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Lessons SoO has for the international game


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https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/the-rugby-league-digest/id1207627414?i=1000499071281
 

I have long sang the praise of the gentlemen that run this podcast. A more intelligent yet still very amusing account of RL cannot be found anywhere else.

Here they hand the audience over to the Tom Brock Lecture, with first speaker Joe Gorman discussing what SoO means for a Queenslander and giving insight into what he thinks the international game in the Pacific can learn from SoO.

Joe was recently lauded on this forum for his award winning book “Heartland: How Rugby League Explains Queensland”.

If you don’t enjoy it, then you probably do not belong on this forum.

Edited by Sports Prophet
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So what are the lessons?  The reason Origin works is because its competitive, not because its Origin. You can scream Quenslanderrrrr all you want, but if Queensland just got thumped every year it wouldn't be an event at all - just like it wasn't before Origin existed.

If international RL was more competitive more often would anyone even ask what the lessons were?

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The biggest lesson is to play every year and build up a rivalry. State of Origin started with crowds of about 20k in 1980. It took several years to build up to a 30k average in 1985 and then several more years to hit a 40k average in 1994, with some years seeing a large decline such as the 28k average in 1997. Now a 60k+ is the norm, but it took a long time for the annual 3 match series to build up to that.

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It's three top level competitive games on the calendar every year for the same time of year. You know it will happen in 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024.....

The ad hoc nature of international RL holds it back. I dare say if we played three tests against Australia in November every year without fail alternating between here and there it would grow to be massive. 

Consistency is liked by the paying public, broadcasters and sponsors alike.

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3 hours ago, BrisbaneRhino said:

The reason Origin works is because its competitive, not because its Origin. You can scream Quenslanderrrrr all you want,

This is just wrong though, isn't it?

Obviously every sport requires to lesser or greater degree that the games are competitive but what makes Origin work on top of that, and so much of a bigger crowd puller than the NRL or other events, is that it matters to people. It is an authentic, emotional, rivalry.

That's a lesson you also have to take from it - that as we seek to develop our sport you must always seek to balance the new and exciting, which over a potentially long time will develop its own authenticity, with what actually matters to people now.

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On 25/11/2020 at 21:45, Sports Prophet said:

Anybody given this a good listen to yet?

Had a listen mate, felt a bit like Smudger at first, crickey an hour, so I didn`t get through the whole thing, a lot of the politics would have gone over the Pommies heads, understandable, I know when they start talking counties and boroughs I`m lost.

Couple of things struck me though, only 7 NSW based Q`landers went back up to play, for a team that hadn`t won a game in 5 years that isn`t as much as I though it would be. Probably pretty telling that it was half, five eight and fullback though, with Reddy, Beaustead, Morris and Beetson thrown in. Also shows there was some talent running around in that Q`land comp.

I suppose your point about the Pacific Islands though is about the passion for playing for your roots, I do have a small concern though regards the rise of these nations, most of the blokes who have gone back to play would have been born in Oz, and most of the Pacific Islander talent coming through would have been born here as well, this is OK for a couple of generations but at some point these kids won`t qualify to play for their ancestral nation once it goes past that third generation born in Oz. At some point we are going to need a steady stream of talent coming out of the Islands to keep these teams strong. I suppose now that League is gaining more popularity there the talent scouts will be over there. More ventures like the Fiji Silktails would certainly help though you would think. Any way thanks for putting it up, you always learn something new.

 

 

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3 hours ago, The Rocket said:

I suppose your point about the Pacific Islands though is about the passion for playing for your roots, I do have a small concern though regards the rise of these nations, most of the blokes who have gone back to play would have been born in Oz, and most of the Pacific Islander talent coming through would have been born here as well, this is OK for a couple of generations but at some point these kids won`t qualify to play for their ancestral nation once it goes past that third generation born in Oz. At some point we are going to need a steady stream of talent coming out of the Islands to keep these teams strong. I suppose now that League is gaining more popularity there the talent scouts will be over there. More ventures like the Fiji Silktails would certainly help though you would think. Any way thanks for putting it up, you always learn something new.

