5 May 2020

The NRL might just pull this off, proving most of us naysayers wrong

| Tim Gavel
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The Raiders Centre in lockdown

The Raiders Centre in Braddon in lockdown. Photo: Tim Gavel.

During the Super League war in the mid-90s in Canberra, uncertainty over the future of the code in our city was very real in the minds of supporters.

As we raced from one meeting location to another, from Canberra to Queanbeyan to the airport, just trying to get a handle on the eventual outcome was just about impossible given the situation was changing by the hour.

The uncertainty was creating angst among fans at a level well beyond the emotion of a loss or a perceived bias refereeing decision.

It ran far deeper with supporters genuinely concerned about the future of the code and the Raiders.

The anxiety currently experienced during this COVID-19 shutdown of the NRL, while nowhere near the levels of the Super League war, has created uncertainty like we haven’t seen since 1995.

That semblance of normality is about to be restored to a certain degree when players start training again this week in preparation for the re-start of the season on 28 May.

The Raider Centre

Picture perfect, the Raiders Centre is ready for use. Photo: Tom Logan.

The NRL has driven the return to competition harder than any sport in Australia, largely due to financial pressures, but there has been an element of concern that the longer no games are played, the more probable a disconnect with the fan-base could occur.

While the reasons for fan turn-off were totally different during Super League, the disconnect took the Raiders years to recover from. Only now are we seeing a return to the sizeable supporter base enjoyed by the club in 1994.

I must admit I was a sceptic about the code’s eventual recovery in the wake of Super League, just as I was about the likelihood of the competition re-starting on 28 May in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The sight of players at the new Braddon training centre with players about to start training again behind the steel fence as part of the quarantine requirements suddenly made it real.

It was no longer a pipe dream.

Rugby League has a habit of proving the doubters wrong and it appears as though it will be the case again.

Original Article published by Tim Gavel on The RiotACT.

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