focus of the re-worked All Stars match. You currently are not strengthening the game, and you are isolating the growth area of the game.

The Rugby League World Cup showcased that the international game is still very poor but it also highlighted that there is a lot of emerging talent in the Pacific Nations, where the game of rugby league is loved and valued. The Pacific Test Match between Tonga and Samoa this year was one of the highlights of season 2018 in my opinion. There is nothing during the regular season that showcases the players of the Pacific Nations and this is where the game is growing and the most passionate followers are from.

Allow the teams of Tonga, Samoa etc. to really grow and to be force to reckon with in years to come. I understand we cannot host a World Cup every year but you can have regular international games.

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Has the NRL considered a Davis Cup style approach? Country rep games at the beginning of the season, another round during the state of origin series and one final match at the end of the year. The teams that compete each year are calculated by the rankings of the World Cup. You are constantly growing and strengthening the international game if you put some value into it.

Are you asking too much of the elite players?

The fact remains that the elite players from the Pacific Nations do not compete in as many games in the season as other rep players. If anything you are actually spreading the load around as State of Origin players are not considered for these games, however there are plenty of State of Origin Players that are considered for both these teams.

Is there enough quality players for a good enough game?

Yes, and with something to strive for on a regular basis you will get better quality as it grows. Once again my greatest concern with the All Stars game is that you are bringing players together that will not have the need to play together at any other time, therefore there is no need to really put effort into player combinations. If a player is wanting to represent their nation on a regular basis they will try and combine with other players in that team, making the team and games better in the long run.

 

The amount of marketing and development spent on the All Stars game is something that should be put towards a longer term approach to growing the game.

12 COMMENTS

  1. I believe that this game is not neccesary, players already play too many matches in a season, just limit games that count towards the premiership, plus rep games, get rid of trials also I reckon, although this is normally a club decision, nothing worse than than a star player getting injured in a nothing game.

  2. If we can get Clubs and the players who respect the concept, then maybe it’ll be good. Also we just don’t need it at the start of the year. Try an approach the NFL take to their pro bowl, which is played a week before the super bowl. So have the all star game a week before the grand final, that way it’s not played at the start of the year and during the NRL season where ratings will be at its peak, especially during finals footy and before the big dance. But in my opinion, the all star game of the NRL will always belong to Origin, it’s the pinnacle of our game and will always be. Unless we grow the international game which we’ve failed to do since the World Cup, although I’ll admit they have tried.

  3. Good call WTN – play it at a time when the pressure of an upcoming season is off and pick from players that are not in the GF – perhaps pick a few players from the State league comps as well. Maybe even an opener to the GF? I think there is just too much pressure on the top tier players (probably about 20 of them) to perform consistently at club and rep level – then get hammered by media when they fall short.

  4. I do not want to be labeled as a racist because I’m not but when the Aboriganal stars are picked for Australia. Has any of them sang the national anthem? Take a good look next time before kick off, you will see what I am saying here. I have observed this for many years and I know a lot of tough people think it is a little feminine to sing but everybody should have a crack at the anthem. They don’t recognize our national flag or anthem.

        • Such a surprise you should answer a question with nothing but an unrelated insult – entirely out of character for you!

          I’ll ask the question again, what does now this second post of yours have to do with footy given your criticism of me?

          How I wish you didn’t identify as a Dragon. Undeniably & painfully embarrassing for the rest of us…

    • You couldn’t Be more wrong. The first YouTube video I looked at Thurston was singing. You are just a brain dead toothless souffs supporter

  5. we don’t even “need” the NRL? its more what the fans and players want, not need! we don’t need it but the Indigenous All-stars v the Maori All-stars would be awesome to see. Much Like Origin, these games could be some of the best games we as fans get to see. Tonga and Ozzie would be another great game! but the NRL wont make it happen, i think if we want official rankings then Tonga v Aussie is a “need” game, and a “want” game for the tongans and for alot of RL followers

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