Written by Stuart McLennan
Rugby league in Australia has been hit with another cost cutting measure in 2020 and this time it will directly impact the fans.
Big League staff were informed this week that the magazine will not be produced again this year, in light of games going ahead initially without crowds.
Owned by the NRL and licensed to News Corp, this latest development is part of a raft of cost cutting measures implemented by the NRL that has so far targeted referees. Grassroots development is set to be cut as the governing body looks to reduce spending by $50 million.
The publication has been in existence as a record for the game since 1920. Starting life as “The Rugby League News” it was rebranded to “Big League” in 1974.
The magazine provided lineups from NRL, Canterbury Cup, Intrust Super Cup, Jersey Flegg and Ron Massey Cup teams. It also presented stats, results and feature articles to a readership of around 200,000 fans.
It was the program you received when you threw a five buck note at the seller after you made your way through the turnstiles on game day.
For this correspondent it was my reference point for up and comers in the early games and then rolled up and tattered by the main match, it was pounded against the seat in either disappointment or jubilation depending on how the match played out.
Staff at Big League took to social media to express their disappointment at having their ‘dream jobs’ being taken from under them while others recounted memories of receiving their ‘start’ with the magazine.
Journalist and international rugby league merchandise retailer Steve Mascord expressed his belief that there is still demand for a program at live games on Twitter posting “Despite what happened today at @bigleaguemag I believe programs have a future. Surely people at the ground knowing who’s playing is a basic necessity? It just needs re-imagining – perhaps using a technology that hasn’t yet been invented.”
The #OKBoomer squad may point to the demise of newspapers and magazines in hard copy format. You can access team lists on your phone they might say.
It’s not the same somehow and it doesn’t replace the program when throwing it down in disgust and frustration when the opposition scores a try.
The last, (possibly ever), Big League was produced before Round 2 this year with the New Zealand Warriors on the cover. Ironically the headline screamed ‘Standing strong.’
There is a chance the magazine will be revived in 2021 but no guarantees.
Let’s hope the NRL go back to the program. The game won’t be the same without a Big League.