These are interesting days for British Rugby League. After the booming success of the 2013 World Cup, the game has been plunged back into the darkness somewhat, with attendances lagging, video referee madness and a controversial league re-structure on the horizon.
Clearly, the game is desperate to get the fans back on side more than ever before. Super League fans in particular will be perplexed with the latest goings on at the RFL, and are in need of a real shot in the arm. When times get tough like these, the first thought is often to look to the NRL for comfort.
State of Origin has once again proven to be a real tonic from the refereeing controversy and the 2 12s, 3 8s madness. However, instead of simply admiring the Australians for the way they approach the game, Super League should now look to incorporate some of their successes into the British game. There’s a lot to be said for copying someone’s tricks and techniques, but if they are successful, then there is no reason why they can’t be implemented successfully elsewhere.
One idea the NRL have long been keen on is the concept of the Heritage Round. For one set of fixtures each year, NRL clubs pay homage to their previous incarnations, or even just the history of their club. Even Melbourne Storm have enough of a history now to be working with the Heritage Round – so why don’t Super League clubs try it?
When you put the idea into pure black and white, it seems to be a win-win situation for all parties involved. First and foremost, the clubs. Something as unique as a Heritage Round (given how it is only used once per year) is a great opportunity for clubs to be promoting the game all on the same level. With a variety of wealth amongst Super League clubs more than ever before, it is rare to see such initiatives where all 14 (or 12, if it is done next year) clubs work on the same level to deliver an idea.
And the clubs wouldn’t just benefit from the good PR, either. One of the big ideologies behind a Heritage Round is that clubs wear past shirts to pay tribute to the men who have played before them. There must be thousands of Super League fans who are discontent with modern shirt designs, and would simply love to buy a historic shirt from the past. If the clubs all came together and delivered the concept, there is real money to be made from the idea, too.
Perhaps above all else, it would give Super League fans a chance to celebrate the tradition and history of our fantastic game. The history of our sport is something that we should be shouting from the rooftops about, as we have a more colourful history than perhaps any other mainstream sport in the country. Working to produce a Heritage Round is a concept that could easily be incorporated into a season – and the rewards would be plentiful.