QRL boss’s stinging rebuke of tackle ban critics
THE boss of rugby league in Queensland has hit back at claims the game has "gone soft" as he prepares for another term in charge.
Queensland Rugby League chairman Bruce Hatcher will Friday be re-elected to lead the game's direction in the state for a further three years.
Hatcher, 74, is expected to head into Friday's annual general meeting unopposed and extend his tenure at the helm of the QRL until at least 2023.
LIVE stream Indigenous All-Stars v Maori Kiwis in the 2020 Harvey Norman NRL All Stars match on KAYO. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >
A career accountant, Hatcher has focused on professionalising the QRL since taking up the post in 2017.
The QRL has undergone significant staff changes under his leadership and Intrust Super Cup clubs are now receiving $500,000-a-year in funding.
But the game has also encountered turbulence as it battles concerns over player safety, particularly in juniors, and participation struggles.
Controversial junior tackle bans have received a mixed reaction, but Hatcher said he was determined to do what was best for the future of the sport.
"The one thing about sport and rugby league is you can't make everyone happy all of the time," he said.
"Participation needed addressing. Every sport is finding the numbers game difficult because there is more influence, from parents more than anything, about what they want their kids to play.
"We've supported three iterations of the game under one banner. We want kids to have the option of playing touch, tag (Oztag) or tackle.
"We want skill acquisition and enjoyment evident from day one. There is too much short-term thinking around winning premierships when you're six years old.
"That has been a primary focus. It's been met with a lot of resistance as if we've gone soft, but we haven't gone soft. We want to keep people in the game longer.
"We've been very concerned with the churn rate in the women's game. A lot of people are trying it but quitting it.
"We're putting more resources behind it and creating more competitions for the women."
Hatcher believes the QRL is a stable organisation which has shown improvement across its three divisions - northern, central and south east.
The QRL's managing director Robert Moore is approaching a decade in the role and COO Rohan Sawyer was a key appointment since Hatcher took over from Peter Betros.
At the elite level, Queensland has lost the past two State of Origin series and Hatcher is hoping to turn that around by investing in game's pathways.
"I wanted to professionalise the organisation by getting qualified people with experience and formal education into key roles to run the sport like a business," Hatcher said.
"It's a fairly big money business now and you need appropriate managerial skills.
"We've got a very large project in place around pathways and creating more referees, coaches and players at the top level.
"We want referees at the top level and players available for the Maroons. We want to bridge the numbers gap (with NSW).
"We'll never have as many to choose from (as NSW) because there are nine NRL clubs in Sydney but we need to build our pool of talent.
"We also need more coaches learning through the pathways and not sitting there thinking they've learnt all they have to learn."
The NSWRL has made a significant decision to introduce a concussion substitution for all of its competitions this year.
The 18th man will only be allowed to enter a game to replace a player suffering from a head injury.
Hatcher said the QRL would investigate whether it would follow suit.
"Anything that's going to maintain the welfare of the participants is worthy of consideration," he said.