I’ve been a huge advocate for personalised numbers in Rugby League for many years, and while I wont hold my breath for it to happen in the NRL, there is a huge opportunity for it to happen in the International Nines.
Now I’ll start with the obvious criticism whenever I bring this up…it’s tradition.
First of all we’ve changed numbers in the past….not that big of a deal. We also have names for positions. Five-Eighth, Centre, Fullback. If Cameron Smith was wearing #55, are you going to be confused when he runs on the field as to which position he will play?
Second Rowers take hits off the scrums, with Hookers lining up at Lock, and Fullbacks playing as a half in offence. No one gives a shit about their number.
I understand why people think this would be too “American” for them. All their major sports have personalised numbers. I mean they’re just multi-billion dollar businesses, why should we think like them???
There are so many benefits for both players, clubs, and fans.
Imagine the Tigers retiring #6 jersey for Benji Marshall when he finishes up, or the Storm their #9. The players might feel more inclined to stay with a club if they’re popular with fans and take advantage of THEIR number well into retirement.
NBA/NFL Jerseys have become massively popular in Australia due to the individual players in those jerseys, so maybe it could work for the NRL as well.
The Nines is the perfect platform to launch it. First of all it’s not traditional Rugby League. Players will be moving around in different positions all day. The Nines itself is a marketing ploy, so why not continue that marketing onto the players. Include bonuses for highest selling jersey. Yes representing your country is an honour, but this tournament is also a gimmick, a good one that I support, but still a gimmick.
Create some added fun to it….