NRL defends controversial TV campaign
The launch of the NRL's latest advertising campaign - which pays tribute to its most successful commercial ever - was met with derision by fans on Monday night amid mistakes and last-minute re-edits.
In The Daily Telegraph's online poll, 72 per cent of supporters believed the NRL ad is a fail with 56 per cent saying the league "stuffed it up."
The new Simply the Best advertisement - featuring Tina Turner's hit song last used by the NRL in the 1990s - was hastily re-edited to remove references to the infamous Super League war and to fix an embarrassing mistake relating to one of the game's most-loved stars.
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The ad, which shows historical footage of some of the code's biggest moments paired with current images of players and fans, originally featured a news report with the line: "The Super League war tears the code apart''.
But, on Monday night, NRL officials conceded the reference did not celebrate the best of the game's on and off field moments. The two-minute video, intended to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the iconic Tina Turner campaign, still features some of the most divisive moments in the game's history, including the historic march by South Sydney fans after their club was kicked out of the comp.
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The Super League reference appeared early in the commercial when it depicts Manly's Trbojevic brothers - Jake and Tom - as toddlers in 1996 playing footy in their backyard with a television sitting on an esky in the background. Embarrassingly for the NRL, Tom Trbojevic was only born in October 1996.
In the original version, old TV news footage plays, with the startling voiceover: "As the Super League war tears the code apart."
NRL officials informed The Daily Telegraph the voiceover was edited out.
The ad also shows a fan wearing a Rabbitohs jumper with Sutton across the back and carrying a "Save Our Souths" placard during the November 12, 2000 protest march against their exclusion from the NRL competition.
However, Rabbitohs legend John Sutton did not make his debut for the club until Round 17 in 2004.
Can’t believe you politicised the ad @NRLcom!!! Been waiting all summer for this and then you drop something thats too focused on being woke. We love the footy to get away from politics and advocacy nonsense, and we loved the original because it was centred on footy!! Ruined.— JohnMayne (@JohnDMayne) March 2, 2020
An NRL spokesperson defended the scene, saying "it's a metaphor showing Sutton going from angry Souths fan to premiership winner".
In another error, an earlier version of the ad sent to Sydney newspaper editors showed scenes of Bulldogs legend Hazem El Masri's final match for the club.
The scene begins with the words "Belmore 2010'' and showed glum Canterbury fans watching a TV screen as El Masri's career officially ends. But, El Masri's final match actually took place the year before in 2009.
Destroyed one of the most iconic sporting ads of all time, to make a political point?— Μαικ (@MaikLeventis) March 2, 2020
The mistake was fixed before the final version went to air on Monday night. The ad also depicts superstar Latrell Mitchell draped in an Aboriginal flag and women's State of Origin couple Karina Brown and Vanessa Foliaki kissing after a match. Rugby league fans also took to social media to overwhelmingly panned the ad.
But despite the contentious scenes and lacklustre public response, NRL CEO Todd Greenberg endorsed the TV campaign.
"It also reflects on the impact of rugby league in Australian communities and how our game, like no other, brings communities and cultures together," Greenberg said. "We have always stood for inclusion and the campaign addresses some of the most important social issues.''