The success of junior participation programs in other Australian sporting codes has motivated the National Rugby League (NRL) to step up their grassroots initiatives to a new level and nurture the next generation of league fans and players.
League Stars, a new introductory participation program for boys and girls aged 5-12, has been operating across the country over the last six weeks and new figures show that 81% of those involved are actually new to the game of rugby league.
By introducing the sport to new participants, the game has the opportunity to develop new fans, but also to develop players and lead them into elite pathway programs, according to GM of commercial and digital strategy at the NRL, Todd Hewitt.
“This is something the NRL has been focused on over the last two or three years and there are a couple of reasons why we have established it.
“One is, if the kids are more involved in the sport from a participation point of view, then they’re far more likely to become fans,” Hewitt said.
“But, it is also highly important to have kids involved from a participation perspective to continue to feed players through to the elite system.
The game as a whole is also in a strong position with 170,000 ‘registered’ Rugby League participants across both Junior and Senior Rugby League, an increase of 3.5%.
There is also an additional 680,000 Touch Football participants – as a result, the sport is able to connect with 850,000 participants throughout Australia.
Click below to listen to Todd Hewitt’s full podcast interview where he talks through how the sport is appealing to parents in a new non-contact environment, the conversation internally post grand final about TV ratings and what the focus is for the game in 2020.
Other highlights from the last full year participation numbers were as follows:
- National participation has increased by 3.5% in 2018
- Female participation is up 29% to 16,337 (fastest-growing segment in rugby league and doubled in the past 3 years)
- 16.7 per cent growth in Western Australia, and record participation levels in Victoria
- 8.1% increase in ages 7 and under
- 13.5 per cent increase in registered volunteers from 8,091 to 9,187, and an 18 per cent rise in the number of registered coaches from 3,103 to 3,581
The NRL is currently seeking a naming rights partner for the League Stars junior participation program.