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NRL team announcements should have nothing to do with gambling

The NRL’s recent decision to change the requirements in terms of when clubs announce their intended squads for upcoming matches has me a little baffled.

 

It appears that nothing has actually changed. Clubs must announce their 21-man squad by a certain time mid-week and then finalise their squad one hour before kick-off on game day.

 

Essentially things remain the same and the new regulations don’t appear to appease the concerns of the public who have grappled with clubs playing ‘ducks and drakes’ over team selection for decades.

 

Those concerns seem to stem from two basic sources. The first is the social NRL tipping competition; something which millions of Australians partake in and enjoy. NRL tipping is socially engaging, fun and fraught with danger in the salary cap era.

 

For every league aficionado who studies form and tips based on logic and mathematics, there are five tipsters who scoop the pool at seasons end with little or no knowledge of the game itself, the players involved or even the rules.

 

Throughout my office-centric corporate life, I have seen so-called league experts win the comp, as well as office staff who proudly proclaim to have no knowledge of the game, a colleague’s kids who tipped based on their favourite animals.

 

Hell, I even won a comp based on an eight-out-of-eight away team result after failing to submit my tips.

 

While it might be nice for all tipsters across the nation to have full disclosure of the teams well in advance of making their selections, in the big scheme of things, is a fluke in an office footy tipping comp really that big a deal and worthy of the NRL mandating specific times for team announcements?

 

The only other reason for public concern over the timely announcement of teams appears to be for the purposes of gambling.

 

Let me nail my colours to the mast and say clearly, I gamble on NRL. I also gamble on tennis, cricket, football and the AFL and a multitude of other sports when my fancy is tickled.

 

I express no shame. I have worked hard through my life, earn a reasonable wage and enjoy the thrill of having a little flutter.

 

Anyone critical of that, might reflect on the first Tuesday in November, and the millions invested on the Melbourne Cup. The obvious conclusion being, there are far more that do than don’t, when it comes to gambling in this country.

 

It doesn’t make it right or wrong, it is just something that some people enjoy. Whether it be poker machines, horse racing, Keno or scratchies, a flutter is part of the Australian way of life.

 

My local Catholic Church even has a ‘flutter club’, where people can throw in a few bucks a month with the chance to win a jackpot. Hope they aren’t using it to pay of the Church’s debt or legal bills.

 

Unfortunately, gambling in all its exotic and myriad forms is having the most incredibly destructive influence on Australian society. It is high time we started to think more deeply about its ramifications and the gambling industries interest in the NRL’s new regulations intensify that fact.

 

I am lucky enough that I can enjoy a flutter on a game on a Friday night, throw a few multis across numerous sports on the weekend and set a limit on what I am willing to spend.

 

I repeat, I am lucky, my mortgage keeps me in check and limits my spending. For others this is not the case. The concerns expressed by many punters in regards to the recent changes and the effect it will have on their investments is ridiculous and offensive to those who battle a gambling problem.

 

In light of the barrage of advertising and promotion of gambling establishments and NRL betting options, it would seem prudent, but unfortunately not profitable for the NRL, to step in and offer some protection to some of its most hard working, loyal and passionate fans.

 

These fans are also the most susceptible to the temptation of sports betting and the lure of a quick financial solution to the issues they may be facing.

 

The game is paramount. The purity of the competition is what lures people to grounds each weekend. Not the lure of a potential financial windfall.

 

With the advent of mobile apps, the ability to bet on sport across a variety of platforms no longer requires a person to be in attendance in order to wager, unlike the days of horse racing gone by, where bookies where the primary source.

 

The TAB revolutionised that industry as people were provided with the opportunity to bet ‘off course’.

 

Have we truly arrived at the point where NRL regulations have become influenced by betting agencies? Too right we have, and it has been happening for quite some time.

 

Ever wondered what the official start time for a game is. Just check a betting agencies shut off time for bets on the particular option and it will be different to the supposed start time listed in the official program.

 

Funny how they knew that, I wonder who told them?

 

The current environment sees a variety of betting agencies in sponsorship arrangements with rugby league teams, stadiums, NRL programs on network and cable television and various websites centred around the code.

 

It is impossible to view a telecast of an NRL match without either a washed up ex pro-footballer insulting my intelligence by pretending to understand numerical statistics or a rather glamorous young woman quoting odds on a code that she quite possibly has never watched in her life.

 

The gambling media ‘face’ presented by the on-screen representatives is pathetic, insulting and reflective of the enormous influence they have upon decisions made by the executive bodies charged with running multi-million dollar codes.

 

How these people put their head on the pillow each night, knowing that they have encouraged the vulnerable and weak to commit funds they don’t really have, to the outcome of a sporting contest, is beyond me.

 

When they spruik the odds and lure me in, I guess they feel chuffed and proud and if they get a hundred bucks out of me, good on ‘em.

 

But the damage being done to Australian society is immeasurable and to throw a cheap, ‘please gamble responsibly’ on the end of their comments is an insult to media rules and expectations.

 

The NRL should disband the new requirements and instruct the teams to hand their official team sheet to the opposition captain one hour before game time, as is the case with many kid’s sports, and the media can sit and wait with bated breath for the week leading up to the game.

 

Creating a situation where team announcements are mandated so ‘punters’ can have the most updated information is placing the sports betting aspect above that of the game itself and this is a blight on the game, the NRL and the greedy corporations who benefit.

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