RUGBY league administrators know better than most that the darkest hour is just before the dawn.
Each year, the last month before the NRL’s new season kicks off seems to be the time for the sport’s latest scandal to break.
And so it was again this year, with revelations that five current Gold Coast Titans players – along with some past players and former leagueinternationals – had been charged by Queensland police with supply of cocaine.
That story put rugby league back on the front pages of all the major papers for all the wrong reasons, just when NRL administrators weretrying to build momentum ahead of tomorrow night’s season kick-off.
It’s doubtful they subscribe to the idea that all publicity is good publicity.
In the end, though, the Titans scandal – like the Rabbitohs scandal, the Manly scandal, the Bulldogs scandal, the Storm scandal and the Sharks scandal that preceded it – will have little impact on the popularity of the game once the season starts.
Because despite the Sydney Swans’ regular march to the AFL grand final and Greater Western Sydney Giants’ aggressive recruitment of young fans across the state, and despite the NSW Waratahs’ Super 15 success last year and growing popularity of the A-League, rugby leaguesteadfastly remains the number one winter sport in this part of the world.
The sport is unrivalled in its ability to shoot itself in the foot during the off-season, yet the game always springs back to life when the first ball is kicked.
So you can be sure it’s not just the rugby league fans counting down the minutes until tomorrow night’s Broncos v Rabbitohs clash.
The officials at Moore Park will also be closely watching the countdown and taking a huge sigh of relief once the match finally gets underway.
Until the next scandal, that is.
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