Bronson Harrison has played over 180 NRL games in a career spanning 10 years including Four Nations and World Cup victories with New Zealand. This is his first column for NRL.com.
I have been involved with our great game professionally for the past 10 years, and have started to see things a lot clearer now than I thought I ever would.
You start to understand the pressures and demands on every department in Rugby League, from grassroots football through to the players at NRL level. There are so many things going on in our game you could probably only scratch the surface if you tried.
The NRL is big business now and everyone from grassroots Rugby League through to corporate owns a piece of the game. We are in an industry that keeps evolving in one way or another. A lot of change is happening throughout the NRL, which can help us achieve many great things as a game – I just hope we don’t lose too much of what makes our game The Greatest Game of All.
Our game has been shown in a bad light far too often so I thought people ought to know that a lot of good things happen in our game as well, although those stories are not being celebrated or conveyed as often as they should be.
For too long I have seen our game make headlines in the media for the wrong reasons; consequently I suppose you can understand people’s poor perception of players if you were to read the newspapers.
Then I thought: ‘Why aren’t there many positive stories in the paper?’ No wonder the players are under so much scrutiny and generalised as a ‘typical footballer’ – all you hear are the negative stories! By no means do I believe we are all saints, but I do think the majority of people within our ranks are good people. And, just like everybody else, we go through some tough times, both on and off the field.
You hear people say ‘well that’s what you get paid for’ and yes, they are correct; but as a kid coming through the grades those types of matters are just background noise in comparison to training and the football that is right in front of you. And often you don’t think these types of situations or things can happen to you. But through the powerful reach social media, a simple photo in the wrong hands can really damage a player’s career.
Given the power of social and digital media, I saw an opportunity that could benefit everyone involved – provided things were managed correctly. I wanted a place where players, people involved in Rugby League and fans/supporters could communicate about the good things that are being done.
Believe me, there are some great people within our game doing things for no other reason than to give back to the community that helped shape them into the people they are today. I think the more parents and kids get to read about these good deeds, the more encouraging our game will be to the mums and dads of our future stars. (I know myself that I wouldn’t be in my position today if it wasn’t for my mum.)
And that is how I came to write this article. I’m looking for Rugby League Open Mic to be a regular column on NRL.com – where people involved in Rugby League from the NRL stars to the grassroots heroes can come together and share their stories about the good deeds of players, support staff and people within the rugby league community.
For example: using Twitter, a story can be shared across a massive audience through the simple click of a button. This is how I hope our message will be shared: with a simple re-tweet. I feel we can get the right message to our next generation of kids and to encourage them to continue the tradition of giving back to our game.
I know that former Raiders captain Alan Tongue personally responded to every bit of mail that was sent to him and he even wrote a note thanking them for taking the time to do so. He was indirectly a part of the creation of this column. He’s a great man. People like ‘Tonguey’ don’t come along every day. I hope we get the opportunity to speak to people of his calibre or at least give them the opportunity to write something themselves.
I chatted to a few players about the potential benefits to everybody involved. It gives the audience the opportunity to hear a story directly from the person. I also saw it as a way to help players become a bit more responsible for their own words. I wanted people to get a better insight to what players do outside of footy – like studying, working or charity – so that we might begin to shake a few of those ‘negative’ generalisations.
It is my aim for this to be a player-driven column. I’m hoping we can get some different opinions from across the NRL, to not only show the diversity of opinions but also help develop the players’ skill sets outside of footy.
We hope to cover a wide range of topics – but we would really love to get some feedback on what fans would like to read, or maybe even the stories they would like to share.
After discussing these points with a few other players and getting some good feedback I thought I would take it to the NRL and I started with Andrew Ryan and Jane Lowder (NRL Career Adviser).They gave me some great feedback and spoke of how many players throughout the clubs are actually doing some really good stuff. So they took the idea off my hands and put it forward to the necessary people at NRL HQ and we decided to get things started.
If you would like to share your story, email us here: RLopenMic@nrl.com.au – the best stories will be shared via this column where possible. I’m really looking forward to hearing the great things being done in and around the game, from the NRL to the grassroots!
Follow Bronson Harrison on twitter.