MUDGEE, AUSTRALIA – FEBRUARY 29: A general view during the Charity Shield NRL Trial match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Glen Willow Sporting Complex on February 29, 2020 in Mudgee, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
MUDGEE, AUSTRALIA – FEBRUARY 29: A general view during the Charity Shield NRL Trial match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Glen Willow Sporting Complex on February 29, 2020 in Mudgee, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Crowe’s NRL anti-virus plan: Go bush

South Sydney co-owner Russell Crowe has a radical plan to help save the NRL and financially struggling clubs - play games in bush towns where the humidity is high.

Crowe wants matches to be shifted to northern NSW and outback Queensland if the NRL faces being shut down because of the coronavirus.

He nominated the steamy NSW towns of Glen Innes and Moree, as well Queensland towns such as Cloncurry, Longreach, Winton, Mount Isa, Emerald and Barcaldine.

"If we are going to continue our season, some revolutionary thought is going to be required," Crowe said.

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Rabbitohs play the Dragons in the Charity Shield in Mudgee. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
Rabbitohs play the Dragons in the Charity Shield in Mudgee. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

 

 

The Hollywood star also suggested players could:

Use country accommodation, gyms and war memorial pools;

Be billeted with local families;

Travel by bus, not plane;

Avoid playing in well-populated, breezy coastal regional centres;

Relocate two sides to each country town;

Use funds banked from the success of State of Origin; and

Not force any player to shift away from their family.

 

 

Russell Crowe helping out neighbours in burnt areas of Nana Glen after the bush fires. Photo: Twitter
Russell Crowe helping out neighbours in burnt areas of Nana Glen after the bush fires. Photo: Twitter

 

"As a sport we need to understand our context culturally and stand up for ourselves," Crowe said.

"If it can be proven correct, I like Wayne Bennett's idea - based on the information that this particular strain seems to be less potent in warmer climates - to move all teams and coaching squads to northern regional centres. It is worth examining.

"The big cost to the game is not going to be lack of crowds in urban stadiums. The big cost, financially and culturally, is if the game is forced to halt and broadcast revenue dries up.

"There are a lot of little towns with well-lit sports grounds and motel and hotel accommodation, gyms and war memorial pools.

"Bus teams around, no planes, even billet with local families.

"That's how schoolboy footy teams toured the bush when I was a kid and it would have been a part of every NRL player's football upbringing.

 

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"It would take some cash and some logistical planning, but making an agreement with the broadcasters and basing every NRL squad in country towns up on the tablelands and west is not an impossible task.

"Inland, away from coastal population and main tourist centres. Great country towns like Glen Innes and Moree in northern NSW and legendary Queensland towns like Cloncurry, Longreach, Winton, Mount Isa, Emerald and Barcaldine.

"We could relocate two teams to each of the eight towns, giving the broadcasters a modest headache of how to broadcast in four regional places across each weekend with two matches in each town.

"That isn't a difficult equation to solve."

 

Taking the NRL into regional areas would be a great community move. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images
Taking the NRL into regional areas would be a great community move. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

 

Crowe proposed using money banked from State of Origin to fund the idea.

"Both the QRL and NSWRL have stashed away millions of State of Origin dollars for regional development," Crowe said. "They can open their purse strings and contribute.

"What better way to reconnect with the grassroots bush audience and create a side benefit upsurge in the economies of drought, fire and flood-challenged communities than to spend part of a season basing teams in the rugby league heartlands?

"A lot of players are also parents and it might not suit them to leave their families. That has to be accepted, it has to be the players' choice."

NRL clubs fear for the game's long-term future and don't have the cash reserves to sustain themselves indefinitely.

Players are frightened of passing the virus on to young family members and parents.

 

Spreading the games would also be an economic boost. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images
Spreading the games would also be an economic boost. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

 

"We can stand still and let the 'catastrophe' - as Mr (Peter) V'landys put it - knock us over or we can move forward right now," Crowe said.

"If the situation becomes more intense, as some are predicting, and those in the larger urban centres are forced to completely self-isolate, the importance of something very simple like weekly rugby league games could be a deeply significant source of comfort to a great many people.

"We pride ourselves on our never-say-die culture. So let's make decisions now that benefit the individual players, teams, the sport and wider audience of the game."

 

Todd Greenberg and Peter Vlandys have been vocal in asking for aid. Photo: Matt King/Getty Images
Todd Greenberg and Peter Vlandys have been vocal in asking for aid. Photo: Matt King/Getty Images

 

FRUSTRATION AT NRL DEMANDS

Russell Crowe is a "little disappointed" that the NRL has plans to seek government funding to aid struggling clubs through coronavirus.

ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys will lobby the Federal Government for cash if matches are cancelled and clubs face the prospect of falling into insolvency within three months.

Crowe though told The Daily Telegraph the government had bigger issues to confront than rugby league.

"I'm a little disappointed that the NRL's first decision was to go to the government for a handout," Crowe said.

"I understand they (NRL) are under pressure, but his situation the game is confronted with is more than just about dollars.

"It's about people. It's about culture. The Government has a lot to deal with right now.

"The health and wellbeing of the population needs to be the very first priority. Our country has gone through a series of challenges recently - droughts, fires, floods.

"I think that a sport as powerful as rugby league has to put its hand up and be proactive - not put its hand out for taxpayer funds."

 

Crowe in scene from the 2001 film A Beautiful Mind. Photo: AP PicEli/Reed
Crowe in scene from the 2001 film A Beautiful Mind. Photo: AP PicEli/Reed

 

In his appraisal of rugby league's coronavirus dramas, Crowe referred to John Nash - winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences - who the Hollywood actor portrayed in the Oscar-winning A Beautiful Mind.

"The first thought process has to be about how our society 'flattens the curve' and reduces the risk of infection across the board," Crowe said.

"There are also other important questions in play as to the broader health of the community in stressful times like these.

"John Nash's revolutionary addition to Game Theory was to add that the individual benefits when his/her decisions also benefit the group."



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