The 24th Annual Tom Brock Lecture

Country Rugby League in the 21st Century: Wither Bush Footy

Petersham RSL, tuesday 12 spetember 2023 – 6:00pm

Since 1908 rugby league’s greatest nursery in Australia has been its country towns and rural districts. The number of champions that have hailed from the bush reads like a who’s who of rugby league with names such as Weissel, Prigg, Churchill, Langlands, Fulton, Cronin, etc heading that list.

The rich history of competitions such as The Maher Cup and individual achievements such as Newcastle’s 1964 State Cup win, Western Division’s 1974 Amco Cup triumph and Country’s famous upset win against City in 1975 are all an important part of the game’s overall tapestry.

In the 21st century, however, a changing society has presented challenges to the strengths and traditions of the game in the bush.

How is rugby league meeting those challenges? What opportunities do they present? What are the implications for all levels of football — men’s, women’s and juniors? Is it all doom and gloom? What does the future hold for the game outside metropolitan areas?

Panel Members

Matt Parish: After a distinguished playing career Matt has coached club and representative teams in the bush, as well as the Samoan team that reached the 2022 RLWC final. He currently oversees development pathways in the bush for the NSWRL.
Karen Stuart: After an outstanding playing career that saw her represent Queensland and the Jillaroos, Karen has become a renowned coach and mentor in the women’s game at both club and representative level.
Geoff Mann: Veteran journalist with Dubbo newspapers and ABC regional radio, Geoff has covered rugby league and all sports in western NSW for several decades and is widely respected for his contribution to the region’s sporting community.

The 2023 Tom Brock Lecture was held on Tuesday September 12, 2023 at Petersham RSL.