Andrew Bryan, NRL.com
NRL breaking membership records
NRL club memberships have surpassed 200,000 in record time and the NRL Facebook page has just achieved 500,000 ‘Likes’ as Rugby League continues to kick goals on and off the field.
The record membership numbers are reinforced by the NRL and NRL clubs’ giant online presence, with a combined 3.5 million followers/‘Likes’. This online network is connecting fans to the game like never before with access to behind-the-scenes photos, videos, exclusive content and much more.
NRL players on twitter combine for more than 1.8 million followers, connecting the game’s stars directly to the fans of The Greatest Game of All.
The NRL, clubs and players combine for more than 5.3 million followers/‘Likes’ – which does not even start to look at potential reach of the game as a whole on social media.
From the Parramatta member in Portugal, Knights member in Qatar and Rabbitohs member in China, Club membership is proving the best way to support your club no matter where you live.
More members ‘feel closer’ to their club from overseas in 2013, with an influx of members joining their club from outside of Australia and New Zealand highlighted by the NRL’s Claim your Territory Campaign that saw thousands of members race to acquire their piece of land on behalf of their club.
Nine clubs have already surpassed their membership figures from 2012, including the Eels, Sharks and Titans who have all enjoyed huge increases from last season, while the Rabbitohs lead the way with over 23,000 members joining the red-and-green army.
Queensland helps Country v City
It is a representative trial for NSW Blues jerseys, but officials of the annual Country-City clash to be held in Coffs Harbour can thank Queensland for the seating. More than 2,400 seats will be loaded on to trucks and driven from Brisbane down the highway to Coffs Harbour.
The NRL will bring in more than 1000 metres of turf protection to BCU International Stadium, where scaffolding and a temporary grandstand will be erected to boost the ground’s capacity to 8,500.
The 2,400 seats will be laid out along the entire eastern touchline to set up a temporary grand stand for the annual clash. They will then need to be labelled and aligned to give fans a comfortable and close vantage point to watch NSW’s best players battle it out for places in the state squad.
The whole process will take almost a week to complete and will be finished just two days before the game kicks off.
Tickets are on sale now here.
Test match trial
On the same weekend, Australia and New Zealand will clash at Canberra in the traditional mid-year Test. With the World Cup at the end of the year, it will be a good gauge for both teams.
Australian staff have already toured England to scout the grounds and facilities for the six-week assault on reclaiming the Cup.
Insiders were blown away by Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, where Australia will be greeted by the home Wales dressing rooms as the highest-ranked team. Apparently it is a site to behold.
The sight of Chris Sandow’s massive 40/20 against the Wests Tigers on Friday night (kicked from his own 30 and into the opposition 10) got this column thinking about the old kicking duels made famous by Sandow’s Parramatta coach Ricky Stuart.
Stuart was a master of the long kicking game, but in modern Rugby League – who would be the most likely to win a kicking duel? Sandow obviously would be a contender, so too Jamie Soward, Jarryd Hayne, Krisnan Inu, Johnathan Thurston and for readers from the UK, Pat Richards.
On the subject of kicking, the three best all-round exponents are Cooper Cronk, Johnathan Thurston and Adam Reynolds. All three have decent long kicking games, but it is their ability to find the in-goal and their pinpoint chip kicks that separates them from their peers.
Thurston and Reynolds are dead-eyed sharpshooters as well; it would be quite something watching them in a one-on-one duel. Both are proven under pressure.
NRL puts on a good show
The NRL Easter Show day is on Wednesday, with a host of players on hand to give Rugby League clinics, sign autographs and meet and greet fans. This year will also see the introduction of NRL Show Bags. Each club has their own bag available and comes complete with a cap, flag, bag, ball, stickers and more. Its $70 worth of gear for $25. Happy Easter.
New NRL Shop Online
The NRL has a new online store for all your Rugby League needs. NRLshop.com is your one-stop destination for jerseys, training gear, supporter apparel, memorabilia, gifts and just about anything else you can think of.
From car covers to garden gnomes, the NRL shop covers all 16 NRL clubs, State of Origin, Women in League, All Stars and Australian Kangaroos. What’s more – revenue generated goes back to your club – so you are supporting your team!
Follow Andrew Bryan on Twitter.