FORMER Queensland captain Gorden Tallis says rugby league needs to keep building on a terrific year for the game to maintain its foothold in Queensland in the war against rival codes.
Rugby league enjoyed a stellar year, particularly in Queensland, where – for the first time – all three NRL clubs qualified for the finals in the same season.
With Queensland continuing to dominate State of Origin under new coach Kevin Walters, former Maroons boss Mal Meninga at the helm of the Australian side and record TV audiences, things have never looked better for the game north of the border.
But Tallis warns the game cannot afford to lose momentum, or take its eyes off the enemies at the gate with the Gold Coast Suns, Brisbane Lions and Queensland Reds all rebuilding after tough years.
“It is a battle,” Tallis said. “We can sit back and play it down and talk about different markets and speak nicely about each other. But it is a battle.
“We fight for fans, we fight for sponsors, we fight for media exposure.
“And that is why having the three Queensland clubs in the finals this year was so important.
“We have been able to produce our strongest year at a time when the other codes are struggling.
“The Queensland Reds and Wallabies have had terrible years.
“The Lions and the Suns in the AFL were terrible, and that is despite the AFL spending hundreds of millions of dollars keeping those clubs afloat and getting a foothold in Queensland.
“League on the Gold Coast has turned itself around, with the Titans rebuilding on a shoestring budget. But they worked hard and rebuilt the culture, and now it is a club where good players want to be.”
Tallis, a Titans ambassador, says the rise of the Gold Coast has added the new dynamic rugby league in Queensland needed, with a roster of young stars led by Ash Taylor making people sit up and take notice.
“I want people to support them because they are in a pretty fierce battle with other codes, and the Titans need all Queenslanders behind them,” he said.
“This year, everyone thought they were going to get the wooden spoon. So to have produced the year they did is just fantastic.
“To attract a young Ash Taylor at the club is just a wonderful thing. We gave him an opportunity and now he wants to stay at the club long-term.
“I heard Brisbane say ‘oh, we let him go’. No, they didn’t. They didn’t want him. They made a decision to back the other guy because they thought Ash wasn’t up to first grade.
“There is nothing wrong with that, because Ben Hunt is a great player. Ash is a great young fellow, a great country kid, and a bloke I see as a future captain of the Titans.
“For a lot of years, people in north Queensland supported the Broncos even though the Cowboys were there.
“In the past few years, that has all changed and everyone up there is behind the Cowboys.
“That will change over time in the south-east region as well. People will see that the Gold Coast are now a serious club with a serious team, and they will realise they don’t have to follow the Broncos to watch a winning team.”