During last week, all the kids in our neighborhood (Drummoyne in Sydney) had been letter dropped with an invitation to attend a 'new' initiative set up by the ARU (Australian Rugby Union). For a $20 registration fee, the kids would receive 8 weeks of training/development in the game of Rugby Union. For their $20 they would receive a Rugby Union 'show bag' which contained over $100 worth of goodies (included was a quality Rugby Ball, stickers, Drink bottle, free passes to games, discount vouchers, etc).
My son (8 years old) asked if he could go and 'try rugby' (the initiative was promoted as Try Rugby), and as he had nothing on a Friday night, I thought that him running around, learning new skills would only enhance his football (soccer) skills.
We went down to the local oval, and as soon as we got there the kids were invited onto the oval to do a warm up with Mathew Burke (Current Waratahs Captain and Wallaby) and Scott Stainsiforth (Wallaby & Waratahs).. The adults were invited upstairs to pay the $20 (+$10 for any additional child) and receive the Goodies bag. The bar was open ($2 for a beer or wine, free soft drink and chippies for any siblings not attending the rugby). People everywhere trying to help out etc.
The organisers were expecting around 50 kiddies to turn up. They ran out of show bags (they had 200 prepared) and promised all that missed out that more would be there next week.
I started talking to one of the organiers as to the motives for the event. Apparently, Drummoyne was a very traditional Rugby area but have fallen on hard times with the local kids taking up soccer in ever increasing numbers. They only have 1 under 8's Rugby team compared to 10 under 8's soccer teams. The goal is to increase numbers.
There was a speech from some official, basically saying how Rugby is a family event (stressing the 'safe family' orientated spectator facilities, ie 100K at a Bledisloe cup match, without any trouble). That at these nights a 'special' guest Wallaby & Waratah will be on hand to answer any questions and to sign autographs. The 2 Wallabys were very courteous, signing autographs, posing for photos, etc. The Friday nights were stressed as a good 'networking' event for parents, as well as a fun time (supervised by professional staff) for the kids. My sons entire under 8's soccer team was there, most wearing a wallaby replica jersey (my son resplendent in his Spirit kit :-)). The kids had a ball (literally).
The next day at our home ground, there were almost as many boys kicking their new Rugby ball around as there were boys kicking footballs.
Yesterday, I suggested that the family go off to Parra stadium to watch the match between Olympic and the knights. My wife remembered the events of the past weeks and suggested that maybe it'd be better if the young ones didn't attend, what with the chance of trouble etc. Not wanting to go alone, we headed off for a family outing instead. On the way home, the news broadcast mentioned the crowd violence etc. My wife's concerned vindicated (well in her mind anyway).
What code do you think has the best chance of winning the hearts and minds of the average punter???
Will we ever get it right ??