On the way up: Illawarra juniors band together. Photo: Ken RobertsonOK footy fans, it’s feedback time again.
This mid-season Origin period gives us an opportunity to investigate some of the things that really affect our game at the grassroots level. Let’s get away from the NRL and look at the football being played away from the bright lights and television cameras.
I need to know how rugby league is going in your corner of the world; be it at junior league level, country rugby league, senior amateur or semi-pro football, recreational tag or touch football. Let me know the real issues you’d like to see addressed.
Now, in the past when I’ve called for such feedback, I’ve received a deluge of emails and correspondence from people pointing out what they see as wrong with the game at their level. It would appear those who are happy with the way things are going don’t take the time to join the discussion. But I need to hear from you as well. If you are happy with your rugby league experience, or you have a great story to tell, then please, I want to know about it.
I would like to compile an analysis of all feedback from our readers and pass the findings onto the ARL commissioners and to the newly formed NRL Game Development teams.
The NRL and the individual NRL clubs are spending more time and money than ever getting out to schools, junior leagues, community and charitable events. I would like to know if you have noticed the changes.
I have been looking at junior rugby league very closely now for several years. The conditions, the facilities, the way junior league teams are coached, the way the kids are taught to play, the way the parents react from the sidelines. I’ve also been around other popular sports as well, such as soccer, netball and cricket.
I want feedback on your junior rugby league experience, from players, parents, coaches and administrators. You don’t have to comment on all the questions here, but hopefully something strikes a chord with you and motivates you to make comment.
Talk to me about your facilities for training and playing. Have there been improvements? Are there adequate canteen facilities, amenities and parking? Does your club have enough gear and training aids?
Have you and your kids enjoyed the playing experience? Is rugby league at the younger age groups all about participation and having fun, or is there too much emphasis from coaches and parents on winning?
Even at very young age groups, I’ve seen many examples of coaches recruiting talent from rival teams and even other junior leagues to bolster their side in the hope of winning competitions? Have you witnessed such behaviour?
I have also had first-hand experience with junior league coaches who have video-taped junior league games, and then brought the tape to head office complaining about a referee missing a knock-on or not enforcing the 10 metres which cost their team the game. Are they serious? Should junior sport be about enjoying the team environment, healthy activity and having fun? Or is it all about winning?
Are kids over-coached? Are you happy with the coaching your child receives? Do all parents pitch in to assist with the duties and the club?
How would you rate the behaviour of parents and coaches at junior league games? Good? Supportive? Bad? Aggressive? Are the match officials at junior league levels being respected and supported by the kids and parents?
Do you think we need to have finals football at the junior league levels? Should we be worried about results? If we didn’t have semi-finals and finals, would this reduce the emphasis on winning? If we water down the importance of winning, would this help alleviate some of the other issues already raised?
Would you like to see touch football and tag football come under the NRL umbrella? Should we be investing more time and money to expand and develop these forms of non-collision, recreational versions of the game?
I don’t necessarily want to get bogged down in discussions about the size difference in kids at certain ages and the old arguments about weight division football; however, there is no getting away from this subject when you talk junior league football. There is no doubt this is still a major issue with parents.
Is rugby league still being played in your school? Does your school participate in inter-schools competitions? If there is no rugby league played in your school, can you explain why not?
Has your school or junior league club recently had a visit or contact from the local NRL club or the NRL Game Development team? How was this experience? How did it compare with visits from representatives of rival codes? Have you taken part in junior league or holiday clinics hosted by the NRL or your local club? Did you and your child enjoy what was on offer?
Country areas, how are you doing? How is the local team or competition holding up? Still going strong or struggling?
What are the major issues with rugby league in your home town at the moment? Have things improved or deteriorated in recent years? Would your town or league benefit from retired NRL players heading back to the bush as players or coaches?
Here is a topic I really want to know about: Do your kids still play sports out in the backyard or down the local park in their spare time? Are they spending time alone or with friends throwing, catching, passing, kicking or hitting a ball?
Are they pestering you to take them to watch the NRL games on weekends? Or do they spend most of their time inside the house playing computer games? Are your kids passionate about their sport? Are we doing enough to get them into sports or is it just convenient to allow them to play computer games because it keeps them quiet?
I can remember as a kid running home from school, scoffing a banana sandwich, changing into my jersey and shorts, jumping on the bike, pedalling as fast as I could down to the local park, to have a game of footy with whoever was in the park at the time. All comers, all ages and all sizes – we’d play for hours. The only rule was that we had to be home before the street lights came on.
If I wasn’t down the park, I’d be in the backyard kicking goals over the clothes line, beating balls up against the wall, or kicking the ball up onto the roof of the house so I could catch it when it rolled back down. Maybe I was crazy, but I couldn’t get enough of it.
Do your kids love their sport? Do they play enough of it? Are they enjoying their rugby league experience? Are you enjoying their rugby league experience? Are you concerned they play too many computer games and don’t get enough sport in their daily routine?
Would you be receptive to a rugby league academy in your area being open for a few hours after school or on weekends for your child to go down and enjoy organised activities?
Send me your feedback, please. I will report the findings when I’ve read every submission. I need to know this stuff. Thanks in advance.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.