History will show game was on the right side


And now action aplenty from the last three decades. The Benji Marshall flick pass. The Darren Albert try to win the 1997 grand final for Newcastle. The Warriors’ first ever try in 1995. Cameron Smith, living the dream. Raiders fans doing the Viking clap. Some Johnathan Thurston magic. The Macklemore song at the 2017, the …

WAIT!

What the hell’s Macklemore doing there? He didn’t play rugby league! He just sang his own anthem to marriage equality at the 2017 grand final.

Yup. It was a brave move by Todd Greenberg to give that the go-ahead at the time, but it paid off many times over. If anything ever made the statement that the game has grown from being a mere parish pump game of big boofy blokes running into each other into a sophisticated and seriously professional game that wants and deserves the support of everyone, then it was that moment. And so Macklemore isn’t worth a second’s footage in a two-minute ad?

Please!

Ditto all the other things that drew flak. Mention of the Super League war, and the Souths fans marching in the streets to ensure their survival?

What’s not to celebrate? That was the most almighty sporting ruckus there ever was, but the game was so strong it survived it. And Souths fought back from near extinction to be the toast of the league.

Latrell Mitchell draped in the Aboriginal flag? Fabulous!

In the move to Indigenous justice in this country, rugby league is not the poor slobs up the back who simply have no clue we are in the 21st century, they are helping to lead the way. They are ahead of the curve, and Mitchell is emblematic of that. What’s not to celebrate? (Unless of course, you are one of the poor slobs up the back that just doesn’t get it.)

Double ditto the famous kiss between Karina Brown (Queensland) and Vanessa Foliaki (NSW) after an Origin game. Some of the blokes at the bowlo didn’t like it. Who cares? Women playing Origin was as unthinkable 30 years ago as it was that opposing players might not only be lovers but be proud of it. But that is how far the country and rugby league has come. When you put together the 10 most iconic moments of league in the last 10 years – a moment that brought the attention of people far beyond the usual league market – in whose universe does that not make the cut?

After all, what is the aim of advertising? I say it is to bring in new customers, those who live around the margins of the products on display, who might be tempted to come on over and give it a go.

Rugby league has become a vehicle for players like Latrell Mitchell to use their voice and it’s something that should be embraced.Credit:Getty

So yes, a red-meat, hairy-chested, white-bread ad might have received a hearty tick of approval from the red-meat, hairy-chested, white-bread mob. But so what? They are already the rugby league heartland. The joy of the game in recent times has been to embrace diversity and inclusion, and it has reaped the rewards accordingly and grown because of it.

This is what the critics don’t get, that the professionals do: diversify and include, or wither and die.

It is as simple as that.

My erstwhile colleague Steve Mascord put it beautifully, for rugbyleaguehub.com.

“The new NRL commercial seems to upset the same people who get annoyed by Greta Thunberg . . .” he wrote. “The young environmentalist does seem to trigger her critics in ways that are not entirely logical. It seems as annoying to them that others listen to Thunberg as it is that they disagree with the substance of what Thunberg actually does and says.”

A moment, please, to allow the mob of slobs up the back to vent on the subject of Thunberg. It’s alright I’ll put it in brackets, so you won’t have to hear most of it.

(%^&*! . . . charlatan . . . %&*@ Alan said!… *(@( teenager! &*(@(@ fake news! @((@%#)
Do go on, Steve.

“If there are triggers in the NRL ad, then they might be: the ‘Love Is Love’ pro-LGBT+ message, the prominence of the Aboriginal flag, women’s sport … have I missed any? If referencing these issues is divisive, I know what side of that particular divide I’d like to be on.”

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Exactly. History will show that the NRL got their positions on these matters right, and they’ll get a larger slab of the future because of it.

But give them one last burst, Steve Mascord, if you would.

“If the ad leaves you cold, chances are you’ll be cold and six foot deep a lot sooner than those who like it.”

It certainly won’t be the young girl we see at the end of the ad, watching Cameron Smith play, before charging out into her backyard, football in hand, to dream of her rugby league future.

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