It’s been quite the week in the east.
First, it was announced the Brad Fittler would return to the club and play in the Auckland Nines tournament, at the age of 42. Then, Jackson Hastings let slip he might be joining him across the dutch — which had every Roosters fan changing their underpants.
Conjure the names Fittler and Hastings in separate emails and you’ll be bound to elicit a smile from the Roosters fans old enough to remember Jackson’s dad, Kevin.
Put the names together in a sentence and you’ll have those same fans needing a cold shower and a cigarette.
Mention that the two names might be on the same field for the Roosters and you might as well declare them legally dead from shock.
But some fans may not remember Kevin Hastings. He dominated the 1980s and the new brigade of fans will have to get their Hastings fix from Jackson rather than the original.
Those fans include Davo Baird, who began to support the Roosters when he was 10 years old in 2000 — and with good reason, as that was the year of the greatest grand final qualifier the club has ever played in, when they came back from 16-2 down at halftime and won, led by the guy who will potentially line up against Hastings the Younger in a month’s time.
In the following post we play a different tune. Rather than Roosters speak — although Davo does come to the defence of the club he loves — he has a few words of criticism for a media that seems hell-bent on attacking Dave Smith for daring to try and turn the game he supports into a more family-friendly event.
A certain columnist is in the cross-hairs as well.
Take it away, Davo.
The media need to embrace the future;
and not criticise someone thinking of it.
By Davo Baird.
Recently the NRL’s CEO Dave Smith announced his intentions to make “E Squared” — Smith’s term for game-day entertainment — a more regular part of the game-day experience of the NRL. The idea was to have and a more entertaining environment at games – for example, jumping castles outside stadiums – primarily to focus on family for the kids. This plan was slammed in the media, and Dave Smith’s role as the CEO was questioned.
The question is: why did the media slam such an idea immediately then publically question whether Mr Smith should be in the job?
The answer is simple. The NRL media is an Old Boy’s club so caked in tradition that it would mean death to think outside the box.
While we may not realise it, we have all been raised with the “Old” NRL which was fights, scrums which actually where scrums (don’t get me started on today’s waste of time “scrum) and more fights. The NRL was a man’s sport where beer was drunk, rough language was OK and a punch to the nose was a legitimate in-game tactic.
But like it or not, the old days are long dead and now the NRL is in transition. Doing it the old way will not be successful, and Mr Smith realises this.
The problem is that Mr Smith was hired to look to the future, and not merely react to the present like his predecessor David Gallop did. The media don’t like this. We all read the media and we are used to a certain journalist slamming the NRL on a regular basis, praise the sharks (who are in the middle of the biggest drug investigation the NRL or Australian sport in general has ever seen), and claim without evidence that Sydney Roosters recruitment officer Peter O’Sullivan is a salary cap cheat. And let’s not forget about his immature obsession with a certain Phillip Ronald Gould.
THIS is the media we see and react to, but what if WE the public thought about it and formed our own opinion?
The NRL is focusing on kids or has the intent to, and what is the problem with that? The World Wrestling Federation (WWE) has done it successfully for years and when you think about it, it’s a good idea. Much like the NRL, the WWE was once an Old Boy’s club but made the transition to promoting a family friendly product. Subsequently, profits have steadied or increased and so have the audiences and share prices.
The simple reason for this is because they are now family friendly, and the transition has been pure gold. They attract the kids and their families with them through family friendly games, entertainment and even have a couple of wrestlers who the kids love. The NRL could learn from them.
The idea of change annoys people. So how hard would it be to change, for example, a kid who loves the AFL to all of a sudden support the NRL?
How many of you hated the NRL as a kid but all of a sudden said “hey, I love this code?” How hard is it to change from being a Sydney Roosters fan to a South Sydney Rabbitohs fan if you supported the Roosters your entire life?
Now you’re getting the idea. Change is hard if you have been doing something for a long time, but if you go to the NRL and enjoy it (let’s say jumping on a castle, having a BBQ and then watching some footy with good old dad) chances are the family will come back as a paying customer or at least support the NRL for life.
The NRL now realises this.
The NRL is wise to try and draw in more families, which in itself is a good idea to draw in bigger crowds but if the kids come to NRL and enjoy it they could become an NRL fan for life. Therefore, starting young and spending some effort and money on them is a wise decision to invest in.
A favourite quote of mine is “If you invest in the kids today, they will invest in your later on” because kids tend to become adults. Right, media?
To conclude, Dave Smith has the right idea to invest in kids, and E Squared does have some merit to it. If the NRL does it correctly, investing in families now will mean the survival of the NRL in the future – especially in an increasingly more competitive market with soccer gaining popularity, the AFL expanding into the NRL heartland out west and the emergence of a very young Big Bash League which has potential.
The problem is letting go of the past like the Old Boy’s club. Some fighting is OK but moving forward to “kid friendly” will go a long way to ensuring the NRL has a future.
All we need to do is ignore the media which apparently is still heavily attached to the Bro Club and doesn’t want to let go, no matter how unprofessional they look in doing so.
Mr Smith, I thank you: you maybe unappreciated in the media but so far you’ve done a good job. I implore you not to give up on the kids. They are the future of the game, both on the field and off it.