NRL Chief Executive Dave Smith paid tribute to the game’s members and fans on Wednesday night as the NRL launched a 2014 Telstra Premiership that Sydney Roosters captain Anthony Minichiello hailed as the “most exciting sporting competition in the world”.
More than 600 members and fans from across Australia and New Zealand rubbed shoulders alongside NRL stars as Smith outlined how much members mean and give to the game.
“Members are the fans who go the extra step to support their club,” Smith said.
“They sleep out overnight to buy tickets, they travel all over Australia to see their teams play. They never miss a game.
“Newcastle Knights fans... 17 hours on a bus to support the Knights against the Storm. That’s real commitment and I know there are a thousand stories just like that across the game.
“That is why, for the first time, we have 600 members here for tonight’s launch.
“They give so much to the game and we are determined to give them something back.
“This week we have successfully worked with the NSW Government and the Trust for a walkway across Anzac Parade directly to Allianz Stadium and the SCG. This project has been on the agenda for 10 years and we now have success.
“We are also supporting the Government’s legislation to clamp down on ticket scalping to protect our fans.
“Tonight I am also pleased to announce another major initiative. Anyone with an NRL ticket will be able to travel at no extra cost to all 27 games at ANZ Stadium this season.
“In other words, when you buy a ticket in advance for any game at ANZ Stadium, you get the transport thrown in. And we have negotiated direct trains from Central to Sydney Olympic Park for every game at ANZ.”
The 2014 Telstra Premiership kicks off on March 6 with the clash between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and defending Premiers the Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium.
A blockbuster season will this year feature, for the first time, ANZAC Day matches in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, as well as the 100th Holden State of Origin clash, a special Members Round for the game’s most loyal supporters and Premiership matches in centres including Cairns, Bathurst, Perth, Gosford, Darwin and, in New Zealand, Hamilton and Wellington.
In launching the season on behalf of the game’s players, members and fans, Sydney Roosters Premiership-winning captain Anthony Minichiello spoke of the excitement people across the game are feeling for the season ahead.
“Even though a ball hasn’t been kicked, we already have plenty to celebrate,” Minichiello said.
“The footy gets more exciting every season. The skill and power of the players today is amazing and the coverage on TV is the best in the world.
“The room tonight is full of players, coaches, referees, sponsors, media, NRL and club officials and, of course, our members and fans, and everyone here tonight is talking about the footy and what we think, hope, dream will happen this season.
“That’s what’s so special about our game. Rugby League brings people from all walks of life together and together we make a difference.
“Together we are tackling bullying, we are teaching kids to read, to eat the right foods, to respect others and to dream, believe and achieve.
“Together we are part of the most exciting sporting competition in the world.”
The launch at the Sydney Exhibition Centre at Glebe Island follows the most exciting pre-season in NRL history, including the inaugural Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines, the Festival of Indigenous Rugby League in Newcastle, the annual NRL Community Carnival and the World Club Challenge in Sydney.