Let’s not relive the Super League war

SUPER LEAGUE: Wendell Sailor and Darren Smith, of the Broncos, celebrate victory after the 1997 grand final.
SUPER LEAGUE: Wendell Sailor and Darren Smith, of the Broncos, celebrate victory after the 1997 grand final. Getty Images

EXCUSE the smirk but recent media-driven hype of a rebel rugby league competition is yet another example of headline-grabbing sensationalism.

No-one in their right mind, with any semblance of a memory of the dark days of the 1990s Super League war, could ponder - even as a passing whim - sentencing the game and its fans to something like that again.

Ironically, the control of pay TV rights is at the crux of the current issues, just as it was back in 1995 when an estimated $1 billion was wasted while opposing media moguls Kerry Packer and Rupert Murdoch staged their two-man war.

To even suggest a similar hijack now, because the pro-business management style of the NRL hierarchy has put out of joint the noses of a couple of club bosses, borders on stupidity.

It can't happen again ... and it won't. Twenty years on, there are fans who still refuse to forget the ravages of that conflict, let alone forgive those responsible.

But despite the wanton waste of money, the fractured friendships and the deceit, my lasting memory is from 12 months before the Super League war actually erupted.

In the March 2, 1994, edition of Rugby League Week, I wrote that because relations between the Broncos and the game's hierarchy were at the time fractured, a breakaway competition was mooted.

The sourcing of my story, rather than the scoop itself, is why I smirk when those circumstances are recalled.

I had received a heads-up that the Broncos, who had won successive premierships in 1992-93, were disillusioned at their treatment by the then-governing body, the NSW Rugby League, and were considering some kind of drastic action.

My phone call to chief executive John Ribot one Sunday afternoon was greeted with "leave me out of that one Durko, if you want a comment, ring Porky".

Porky was the late Broncos chairman Paul Morgan, who at the time was a very successful stockbroker, moved in powerful circles and had friends in high places.

He died from a heart attack on the golf course in 2001.

When I phoned him, his wife Suellen said: "Aren't you lucky. Paul is in the garden pruning roses and will do whatever he can to get out of that."

Luck, and timing, was on my side. On the condition he was not quoted, Porky opened up for around an hour that afternoon and gave me invaluable background on the beefs the Broncos had with authorities and how an alternate competition might function.

Although some Super League innovations have been good for the game, what followed was an absolute debacle.

Now, with 2015 producing one of the most competitive seasons I can recall, the game needs consolidation, not confrontation.

Topics:  opinion tony durkin

Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Big problem with new pension pay rise

Retirees receive a slight pension boost from this month.

Pensioners will receive an extra $13.20 a fortnight from this month

Donations flood into storm ravaged regions

Amanda Lindh at Murwillumbah Community Centre. Thanks to News Corp, Givit and the Red Cross, the centre will soon be re-opening its food pantry. The pantry was destroyed by flooding in the wake of Cyclone Debbie.

12 months later, Cyclone Debbie's impact still felt

Debbie the second most costly cyclone in Australia's history

The Insurance Council of Australia says the cost of Debbie's damage is second only to Cyclone Tracy which devastated Darwin in December, 1974.

$1.71 billion to fix damage from Townsville to Lismore

Local Partners