Former Wallaby turned journalist Peter FitzSimons has told critics of the NRL’s new ad to “get nicked”, defending the league for moving with the times.
There were plenty of vocal critics against the new ad, launched a week ago, claiming it was “divisive” and “too political”. Some, like Today co-host Karl Stefanovic, took exception to a shot of South Sydney star Latrell Mitchell with the Aboriginal flag draped over his back while others weren’t impressed with the ad showing its support for same-sex relationships.
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Speaking on Channel 9’s Sports Sunday program, FitzSimons said: “To all the angry white men shaking their fist at the clouds, get nicked.”
He praised the NRL for being bold enough to venture beyond the white lines on the field and touch on social issues.
“That ad is not just good, that ad is great. That ad is something for rugby league to celebrate,” FitzSimons said.
“Instead of being the slobs up the back of the bus, always being retrogressive, they’re progressive and they’ve put themselves in the future.
“The rugby league story is not just about big hits and great tries. It’s about a social movement and rugby league can take a deep bow on the international stage.
“That was a great ad rugby league can be proud of.
“It’s inspirational across the board.”
The ad looked back on rugby league’s biggest moments over the past 30 years and rebooted Tina Turner’s iconic song “Simply the Best”, which was the game’s anthem three decades ago.
It features shots of footy stars like Cameron Smith and the Trbojevic brothers as children watching their heroes before growing up to reach the highest level themselves.
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Latrell Mitchell’s cameo divided opinion.Source:Supplied
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Like FitzSimons, former Australian netball captain Liz Ellis was also a huge fan.
“I reckon with that ad, you like where you see yourself,” Ellis said. “I love the bit about the little girl (in the ad watching rugby league on TV). When I was a little girl I used to cheer for the Penrith Panthers and I desperately wanted to play rugby league for the Penrith Panthers. That’s all I wanted to do when I was a little kid.
“So I saw myself reflected in that little girl and it gave me goosebumps because I thought, ‘Oh my God, how awesome is that, now little girls can see a future for themselves in this game’.
“I suspect the people who don’t like the ad don’t see themselves reflected as much in it as they saw in that initial (Tina Turner) ad campaign.
“But the NRL, I can see what they’re trying to do, they’re trying to appeal to a wider base of fans because, as you (FitzSimons) call them, the slobs up the back or the boofheads or just simply the people that don’t like that ad, they’re probably loyal fans who are going to watch rugby league anyway.
“So why not take the opportunity with a different ad to try to appeal to a greater base?”
During the week, Melbourne Storm captain Smith threw his support behind the ad in the face of the backlash.
“Personally I like the ad, I think the NRL have done a great job with the inclusiveness of everyone,” Smith told media on Thursday.
“It sends a message that our game includes everyone. We’re a game that is welcoming to all types of people of all different cultures and beliefs.
“I actually think they did a good job, I enjoyed it.”
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