|Issue No 90||30 March 2001|
The Locker Room
Hoppa Gives League the Finger
By Jim Maher
John Hopoate hasn't helped the cause but Rugby League has got bigger problems than a finger up the jacksey. Over the first few rounds of the season, average crowds and television audiences fell away and, frankly, it wasn't surprising.
To be fair, taking such samplings at the end of March is not all that helpful. The weather's sunny, cricket finals are still being played and the general populous has yet to convert to footy mode.
There are however, some worrying trends set to continue well into the darker, cooler months. Lack of leadership, and branding, head that list.
Let's be frank, David Moffett is a tosser and is generally perceived as such. The former union referee and administrator personifies the identity problems the code is struggling with.
Having effectively flicked much of its tribal support base, rugby league struggles for acceptance with a new demographic. Sure, the beautiful people roll up for prawns and wine on big occasions but that only serves to deepen dissatisfaction amongst those paying top-dollar for hamburgers and flat beer in the cheap seats - and the buggers stay away in droves from run-of-the-mill encounters which are the bread and butter of every code.
Moffett wants a sterile, safe, middle-class game played by athletes who are non-controversial. Unfortunately, the sport's base, still hankers for characters, risk, flair and a bit of biffo for good measure.
While Moffett's fellow travellers talk alcohol bans, many believe players would be better served, and respected, if they wandered down to the local after training and had a few schooners with their fans.
Trouble is, the way the NRL has ordered life, it's pretty damned hard to figure out where the local is.
Moffett's regime is about hype rather than substance and wall-to-wall Fox Sport coverage only reinforces the problem.
In hindsight, Graeme Hughes, Paul Vautin and Peter Sterling might have done the game a bloody great dis-service. Because they handled microphones so capably it seems to have got into the heads of sports producers that former footballers make good commentators. Every weekend, Fox proves it is not necessarily so.
Put the microphone muddlers with anchors who know little about the game and its not a very inspiring combination. Big names and pretty faces beat competent, interesting broadcasters in another hands-down victory for the hype camp.
Mix that with the current, on-field taste for risk-free predictability and you've got just about the blandest dish on the sporting menu.
There is no spice in sight. Fox gives bread and water coverage while the administration exudes the charm and warmth of a dumpling.
By and large, players are just as funny, silly, smart and engaging as they always have been but by the time they are strained and refined for our consumption most of the flavour has evaporated.
Like these soirees the NRL organises, there's only finger-food on the menu, which probably explains why Hopoate's taste for date has got everyone drooling.
Interview: On the Up and Up
On the eve of new figures showing the slide in union membership may be bottoming out, ACTU secretary Greg Combet takes stock of the state of the movement.
Unions: Organising Theory
Labor Council’s Chris Christodoulou reports back from this week’s ACTU Organising Conference
Economics: The Failure of the Third Way
In his presentation to this week's ACTU Organising Conference, John Buchanan painted a dark picture of the emerging labour market.
History: Emblems of Unity
The Gregory J. Smith Collection of Trade Union badges was auctioned today in Sydney. Smith compiled a book on 763 of his remarkable collection which was published in 1992.
Legal: Della's Compo Plan
Labour lawyer Richard Brennan places the NSW workers compensation reforms under the microscope.
International: East Timor Goes Union
Workers in the fledgling nation have established their equivalent to the ACTU to build a safety net for workers.
Satire: Management for the Post-Industrial World
A new management fad is sweeping the post-industrial world, which has major social and political implications at the macro and micro level. We have called it "Purge Management Strategy" (PMS).
Review: Surviving The Temptations of TV Island
Cultural analyst Mark Morey rakes over the coals of American TV culture to find very little is there.
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005