A lot of good things about Country Rugby League but VB’s not one of them

If you follow the NRL you’ll know that Country Origin v City Origin is on this Sunday. You’ll also probably know that this year’s City-Country will be the last in its 106-year history.

Hailed as an important grassroots event, the contest was historically seen as trial for NRL’s State of Origin contest for young rural players often lacking the scouting opportunities that players in metro areas enjoy. These days it’s widely accepted that the game is no longer a genuine Origin trial, and more of an opportunity to showcase young, up and coming players through the Country Rugby League (CRL) team.

And here in lies the problem.

Visit CRL’s homepage and you’re immediately slapped with VB branding: from the naming rights of the training camp to the giant plate-sized logo on each players’ jersey. The level of exposure is astounding.

And, as each CRL player proudly wears their jersey with VB blazing across their chest, they are, albeit perhaps unknowingly, inflaming a solemn rural issue.

The most recent National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) shows that those living in remote and very remote areas are twice as likely to drink at risky levels than those in major cities.

Perhaps VB knew this, hence its brazen advertising across official CRL merchandise, compared with the noticeable absence of equivalent prominent alcohol marketing on the City team’s jerseys.

More broadly, we know that children exposed to alcohol ads tend to drink more, and from an earlier age. Those watching their favourite players in Sunday’s match are no exception.

We agree, it will be sad to see City-Country canned and another opportunity for rural players denied, but at least it’s one less platform we’ll see VB.

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