As a born and bred southerner, who "discovered" Rugby League in the late 80's/early 90's, I have developed a love for The Greatest Game. So much so that I have no concept how people prefer football, union etc.
So, if money was no problem, how would you grow our sport to become the game it deserves to be?
Personally I'd market the International game as that's how I got into RL. The Wembley double header worked if only for the amount of southern accents there. Plenty of England union shirts too. They would probably attend again (based on the small cross section I talk to) but no Internationals down south this year. Bring on the Original Rugby World Cup!
What a great OP..
Agree that Internationals are of utmost priority to enable growth and raise profile - but have always had a theory on what we need to do..
My opinion is based on raising a rugby mad child who has played from aged 3.5 to now (16) and switched codes at 14. Here are my observations;
Its far easier to access football at 4 years old than RL - therefore its the determination of parents rather than help from within the grass roots admin that ensures a young player flow.
The BARLA / RFL split remains a huge detriment to the growth and unification of the game
I experienced huge disparity (a) within the RL club son played for and ( b ) the admin of the leagues. Its not a pleasant experience!
I experienced a very professional, unified approach to the running of the amateur RU club he now plays for - this came as a shock!
Main thrust of my point is (and what I would do) is focus on the encouragement and growth of children into the game on a national level - I think of children as seeds that will feed into International RL.
I would like to see more involvement, support and structure provided by the RFL further down the pyramid to raise the administration quality to match that in the other code.
The more people play the game - the more competition there is and the more chances we have of capturing this talent and bringing it through.
I believe if we can get to this stage - we should be making England selection a headache and not as now - obvious choices in each postion.
If the coach has 3/4 players vying for each position of the 17 - then we will be somewhere near a break through.
I fully appreciate that things are improving and there are some very exciting prospects spread across the current team set - but there remains a shortage of (enough) quality to really challenge to roos..
And so the loop continues back to number of teams in SL etc..
I firmly believe that the kids and the volume of kids must grow and stay in the game long term - and it needs to be very easy, enjoyable and nurtured.
If we can get a working model here and expand that into Europe, Ireland and more - all the better.
Having said all that - and at risk of being shot down for thinking everything Australian is great - they do already have a working, copyable (and improvable) model that seems to be achieving all I have set out above!