History Book or Facebook?


Horse Drawn Carriage

What do you think when I mention the year 1907? Maybe it is a horse and carriage or telegrams or is it rugby league? This was the year that rugby league was introduced to Australia and it has grown in leaps and bounds since this day. As time has moved on from 1907, the game became more popular Australia wide, new teams have joined the league, the locations in which league is played have grown and social media has changed dramatically. From the beginning of rugby league until now, the game has never been short of a scandal here or there. The difference to the public knowing about scandals, and how much they know, is social media. As time has progressed since the day this great game was introduced social media has expanded and technology changed.


National Rugby League Icon

Once upon a time, all the sport news that was available was printed in the local newspaper. This then grew to also be reported on television and today we find it on both these platforms as well as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and a multitude of other media. Arguably, the National Ruby League (NRL) as it is now known, thrives on social media as it is one of their biggest platforms to engage with sports fanatics on a worldwide scale. However, it could be considered that social media must be one of the biggest downfalls to the game. In a day and age where just about everyone has a smartphone or a tablet or a camera in their hand, there is minimal opportunity for NRL players to make poor choices without someone having footage of the incident.

For example, last week Australia played New Zealand in Canberra. Both teams are made


New Zealand Rugby League Team Pre Game Haka

up of a selection of players from the 16 club teams that play in the NRL Premiership. Most of these players are elite athletes who do a lot to represent their club in a positive way resulting in large fan bases. Two players, whom I and many others would consider as responsible and trouble free men, who are usually in the spotlight for the right reason, were not this time. They were videoed by a member of the public exchanging cash for drugs at 5am in the morning. As you would expect, this video was shared via all social media platforms and the game was again in disrepute. Formal apologies, club sanctions and fines were handed down to the men and the question of drug use within the game was the topic of conversation yet again. All of which occurred in the twenty four hours immediately following the incident.



Social Media Icons

This got me thinking, was drug use an issue in the past before social media became a way of life? Do poor player choices appear to be more prevalent now that social media is there to catch them out? The answer, only those who may have been involved know. The lack of social media back in the day means rugby league had opportunities to cover such behaviour up in an effort to prevent the game being brought in to disrepute. And if you don’t have to disclose information such as that, why would you make it public knowledge? Whilst there is plenty of speculation about which player did what, there are virtually no videos or photos to back up those claims from the early days. So in a day and age where social media allows players to be so exposed, negativity will always fall on the game whilst these role models continue to make poor choices.

Do you think the powers of social media have negatively tarnished the game?




National Rugby League Icon

There is no denying social media definitely has power in today’s day and age. If you were to stop what you are doing for a minute and watch those around you, how many people do you think you would see scrolling through Facebook on their phone, reading the news on their iPad or watching a snapchat from a friend? Whether you are someone of celebrity status or not, most people are using some form of social media. Considering this how is it that National Rugby League (NRL) players, whom sports fanatics such as myself consider celebrities, build relationships with their fans through social media?


An Array of Social Media Icons

Most NRL players have their own Instagram and Facebook accounts which are separate from team accounts run by their NRL club. Players individual accounts allow for closer interaction between their fans and themselves with personal insights given via pictures, videos and other means of their day to day football and personal lives. Commonly featured are Q & A sessions where the NRL player will answer questions posed directly to them by fans. This allows fans to engage on a closer level with players making them feel as though they are receiving a more unique and one on one experience.


Michael Morgan playing for the Australian Kangaroos

It is also not uncommon for fans to be given exclusive access to prize giveaways through players’ personal social media accounts. It brings players and fans closer together as players are engaging directly with their fans over a mutual passion and the ability to use tags which directly message the player. At the end of the 2016 NRL season, Michael Morgan, a highly popular North Queensland Cowboys Player began an Instagram competition where he gave away a number of his current season NRL jerseys, training shirts and previous NRL jerseys to fans. The competition ran over a period of days where fans made comments on his post saying why they would love to win one of his items. At the end of that period he announced the winners on Instagram, contacted them directly and sent off their merchandise. Following this he also reposted pictures of his fans wearing the specific items they had won. This idea was seen and commented on by other players and the idea then took off with other players following suit and giving away similar items of their own to their fan bases.


State of Origin banter – NSW vs QLD

Both NRL clubs and individual players use social media to try to engage on multiple levels with fans. Invitations to open training sessions for clubs are advertised on both club social medias and individual player social medias. This gives fans an opportunity to attend these sessions, watch their team train and have pictures and a chat with players after wards. These types of fan engagements don’t just extend to club games but State of Origin and Australian club games when played both in Australia and overseas. No matter the location of players and fans, social media plays and important part in building relationships.

Are all aspects of social media positive; to what extent do individual players expose too much of their private life?

That’s not a try, that’s a miracle!

Growing up in country New South Wales, National Rugby League (NRL)  was a sport I remember hearing about from a very young age. Times have certainly changed and these days whether you are an avid NRL supporter like myself or someone who barely follows it, there is no denying social media is a strong platform for NRL promotion.

What comes to mind when you think NRMA insurance? The Brisbane Broncos?

What about Holden, VB and Harvey Norman? These are a few of the brands known to a large variety of people, with and without links to the NRL, which use social media platforms to engage with their followers, all whilst promoting the NRL through their sponsorship of different NRL teams.


NRL on field advertising.

Have you ever though about how often you come across a company who has an affiliation with a sport you don’t follow? Yet you are aware there is a connection.

Recently I came across a link on Facebook to a wellness blog. The headline was catchy so away I clicked. After a little reading of this blog, the NRL was mentioned. Naturally, I grew more inquisitive. Unbeknown to me, the blog I had been reading is run by Kayla Boyd, a former model and fashion store owner and wife of the Brisbane Broncos captain Darius Boyd. Strangely enough, this wasn’t the first time I had found myself unknowingly engaging with the spouse of an NRL star through social media.


Brisbane Broncos captain Darius Boyd

The ability for anyone to follow, relate and engage with almost any NRL player on multiple social media platforms such as facebook, twitter and Instagram, generates greater access to the NRL and its players. This in turn reaches a larger audience through the sharing of posts, tagging of friends in comments and pictures and reposts by other individuals or organisations. Players personal accounts often provide insights in to their everyday work routines via  pictures and video clips. These range from training to game days and are shared with their often hundreds of thousands of followers. Most players not only give insight in to their work routines, but often their personal lives too. Sharing photos of their families, vacations and aspects of their everyday lives to name a few.

In October 2015 history was made during the NRL grand final.


Cowboys Co-Captains Jonathan Thurston and Matt Scott

The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys won their first ever Grand Final by one point when Johnathon Thurston made the perfect kick for goal during extra time.

That day Johnathon Thurston, arguably the greatest player of all time, sent social media in to a frenzy with his golden point kick and picture captured with his daughter preceding the game.



According to this article by Mumbrella, that grand final weekend the battle of the hash tags between the NRL and Australian Football League (AFL) was clearly won by the NRL. 106,000 #nrlgft hash tags were used across multiple social media platforms. A staggering 14,000 more than the AFL had reached during its grand final through its use the hash tag #aflgf.

Whilst there is no perfect way to measure how great the use of social media is at recruiting people towards supporting the NRL, its presence within multiple social media platforms certainly makes it hard not to be aware that the NRL exists.