 

 

This is only a problem if all immigration stops, when the reality is it’s going to continue and 2nd generation players will keep representing Nations of their heritage. It might mean Tonga become a weaker side in 10 or 20 years time, but a new Nation could emerge as a real strength, such as Poland or China. There are 1m people living in the UK born in Poland, and 700,000 Chinese born people living in Australia. 

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Yeah to say that the success is due to consistently playing three games a year demonstrates a naivety of the highest accord.

@The Rocket, in my opinion it is the pacific island players of today that will inspire the local pacific island players of the future. There is a solid foundation for a rivalry to match SoO in Tonga and Samoa and potentially throw NZ in too. A Tri Series played in front of sizeable crowds in Auckland and two other cities could be both a financial success to rival SoO and evoke a rivalry just as partisan.

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24 minutes ago, Sports Prophet said:

Yeah to say that the success is due to consistently playing three games a year demonstrates a naivety of the highest accord.

@The Rocket, in my opinion it is the pacific island players of today that will inspire the local pacific island players of the future. There is a solid foundation for a rivalry to match SoO in Tonga and Samoa and potentially throw NZ in too. A Tri Series played in front of sizeable crowds in Auckland and two other cities could be both a financial success to rival SoO and evoke a rivalry just as partisan.

You could be onto something there, I think it was `Thirteenthman` man who posted that there are 180 000 ex-pat Samoans and 80 000 Tongans living in NZ, not a bad base to build off, plus good size populations in Oz. Of course SP we would still face that third generation problem where players born overseas would no longer have a grandparent from their ancestral home, making them ineligible under current IIRF rules, unless they relaxed that for an Islander Origin concept, I still think it would probably have to stand for International RL, however I would agree that the `Islander Origin` concept has definite potential of inspiring young people to take up the game in those nations. And add that to a successful national team....look out Pommies !!!

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It's NRL and media driven. Australia hit upon a great, profitable concept that is easy to market in a very insular and isolated country. Often times Origin has actually been the peak of the sport too so easy to sell, but in those years where NZ were winning international comps and now Aus are getting beaten by Tonga you would think it would be harder to sell. Wrong. As with most things in life the majority of people will believe what they are told and the NRL cant afford to have their cash cow undermined by the international game, it's just not sensible for that organization in the same way the NFL would advertise a European rep team playing an American all stars one in a theoretical world where that would be competitive.

Sadly the whole sport is being held back by a regional grudge match that has been fetishized by Australian public and media. Queensland had reserve grade players in their team this year and won in front of a crowd bigger than the world cup final at the same venue. We couldnt have a worse country leading our sport.

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On 27/11/2020 at 07:34, Colin James said:

It's three top level competitive games on the calendar every year for the same time of year. You know it will happen in 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024.....

The ad hoc nature of international RL holds it back. I dare say if we played three tests against Australia in November every year without fail alternating between here and there it would grow to be massive. 

Consistency is liked by the paying public, broadcasters and sponsors alike.

Like lots of us on here say I think the 4 nations over here every year would be preferable. Ideally with Tonga... Maybe even make it a regular 5 nations with France in too

Edited by Bedfordshire Bronco
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MJM - no it isn't wrong.  Being competitive is everything in Australian sport.  If Qld were getting beaten every year, it would have stayed as big as it was before it became Origin, and the crowds would dissipate along with media interest if it just became a one-sided procession with no end in sight.

Ten years ago swimming was the dogs whatsits. Now I doubt many people could name an elite Aussie swimmer.  Ditto the Wallabies. And yet in both sports they are still competitive - just not as competitive as they were. 

If you ask RL fans here why they don't watch internationals its most likely because they assume - maybe wrongly - that Australia will walk every game.  Even if you explain that they lost to Tonga last time out, or NZ previously.  After the WC final here the media didn't seem to care that the result was 6-0, they treated it as though it was a similar result to any of the previous thrashings of GB/England in big games. Only a loss might have made people sit up.

