Rugby is one of the biggest international sporting games in the world, and this is the case in Australia in which it is one of the three major football codes that dominate Australian sport. The origin of rugby can be traced back to times in which it was played at the eminent English public schools.
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It was introduced in Australia by Tom Wills in 1858 and since then, it has tremendously grown in terms of the number of players and those who love watching the game (ABS 2002, p.31). The game is played primarily during the winter season and the largest percentage of participants lie within the eastern states of Australia. The media plays a vital part in broadcasting the game to a wider audience across the globe; in 2009 alone the game was approximated to have attracted 128.5 million viewers (Davison & Lawson 2006, p. 16).
The Victorian rugby league is a body in Australia that heads the rugby league sporting activities (Daly 2005, p. 68). Although this league has gained prominence in the country, it is worth noting that this was only possible after splitting from the rugby union. In addition, before 1924, the body comprised of members from other small bodies from different states which included three members from Queensland rugby league, and three from New South Wales rugby league (Davison & Lawson 2006, p.17).
Rugby League was started when clubs in North England separated from the rugby football union in 1895, creating the two different codes within the one sport (Cortis, Sawrikar & Muir 2007, p. 28). The separation was due to disagreement between the working class and the higher socio economic class.
The Victorian rugby league gained popularity in 1907, and new codes of the game from other states were imported and embraced in the region (Cortis, Sawrikar & Muir 2007, p. 32). In 1924, the Australian rugby league board of control was formed which later transformed to the Australian rugby league (Cameron & MacDougall 2000, p. 123).
The Australian rugby league is governed by a board which is made up of a partnership committee of six delegates who have the duty of administering all competitions of the league.
The head of this body is appointed on a yearly basis. The league has complicated governance- comprising of representatives of the New South Wales rugby league, the Queensland rugby league, the national rugby league and the Australian rugby league. Each of these play a role of contributing ideas that are much needed to run the league (Davison & Lawson 2006, p.14).
The league aims at supporting rugby in Australia and ensuring that it achieves the maximum potential of participation (Cameron & MacDougall 2000, p. 63). It is also aimed at bringing the people in the communities together and aims at working harmoniously as they play the sport. Rugby is a sport that is perceived to be rough and many would refrain from participating due to fear of suffering both emotionally and physically. The league aims at ensuring that the environment surrounding the game is free of harm of players.
The Australia rugby league comprises of thirteen part-time clubs which take part in the sport when the season starts in March every year (Cameron & MacDougall 2000, p.120)The games are played every weekend till the end of September (Davison & Lawson 2006, p.14). In 2008, a total of 423,584 Australians took part in rugby league competitions (Roberts 2008, p.105). Junior registration has seen a major increase in participation.
Between the years 1999 and 2008 participation among junior members has grown from 79,000 to 120,667 (Roberts 2008, p.110). In senior groups, participation levels tend to reduce in the higher age groups due to the nature of the game which definitely calls for more physical strength and vigor.
In terms of gender, the Australian rugby league has witnessed a much higher percentage in participation from men than women. The lack of women participation in the game is due to the masculine nature of the game which puts off the female gender (Daly 2005, p. 68).
Although this is the case for the grownups, it is contrary in the case of the junior teams. There are many junior women who participate in this game. This has increased the likeability of the game among females in spite of the seemingly low participation levels especially at national and international tournaments (Cameron & MacDougall 2000, p.125).
Finances are crucial and will always be needed towards the growth of any organization. This also applies to the Australian rugby league. Most of the financial support for this league is provided by sponsors (Cortis, Sawrikar & Muir 2007, p.16) For instance, it has been funded by Telstra and thereafter referred to as the national rugby league premiership (Cameron & MacDougall 2000, p. 71).
There are many other sponsors of the league alongside Telstra which include Toyota. Examples of other sponsors include Powerade who provide the rugby balls and AAMI who caters for the referees (Cortis, Sawrikar & Muir 2007, p. 60). The league partners with all these organizations that have similar goals to excel and work together.
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Australia is one of the locations around the globe where rugby league has been powerful and achieved great success (Daly 2005, p.26). By 1980, the league was popular enough at the grass roots level, that it was able to expand to other regions of Australia and spread Rugby league to areas which hadn’t seen Rugby League before (Cameron & MacDougall 2000, p. 38).
This was due to the rules set that were to be followed by all the stakeholders- to let the game expand. The league has put in place a process of solving any emerging challenges. There is also a set code of conduct that ensures uniformity and elimination of any mistreatment of the parties involved.
Strengths and opportunities & Weaknesses and Threats
The media saw the potential in the league and more focus was put on its performance by portraying it as an inefficient business but which could be rationalized (Cortis, Sawrikar & Muir 2007, p. 28). As a result of consistent focus by the media, it led to attraction of a large number of audience (Cameron & MacDougall 2000, p.123).
