NRL expands with launch of Munchkin League
Expansion of the Telstra Premiership may be off the table for the immediate future but the NRL has spread its wings further throughout the broader community with the launch of Munchkin League on the Gold Coast on Friday.
Munchkin League is an NRL program that has been developed over the past six years in partnership with experts in children's services fields and will introduce children between the ages of 3-5 to positive learning through play and a focus on life lessons such as self-confidence and awareness, respect and friendship in the critical early years of development.
Current and former NRL stars such as Billy Slater, Scott Prince and Ashley Harrison have developed programs that introduce youngsters to rugby league skills but NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said Munchkin League is less about the game and more about having a positive influence on the community.
"With our players and our game, our greatest strength is our ability to get a great share of voice," Mr Greenberg said at the launch at the Runaway Bay Sports Complex.
"When Johnathan Thurston stood up after Origin I in front of four million people on free-to-air television and talked about the people of Aurukun, that's using our share of voice and our profile to make a much broader different about community issues rather than what we do in rugby league.
"We've got to use that opportunity wisely and that's exactly what this program is about.
"It gives them a head-start in their early development years about making good decisions and being in good environments.
"The program is not so much about throwing the football around, it's teaching them about being active and being good people and it starts at this age, it really does."
The program has been operating at a select number of childcare centres on the Gold Coast for the past three months and will soon expand to offer other Munchkin League courses throughout south-east Queensland with plans to eventually expand nationally.
Pre-school aged children have not previously been exposed to rugby league's positive community messages and Mr Greenberg said it was a wonderful opportunity to not only engage with the game's youngest fans but also their parents.
"It puts rugby league into households and it puts the game and the sport in front of decision makers which are primarily mothers in families," said Mr Greenberg, the father of two teenagers.
"I don't make a lot of decisions in my household and that's just being real. A big part of this is putting the game at the forefront of peoples' family lives and communities.
"We want to spread our values through the community but we also want to understand what the community's values are that get pushed back to the game.
"We need to understand what their sets of values are and their family's values and make sure we aspire to meet them. And if we do that the game will continue to thrive.
"We want to see every little boy and girl across the country get an opportunity to engage with the game, however they want to engage with it.
"Whether it's through Munchkin League, through touch football, through traditional form of playing tackle football or just coming and being a part of a rugby league game. There's a place on our field for everyone.
"The game is owned by its community and the game is owned by these little kids here who will be either the next generation of players on the field playing for Queensland in State of Origin or fans sitting in the stands watching the game or consuming it on their mobile phones through digital content or just being an observer of the Channel Nine broadcast sitting on their lounge."
For more information on Munchkin League and to register at your local centre or club visit www.munchkinleague.com.au.