I've come to the conclusion that part of the problem for internationals at least is the game itself - it emphasises differences in quality more than perhaps any other sport. In football a half-decent team can play defensively and beat Brazil on a good day. In RU a team which stuffs the ball up its jumper can have a crack against pretty much anyone if they can tackle. Meanwhile in RL you can play solidly against Australia for 65 minutes and still lose by 40 points.

I don't disagree that trying to turn internationals into events rather than pure sporting contests is the way forward, but right now I'd say most RL fans I know in Brisbane have close to zero interest in internationals.

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2 hours ago, BrisbaneRhino said:

MJM - no it isn't wrong.  Being competitive is everything in Australian sport.  If Qld were getting beaten every year, it would have stayed as big as it was before it became Origin, and the crowds would dissipate along with media interest if it just became a one-sided procession with no end in sight.

 

I mean we just conducted an effective experiment where one team won State of Origin for eight consecutive years and crowds and TV ratings went up not down so there is evidently something else afoot.

The answer is to some degree both - yes a competitive competition is important to attract interest, and long-term uncompetitiveness with no apparent end will lead to stagnation. But a competitive sport that seems inauthentic or contrived can struggle without careful treatment and promotion because - well who cares?

Sport has to matter to people for people to be interested in it. Origin is important because, and it is skewed towards Queenslanders, it has become an expression of more than just winning a game of Rugby League.

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10 hours ago, M j M said:

Sport has to matter to people for people to be interested in it. Origin is important because, and it is skewed towards Queenslanders, it has become an expression of more than just winning a game of Rugby League.

Absolutely. I posted something similar on another thread that Origin can't be about sheer competitiveness as NSW weren't for years. Its about willing as much as anything and that is totally 110% reliant on where the agenda is set - a truth which is reflected in so much of the sport.

In Australian RL, that place is Sydney NSW. That is why after nearly a decade without an Origin series win, they kept the Origin concept going. Every Queensland win was not a sign of NSW decline but another challenge for the sport's administrators and commentariat (mostly New South Welshmen) to figure out a way to stop it and sell that as the story. They couldn't give up on it as it was their team they were giving up on. Contrast that with Great Britain/England or even the Kiwis atm with the ANZAC test being dropped where the administrators from Sydney, NSW were on the other end of a consistently winning streak. Competition and relevance are important yes, but they are most important when they are in the hands of the decision makers.

Ironically, despite the QLD dominance, having the epicentre of administration in Sydney only continued to fuel the Queenslander underdog chip on the shoulder vibes throughout that era of dominance where between 2006 and 2017 they won 11 out of 12 series' winning 24 out of 36 games along the way. It seems that Origin needs (or at least needed) Queensland to win a lot to work conceptually.

We see an equivalent in England with our unwitting failure to play regularly against either France or Wales, so this isn't entirely a NSW thing. Even on a local level, Leeds no longer play Hunslet annually for example.

If you set up a contest as an Establishment vs the Underdog scenario, the Underdog has to win a fair few times to prove the validity of the competition to the Establishment. Origin has gone through that process to such an extreme extent that it has matured beyond that now. International RL ultimately has to do the same.

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On 28/11/2020 at 07:32, Sir Kevin Sinfield said:

This is only a problem if all immigration stops, when the reality is it’s going to continue and 2nd generation players will keep representing Nations of their heritage. It might mean Tonga become a weaker side in 10 or 20 years time, but a new Nation could emerge as a real strength, such as Poland or China. There are 1m people living in the UK born in Poland, and 700,000 Chinese born people living in Australia. 

That's a really interesting point you made about the Poles and the Chinese.

Are there any initiatives in Australia to prompt the formation of a Chinese National team (a la Latin Heat, Lebanon etc.)? 

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4 hours ago, fighting irish said:

That's a really interesting point you made about the Poles and the Chinese.

Are there any initiatives in Australia to prompt the formation of a Chinese National team (a la Latin Heat, Lebanon etc.)? 

https://www.watoday.com.au/sport/nrl/samoa-tournament-for-minnows-a-first-step-towards-landing-big-fish-of-india-china-20191108-p538q9.html?ref=rss

I think this tournament was probably postponed due to you-know-what, but found this article in response to your post. The NRL early this year gave 4 players ambassadorial roles to work within the Asian community, the only one of the four whose name I can recall is Payne Haas, I remember his because I was taken aback that he has Asian heritage, I think his mother is from Myanmar, maybe be wrong there, either way great initiative, not a demographic, unlike the Greek or Lebanese, who are strongly associated with RL.

