The launch of the 2016 Buildcorp National Rugby Championship (NRC) took place in Sydney this week. With the main focus being on engaging the fans. NRC 2016 will see the third instalment of the premier national rugby competition in Australia. A reduced number of eight sides will battle it out across 14 locations as the game is taken to the people.
More Venues, More Fans
In taking rugby to regional areas throughout Australia, the NRC 2016 is hoping to connect with more rugby fans than ever before. Supporters in Toowomba in Queensland, Orange and Tamworth in New South Wales as well as Frankston in Victoria will be afforded to the chance to see top level rugby action. The match in Frankston will be combined with the Melbourne International 7’s as the Australian Rugby Union and Victorian Rugby Union look to capitalise on interest in rugby from the Rio Olympics. A fantastic initiative that is sure to generate support from the local communities.
Uphill Struggle From the Start
By no fault of its own the NRC 2016 faces a huge challenge to generate a following. With the Australian Super Rugby franchises having indifferent seasons this year and the Wallabies struggling at Test level. It is tough to attract new supporters to the game. Die hard rugby traditionalists will continue to turn out to matches but what rugby needs is to reach a new audience. Initiatives like the regional matches and the new deal with Fox Sports, highlights the fact that the ARU are trying to break the mould with this competition. In order to establish a new fan base.
New this season for the NRC will be the introduction of a number of marquee rounds. Established with the hope of once again connecting with new supporters. The Pacific Island Round (Round 7 8-9th October) tops the billing. This will pay tribute to the Pacific Islander communities who are such an integral part of the sport in Australia. Capping off this Round will be the ‘Pacific Final’ played after the Western Sydney Rams and Country Eagles match. Teams hoping to be in that Final will be Tonga ACT, Tonga NSW, Maori NSW, Fiji NSW and Samoa NSW.
View From the Top
At the launch ARU CEO Bill Pulver had this to say about the competition;
“The NRC showcases Australia’s best creative, running rugby around the country, provides a pathway for our most exciting young talent, and helps our Super Rugby stars push for national selection.”
With an advertisement like that for the competition fans should already be lining up for tickets for Round One which kicks off this weekend, 27-28th August. Australian Rugby needs its supporters to engage with the game to help spur its revival.
NRC 2016 Round One Fixtures
Saturday 27th August
Perth Spirit vs Melbourne Rising at (1.00pm AWST, 11.00am AEST)
Brisbane City vs NSW Country Eagles (3.00pm AEST).
Sunday 28th August
Western Sydney Rams vs Sydney Rays (1.00pm AEST)
UC Vikings vs Queensland Country (3.00pm AEST)
Quotes sourced from Australian Rugby Union Media Release