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Top 5 Stories Of 2021: Rugby League

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Top 5 Stories Of 2021: Rugby League

For the next part of the 2021 in review series, Ministry of Sport counts down the five most influential rugby league stories we covered in the year.

5 –  Finance & Broadcast

It was a big year for both the finance and broadcast sector within rugby league.

In finance, St.George announced $250,000 in funding across rugby league, rugby and AFL grassroots clubs.

COVID-19 caused major financial disruptions with NRL’s relocation to Queensland costing a record $120 million, $15 million per week.

In broadcast, ESPN announced they would be broadcasting the NRL in Africa in an attempt to spread the game throughout Africa.

Telstra Gave $1 million of advertising space at each NRL and AFL stadium to small business in an attempt to help support the industry.

After difficult negotiations, a $600 million NRL broadcast deal was struck between Channel Nine and the NRL.

4 – Women’s League

2021 saw a major push for gender equality within the NRL.

The Queensland Rugby league announced they would increase their investment into female sports by delivering equal payfor all origin players, both men and women.

The NRL announced a $500,000 financial support package for NRLW players, approximately $3,500 per player.

The NRLW expanded in 2021, with three new teams announced, totalling  to six teams for the 2021 competition.

The women’s Origin team was a leader in health, with the announcement they would use EyeGuide in concussion testingto analyse a player brain function.

This was a revolutionary step towards tackling the issue of brain health.

Just like the men’s league, the women’s State of Origin competition was moved to Queensland due to nation wide COVID disruptions.

3 – Brain Health

There was a major focus on brain health in 2021.

The NRL introduced new rules to help battle concussion.

The 18th player rule, ensured teams activated an 18th player after three players fail a head injury assessment of when a player suffers a match ending injury caused by foul play.

Multiple studies were conducted into concussion and brain health, with the NRL pressured to tighten concussion rules.

The NRL were also a part of a sporting mental health program established by Movember to battle mental health in young athletes.

2 – COVID-19

COVID caused major disruptions to the NRL throughout 2021.

COVID lockdowns caused major disruptions to the NRL season, with the league eventually settling in hubs to reduce disruptions.

A major hub was established in Queensland who hosted both the NRL season and Origin.

Mandatory COVID vaccinations caused issues amongst the league with Queensland and Victoria both banning unvaccinated players.

Mandatory vaccination passports were announced for NSW fans who wish to attend events in 2022.

However, COVID breeches in Queensland almost cancelled the season after select players were accused of brining outside people into the hubs, breaking the strict rules to keep COVID out.

1 – 2021 Grand Final

The biggest event for the NRL was the 2021 grand final.

For the first time in the NRL’s 114 year history, Brisbane hosted the Grand Final.

Originally to be held in Sydney, a last minute COVID outbreak saw the event moved to Brisbane after Brisbane won the bid against Melbourne.

However, due to a COVID outbreak in Brisbane the event was almost cancelled.

This forced a reduction in ticket sales and crowd numbers.

COVID saw the Rugby League World Cup postponed to 2022 after Australian and New Zealand deemed the event risk too high.

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