16 Aug 40/20 Vision with Scott Prince
I remember being a young player in the early days of the Cowboys.
As part of my weekly routine I would visit local schools to do drills with the kids and to promote the Cowboys brand.
This was in the late ‘90s. I was a ‘nobody’ in the NRL and, to a large degree, so were the Cowboys. They had tasted little success and were yet to play in the finals.
I remember the fun times doing the school rounds. The kids would love the fact that someone within the NRL cared about them enough to come and spend some time with them.
Towards the end of each session I would gather the students together. ‘Who loves rugby league!’ I would shout.
‘We do!’ would come the boisterous reply.
‘Who wants to play rugby league,’ I would shout back.
‘We do,’ would come the even louder response.
‘Who loves the Cowboys!’ was my next loud question.
Unfortunately that was usually followed by a very uncomfortable silence.
I would turn to one of the children and ask: ‘Don’t you like the Cowboys?’
And then the reply would come: ‘No, they suck.’
Different story today. The Cowboys may not yet have claimed their first premiership, but they are one of the most successful teams, being regular finals contenders. And everyone in the north loves them.
That story rings true for the Titans circa 2014.
Right at the moment they are on the nose with the fans. You can throw in a heap of reasons why that may or may not be the case, but the underlying reason is lack of wins. They have not figured in the finals since 2010.
Look at the Gold Coast Suns as a comparison. Their crowds are growing and there is a real feel-good aura surrounding them.
Again, plenty of reasons for this – the AFL has done a magnificent marketing job them; the AFL have invested plenty to ensure success; the Suns themselves have done a great deal in the community; they still have that ‘new car smell’ about them; but the main reason is they are getting more wins beside their name and are finals contenders.
As I said in the column last week, there is one simple solution to all the Titans’ on-field and off-field woes – win games. That happens and everything will turn-around.
The Titans ‘rivalry’ with the Suns is an interesting scenario. I think it is fantastic that the Gold Coast has two major sporting franchises to support and as I said above, the AFL and the Suns have excelled in how they have presented themselves and their code.
But as a rugby league person, while wishing the Suns well, I certainly do not want the rugby league brand to be tarnished in their wake.
So what can rugby league do to continue to be the major code on the GC. Money can’t be the only answer because the AFL pockets are just too deep.
Rugby league must concentrate on the basics. That means keeping the game in front of our youngest fans. I have no doubt that rugby league is the greatest game of all, but we must keep marketing it well to our juniors and ensuring that their experience with rugby league is positive and enjoyable.
That’s why I applaud moves in recent years to make junior rugby league more about participation than winning and reminding parents that junior sport has to be a fun arena and not one for anger and abuse.
But finally, the key to maintaining rugby league as the prominent football code here is for our flagship team – the Titans – to win and be a finals force.
Over to you Neil Henry. Nothing like pressure, but if ever this city’s rugby league team needed someone to steer them towards a winning formula it is right now.
Finish this season on a successful note and suddenly 2015 looks a hell of a lot brighter.