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The examples set by two other sports in the past week or so has made me once again question whether we are doing everything possible to promote the game of rugby league.
I won’t name the particular club because they have usually been one of the better ones to deal with but at a game last weekend one of our staff writers asked for interviews with two bench players who are just trying to make their way in the game. One of them I am sure would only be recognised by fans of his team, and even then perhaps only the most ardent ones.
It was late, wet and our man was told both were off limits and we could speak with one of the seasoned first-graders.
In isolation, probably not a big deal, but our writers often go to games hoping we will be able to speak with our player of choice. And of course, when there is a losing team in every game, that proposition often becomes 50/50.
Again, we have terrific relationships with the majority of NRL clubs but the media access afforded by two other sports last week brought our working conditions into sharper focus.
As we put the Round 15 issue of Big League to bed last Tuesday night, the Socceroos were booking their trip to the most widely viewed sports event on the planet, the soccer World Cup. It can’t have been more than half an hour after walking off the pitch than Socceroo stars Tim Cahill and Archie Thompson were live on a Fox Sports talk show, still rapt in the excitement of their accomplishments and the proposition of what lay ahead.
Then last Friday, the Big League offices stopped momentarily as we watched the Miami Heat win a second straight NBA crown. Not long after the final buzzer had sounded, one of the world’s biggest sports superstars, LeBron James, sat at the desk with the post-game commentary team for more than 10 minutes discussing Game 7, the season and what a second title in succession meant to him.
I’m not sure of the reason but we seem reluctant in rugby league to discuss the intricacies of our game or give honest responses to questions journalists have – hopefully – spent time constructing before commencing the interview.
There are of course exceptions. Robbie Farah – who has been pilloried on occasion during his career – has become one of the best media performers for simply saying what he truly believes. Wayne Bennett delivers a message better than anyone, but you have to spend a lot of time fossicking before Wayne gives up his gold.
I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Melbourne, Queensland and Australia captain Cameron Smith this season because he knows how to deliver a thought-provoking message without being controversial.
Perhaps players and coaches are giving the same clichéd answers because we are asking the same questions over and over but it wouldn’t hurt if we were able to speak with the players we wanted, win, lose or draw.