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League declines in schools

Maybe the CRL Stakeholders Review will stir people into action and make demands for a better deal in the bush at the development stage.
Maybe the CRL Stakeholders Review will stir people into action and make demands for a better deal in the bush at the development stage. Leigh Jensen

ONE particular sentence in the Country Rugby League 2010 Stakeholders Review should send shivers down the spine of every true league supporter.

At least those who acknowledge and understand the desperate battle going on for the hearts and minds of future wearers of footy boots.

Part of the sentence was in the exclusive report in Saturday’s Coffs Coast Advocate but takes on deeper significance in a wider context and coldly explains why trying to find a copy of the review is like attempting to track down Harold Holt.

“At the moment there is an overkill of attention placed at the Primary level when you take into account the transfer percentages in regards to the energies and efforts input, from the primary area to club participation,” it states, in the section dedicated to an overview of the scene in primary schools.

The report, sourced from the six regional areas of country NSW, goes on to say: “If you take the clinical point of view then the amount of children that the game is exposed to through the primary area – the transfer rate is negative in regards to the energies expended.

“There is approximately below 50 per cent Primary schools participating in school competitions yet there is probably 95 per cent of energies applied by development staff in these areas.”

Remember, these are the words of those ‘on the ground’ development officers trying to break down doors which are becoming increasingly closed to them as the relentless AFL juggernaut goes marching on.

This review is the smoking gun, the absolute proof that grassroots recruitment to rugby league is not working.

It is a failure and has been for a very long time.

“No wonder they don’t want us to see this thing,” one very senior official told your scribbler yesterday.

“I’ve known for a while about the contents and I’m even more worried now about what will happen when the Independent Commission is introduced.

“Everything about the Commission has gone quiet and I’m concerned we still haven’t been told what’s really going to happen.”

An appalling facet of the stakeholders’ review is it contains very little that is new.

Many of us were already awake but cannot get those in authority, and who are in a position to influence policy, to react.

The tragedy is almost every one of the review’s recommendations were implemented by soccer, for instance, up to three decades back and rugby league has been suffering from that ever since.

One of the preposterous claims made is “. . . attitudes of non-rugby league kids towards any program are tough (and) it’s not ‘cool’ to get out and have a go at something new”.

An AFL crony nearly fell over laughing at how clueless that statement is.

“Don’t they realise it is ‘cool’ for the kids to try something new all the time and that’s why they come to our game . . . to have a go at something new?” he scoffed.

In Saturday’s exclusive, former coach Peter Barrett left the blame for the game’s grassroots decay totally at the door of the CRL ‘blazer brigade’.

It would be hard to find somebody not in agreement.

Make up your own minds while allowing one to relate this true tale.

Not too many years ago, a CRL bigwig made a local visit with so much bombastic pomposity it felt like a vice-regal occasion with the governor-general.

Holding court during a drinking session at Coffs Leagues Club, he blamed all of bush league’s problems, especially the collapse in numbers, on the transition of country people to live and work in the cities.

“It’s a bit rich for you blokes to blame it all on rural migration,” your sceptical, cantankerous scribbler (who was a radio waffler at the time) piped up.

“In 20 years, Northern NSW Football has grown from 6000 to more than 50,000 registered players and we’re copping heaps off the AFL.

“Do you seriously believe it’s only league people moving to the big smoke and that’s why the rival codes are outstripping us in numbers?”

The CRL bigwig went red in the face and began to deliver the death stare.

“Your name is White, isn’t it?” he spat, slamming down his beer, and moving to another table.

“Before I came here I was told how big of a $#%$# you are and was warned to watch out for you.”

As Peter Barrett remarked: “. . . once you get rid of the dead wood, blokes with the same wrong attitude turn up in their place.”

That CRL bigwig and this stakeholders’ review are proof of that.