NRL Season Launch: 'We're Changing' Says ARL Commissioner John Grant

25/02/2016 4:07 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
Mark Metcalfe via Getty Images
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 25: Cowboys captain Johnathan Thurston poses during the 2016 NRL Season Launch at Sydney Botanical Gardens on February 25, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

“We’re changing.”

With these words, the head of the Australian Rugby League Commission, John Grant, launched the 2016 NRL season at a function in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden on Thursday.

That’s right, the venue was the Royal Botanic Garden. Not a big glitzy function centre whose back alleys may have been be urinated upon by hordes of drunk football stars afterwards, but a genteel patch of greenery called the Tarpeian Lawn.

The inference was clear. When you think of the NRL, think of nice. Think of lawns and sunny skies and trees and flowers and fig trees and orange juice and men in smart suits with shirts tucked in. Do not -- repeat, DO NOT -- think of all that other stuff which we don’t need to dwell upon here.


Good luck trying to hoist the trophy above your head after winning this year, fellas.

But what has the the NRL done to excite fans about the upcoming season which starts next week, and which will feature five-day-a-week football from Thursday to Monday for the bulk of the season? More Tina Turner? Some Hoodoo Gurus or Bon Jovi?

So there's no bogan call to arms, as there has been in the past, but a general message of inclusiveness in the new promotional ad which John Grant described as deliberately "raw, shaky and blurred".

Normally when a rugby league chief uses a trio of adjectives like that in succession it's because he's describing something bad which happened on the weekend in Kings Cross.

But the new ad, in all its YouTubey amateurism, is all about seeing the game through the eyes of fans. You can see it here.

The ad's theme is "Be There When History Happens" and it culminates with the moment when Johnathan Thurston kicked the winning field goal in the 2016 Grand Final.

NRL director of commercial Andrew Adbo said on launch day that the campaign "captures the moments that keeps fans on the edge of their seat while showcasing the raw emotion of those that experienced it live".

Earlier this week, he said, "it's not just being about big bang and premiership, but to get people thinking about what our brand stands for in the community".

That's what Thursday's launch was all about. About reminding the world that rugby league is an exciting game and doesn't have to be a dirty one. Here's to a not particularly raw, shaky or blurred season 2016.

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