New Zealand Rugby League Chief Executive Jim Doyle announced today that registered player numbers for 2011 are up more than 38% from those of 2010.
Doyle said "For the second year in a row we've seen a significant increase in our player participation numbers. With our numbers now topping 33,500 there is no doubting that our efforts to grow the game are proving successful, and it's pleasing to see that we've not only retained those who joined us last year, but also added to them in such significant numbers."
Over the past two years, the NZRL have visited more than 17 towns and cities and had more than 4,500 children and 619 parents take part in a range of free league related activities. Youth participation numbers across the country are up 97% since the Community Camp programmes started.
Doyle said "In the past year alone we've had a 35% increase in the participation numbers of teenagers. The addition of our National Competition has offered our players in this all important age group meaningful competition and the opportunity to progress to elite level with the addition of 16s and 18s Resident teams this year. We've had excellent feedback about the value of this competition and it will continue in 2012."
A significant investment has been made by New Zealand Rugby League to ensure effective local representation at all levels through the Zone structure, further boosting capability to offer regional competitions.
A number of these got off the ground in 2011, including a very successful nines tournament in Tauranga, the Adam Blair Trophy Secondary Schools tournament and the Elijah Taylor 15s in Northland, along with continued growth in the North Harbour Secondary Schools tournament, Stephen Kearney Cup and the addition of the Johnny Lomax Cup in Wellington. The South Island also experienced growing interest in rugby league with the playing of a new South Island Inter District Premier competition.
All Zones experienced double digit growth, both the Mid and Upper Central Zones saw more than 50% increases and were closely followed by Northland and Wellington (45%+).
Doyle continues, "The biggest percentage increase was actually Womens rugby league, and we are already working on programmes to further grow this area in 2012."
This year also saw the introduction of an NZRL run National Secondary Schools tournament, which recently received an Innovation award from the NZSSSC along with acknowledgment from Gary Carnachan, NZSSC Executive Director that Rugby League is the fastest growing sport in secondary schools.
This along with games for the Resident 16s and 18s against international opposition and a game for the NZ Residents against the NZ Maori Residents have all helped to build the games profile at this level.
In addition, in 2011 the 15s and 17s National Competition finals were screened live on Sky TV, and the Junior Kiwis beat the Junior Kangaroos in Newcastle.
Said Doyle, "Although the Kiwis were unable to back up their 2010 Four Nations success, our success at junior levels, including National Secondary Schools, National Competition, Residents and Junior Kiwis shows that the game is on the up and it is only a matter of time before we see this reflected regularly in the Kiwis results."