Richard Lawrence, writing as The Dummy Runner, argues that Rugby League has to shed its victim mentality if it is to make progress.
It’s time for revolution. No, really. In fact the revolution is long, long overdue. Rugby League is nowhere near the size it should be in this country. Think you have heard all this before? Of course you have and you already know this, but I am going to tell you why. Why is it that we seem to be the perennial underdog? Because we think we are the underdog and an underdog that knows it’s place too, politely doffing our cap to football and Rugby Union.
Take the latest Sky TV deal. Like a child that is starved of affection and has low self- esteem, the clowns at Red Hall jumped at the chance of securing a long term deal, never mind the fact that serious new competition in the TV marketplace led to record deals for the Premier League. To deny ourselves the ability to get a better deal in a few years time is criminal and shows a total lack of confidence. I’m not the first one to say this – Marwan Koukash said it ages ago. The reason he can think like this is because he is not one of us and has not been brought up in the game so has not learned to think like an underdog. We need more people like him who will give us all a kick up the backside.
The Rugby League establishment has made a virtue of inertia. The Dummy Runner has been told (by a bloke down the pub) that if you go and stand outside the boardroom window of Red Hall, you see a load of men in suits walking in ever decreasing circles in slow motion, periodically disappearing up themselves before re-emerging every season to to do the same thing all over again. I mean, a few seasons ago, the Super League didn’t even HAVE a sponsor! This is not only incompetent, it’s embarrassing. Who was sacked for this? No-one! The same bloke down the pub told me they have special large parking spaces at Red Hall for the executives cars due to them having square wheels and doors that occasionally blow off on the sound of a horn.
But, we have ALL been following a policy of appeasement to and, in particular to Rugby Union for far, far too long – where’s the aggressive and rebellious spirit that created Rugby League in the first place? This policy of appeasement does only one thing – maintain the status quo that holds us down as underdogs. With the quality of product we have, the others should be running scared of us in the race to attract sponsors, get spectators, get TV money and so on. Are they? You don’t need me to answer that question.
The truth is that many of us like being the underdog. It seems cosy and safe. Rugby League is ‘our little thing‘ in this country and we can feel righteous in moaning about why we aren’t bigger without having to do anything about it. We then have a little bit of success such as a ‘good’ World Cup or something, then pretend everything is ok for a while and stick our heads back in the sand. But this is the way to failure and ultimately to destruction as our competitors take our sponsors, our TV money, our players and our spectators. It makes me sick even now to see Andy Farrell, Shaun Edwards and now Kevin Sinfield in Union. It’s not ok and needs to be said.
We (all of us) need to start to start the revolution and call it the ‘spirit of 1895’. We need people of ruthless mind and robust heart to fuel this revolution and go and get what we deserve. We need to go out with the intention of attacking the resources in other sports and getting it going in our direction; not just hope that if we are nice to them, they will be nice to us. Because they won’t be. And never have been. We need to start saying that the current situation is not good enough and together demand better. How do I know that if people get together and say ‘this is not good enough‘ and do something about it, it can make a difference? Because I know of a group of men who did this in the George Hotel in
1895 and began to create the greatest game the world has ever seen. Have we got the same courage and spirit that they did? It’s time to stand up and be counted and prove that we have. We owe it to those men to succeed.