A team of Aussie Vietnamese won a large Touch /Tag tournament on the coast this year, 144 teams involved, way too nimble for the other teams, beat a team out of Tamworth ( a large country town in western NSW ) in the final. Tournament backed by the NRL, once again shows the value of having Touch/Tag closely associated with the code. Potentially some of those players are only a tap on the shoulder away from trialing for a run in the tackle version of the game. At a minimum though, you would think they would have to be RL fans. And as we know Irish, eyeballs watching TV or bums on seats at games is just as important when it comes down to a codes ability to earn revenue.

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On 29/11/2020 at 03:29, Tex Evans Thigh said:

It's NRL and media driven. Australia hit upon a great, profitable concept that is easy to market in a very insular and isolated country. Often times Origin has actually been the peak of the sport too so easy to sell, but in those years where NZ were winning international comps and now Aus are getting beaten by Tonga you would think it would be harder to sell. Wrong. As with most things in life the majority of people will believe what they are told and the NRL cant afford to have their cash cow undermined by the international game, it's just not sensible for that organization in the same way the NFL would advertise a European rep team playing an American all stars one in a theoretical world where that would be competitive.

Sadly the whole sport is being held back by a regional grudge match that has been fetishized by Australian public and media. Queensland had reserve grade players in their team this year and won in front of a crowd bigger than the world cup final at the same venue. We couldnt have a worse country leading our sport.

You make it sound like Aussies are tier two or three, and the NRL is sweeping this damaging news under the carpet.

Australia have won every RLWC bar one for the last 50 years. Rugby league is the most one sided international team sport on the planet. 

The Beatles had only just split the last time GB/Eng beat Aus in a series. 

Aussies are not insular, they love international sport as it’s their major chance to shine on the global stage. This gets repeated constantly in the media. Also, GB beating them in the medals table is always a big issue. The problem is RL is not competitive enough for Aussies to shift their focus outside Australia. The odd loss here and there won’t cut it. Having opposition teams full of Aussie born and developed players doesn’t help either as it just further reinforces to them the strength of Australia. If you are an Aussie and come up against some bloke you have known from the age of 12 through the Aussie youth system you don’t think, “god that nation are doing well for themselves”. The public know this too. 

The Aussie dominance of RL is immense. If you add up the wealth generated by RL in Aus and the playing pool that comes from there, it would vastly outnumber the rest of the others combined. Until that changes, and not one of wins, it’s only natural where Aussie focus will lie.

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18 hours ago, BrisbaneRhino said:

MJM - no it isn't wrong.  Being competitive is everything in Australian sport.  If Qld were getting beaten every year, it would have stayed as big as it was before it became Origin, and the crowds would dissipate along with media interest if it just became a one-sided procession with no end in sight.

Ten years ago swimming was the dogs whatsits. Now I doubt many people could name an elite Aussie swimmer.  Ditto the Wallabies. And yet in both sports they are still competitive - just not as competitive as they were. 

If you ask RL fans here why they don't watch internationals its most likely because they assume - maybe wrongly - that Australia will walk every game.  Even if you explain that they lost to Tonga last time out, or NZ previously.  After the WC final here the media didn't seem to care that the result was 6-0, they treated it as though it was a similar result to any of the previous thrashings of GB/England in big games. Only a loss might have made people sit up.

I've come to the conclusion that part of the problem for internationals at least is the game itself - it emphasises differences in quality more than perhaps any other sport. In football a half-decent team can play defensively and beat Brazil on a good day. In RU a team which stuffs the ball up its jumper can have a crack against pretty much anyone if they can tackle. Meanwhile in RL you can play solidly against Australia for 65 minutes and still lose by 40 points.

I don't disagree that trying to turn internationals into events rather than pure sporting contests is the way forward, but right now I'd say most RL fans I know in Brisbane have close to zero interest in internationals.