It is also imperative to note that the Australian rugby league has developed convenient ways of communication like the one-stop shop which contains contacts, information and downloads on all the activities of the league (Cortis, Sawrikar & Muir 2007, p.12) Organizations like rugby unions are a threat to the league since most of the players move from the league to the union and also provide a close competition to the league.
The success of a league in any sport is determined mainly by the players. The Victorian league has many talented players who come from the state and as such, there is a large pool of players who can participate in the teams. Most of them have grown into competent and dependable players across the world.
Due to great talents at the disposal of the league, it is easy to constitute the strongest team possible. Just like the players, the league has many fans that strengthen it through their support, and so expansion of the game across Victoria is imperative for the growth of the Victorian rugby league (Cortis, Sawrikar & Muir 2007, p. 28).
In Australia, the rugby league has played a significant role in ensuring that the game is played by all the members of the community at all age groups. The management of the league has put in place a countrywide training program for rugby players drawn from all levels (Cameron & MacDougall 2000, p. 38) The recruitment test is relatively short and quite easy for those joining the team.
The media plays a huge part in the promotion of the sport across the state. Television rights and broadcasting at different times at night factor the wider audiences that view the sport. It looms as an opportunity for a television rights deal that has the potential to attract the millions of people across Victoria that would have otherwise not been exposed to Rugby League.
The greater opportunity there is for people to view the sport, the greater the interest and support for games and participation, which would ultimately lead to a stronger league – participation wise and financially.
There are many indigenous players in the national rugby league which is also one of the main objectives of the league (Daly 2005, p.36). This provides a good opportunity to expand the sport into indigenous regions in Australia, and to promote multi culture mentality and bring communities together.
It has been able to address some of the community’s problems such as personal development of the young generation, by providing them with a sport that promotes exercise and allows for the social benefits of kids playing together and making friends with each other. Apart from working with community members, it has close links with some of the local organizations which are benefiting the local community (Davison & Lawson 2006, p. 13).
The league has promoted peace among states but racism still exists. In the process, there are those players or teams which are discriminated on the basis of their social background. This is a setback to the growth of the league although it is not widespread as it is the case in other sports (ABS 2002, p.12).
There are still set objectives of the league which have not been achieved and as such, the league has to come up with guidelines on how the competitive level of the game can be improved (Davison & Lawson 2006, p. 24). The governance of the league has been faced by setbacks such as the presence of administrators with state-based interests at the expense of developing sports. This calls for an independent body which will help in strengthening the league both now and in the future.
In spite of the strengths and opportunities highlighted above, there are still weaknesses and threats. For instance, discipline is a crucial element among players in any game and it is equally required in rugby. In the past, most of the Victorian league’s players have been featured in the media for the wrong reasons like lack of discipline.
The Victorian league has strong traditions and cultures which compel it to resist changes and improvements that are required in the team from time to time. For example, most of the old players are retained for long not giving the young and innovative players a chance to participate as players. This issue has been a great setback to the league and has threatened its existence and success.
Victoria is a state which is dominated by AFL, and by which, the Victorian rugby league is forever resisting the threat of losing players at the grass roots level as well as intermediate and professional level to the sporting code. This also looms as an opportunity however, to expand a sport in which Rugby League is a rare opportunity for kids in Victoria to participate a sport which is different.
Conclusion and recommendations
The Australian rugby league has been a success in achieving many of its goals though there are still setbacks which are impeding its growth. In terms of achievements, the league has been able to eliminate any harassment of stakeholders bearing in mind that the codes of conduct have been revised and have to be adhered to at all levels of participation.
On the eradication of racism, it is has been quite a success although more emphasis on better codes of conduct are required. In addition, lack of an independent leadership system is still a setback since leaders’ decisions are based on their interests and not that of the leagues.
The competition from other organizations is a threat to the league in the future. The training and performance capability of the team should be improved in order to outwit competition in both local and international matches.
Due to competition, players join other organizations in search of favorable conditions. The state of losing players to other organizations can be reduced by creation of better remuneration plans for players. This will curb the challenge of losing players to other competitive leagues and teams across the board.
ABS, 2002, Social Capital and Social Wellbeing, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Sydney.
Cameron, M. & MacDougall, C 2000, Crime Prevention through Sport and Physical Activity, Australian Institute of Criminology, Sydney.
Cortis, N., Sawrikar, P. & Muir, K 2007, Participation in sport and recreation by culturally and linguistically diverse women, Social Policy Research Centre, University of New South Wales.
Daly, S 2005, Social Capital and the Cultural Sector: Literature Review prepared for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, London School of Economics, London.
Davison, K & Lawson, C 2006, “Do attributes in the physical environment influence children’s physical activity?” International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity, vol. 3 no.19, pp.1-17.
Roberts, M 2008, Great Australian Sporting Moments: Great Australian Sporting Moments, Melbourne University Publishing, Melbourne.