Great to hear an Aussie perspective on this. Concur with every point.

Winning, constantly, becomes humdrum. 

I know this is a sobering suggestion, but I don’t see things changing anytime soon. It would need a lot more than the odd defeat here and there, even an England RLWC win wouldn’t cause much of a shift imo. The power, wealth, status and playing numbers lie predominantly in Aus. This power base would need to be shifted somewhat for a change of focus in Aus.

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9 minutes ago, Sir Kevin Sinfield said:

The USA are equally dominant in the World Championship of American Football.

Only slightly less ridiculous than an Aussie Rules world championship...if there is one.

Edited by DC77
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6 hours ago, The Rocket said:

https://www.watoday.com.au/sport/nrl/samoa-tournament-for-minnows-a-first-step-towards-landing-big-fish-of-india-china-20191108-p538q9.html?ref=rss

I think this tournament was probably postponed due to you-know-what, but found this article in response to your post. The NRL early this year gave 4 players ambassadorial roles to work within the Asian community, the only one of the four whose name I can recall is Payne Haas, I remember his because I was taken aback that he has Asian heritage, I think his mother is from Myanmar, maybe be wrong there, either way great initiative, not a demographic, unlike the Greek or Lebanese, who are strongly associated with RL.

A team of Aussie Vietnamese won a large Touch /Tag tournament on the coast this year, 144 teams involved, way too nimble for the other teams, beat a team out of Tamworth ( a large country town in western NSW ) in the final. Tournament backed by the NRL, once again shows the value of having Touch/Tag closely associated with the code. Potentially some of those players are only a tap on the shoulder away from trialing for a run in the tackle version of the game. At a minimum though, you would think they would have to be RL fans. And as we know Irish, eyeballs watching TV or bums on seats at games is just as important when it comes down to a codes ability to earn revenue.

I think this 9s tournament is still on for March next year.

Amid a genealogical pot-pourri, Payne Haas has Filipino heritage.

The "Aussie Vietnamese" team are probably part of the Fairfield Falcons Oztag operation. If that`s correct, this is the same group who toured Ireland a couple of years ago. I hadn`t noticed it previously, but scrolling down their videos, a number of their female players have been playing in 2019 and 2020 for Moorebank Rams League Tag team in the Bulldogs junior league. Almost all of this team`s members look to be of Vietnamese/Chinese/Filipino heritage.

This is the first concerted evidence I`ve seen of those new demographics attracted to Oztag being incorporated wholesale into the RL club structure. Their jerseys have the Bulldogs logo on one side, Rams on the other. The NSW RL need to make Men`s and boys` League Tag available in their clubs to maximise the benefits.

If RL is presented and delivered as a versatile contact/non-contact game, the potential for Asian-heritage participants and fans, and to grow in Asia itself, is huge. Apparently in Auckland there are now more people of Asian-heritage (mainly Chinese and Indian) than Maori and Pasifika combined.

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8 hours ago, DC77 said:

Only slightly less ridiculous than an Aussie Rules world championship...if there is one.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/IFAF_World_Championship

Interestingly the American Football World Champion didn’t feature the USA in the first 2 tournaments.

Australia are next to host the American Football World Championship, when they do they’ll be the 6th different country to host the tournament, which has grown from 4 and 6 countries in the first two competitions to 12 in the next tournament.

What lessons can we learn from the American Football World Championship? International tournaments without our number 1 team (Australia) are still worthwhile, and hosting international tournaments in different countries can help to grow the game.

Edited by Sir Kevin Sinfield
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On 30/11/2020 at 16:43, DC77 said:

Great to hear an Aussie perspective on this. Concur with every point.

Winning, constantly, becomes humdrum. 

I know this is a sobering suggestion, but I don’t see things changing anytime soon. It would need a lot more than the odd defeat here and there, even an England RLWC win wouldn’t cause much of a shift imo. The power, wealth, status and playing numbers lie predominantly in Aus. This power base would need to be shifted somewhat for a change of focus in Aus.

Australia were getting beaten regularly by NZ from 2008 to 2014, was losing also humdrum?

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