Former Great Britain international Phil Jackson has backed Steve Mortimer’s call for better support of country rugby league.
Mortimer made a plea this week for league’s powerbrokers to get out to the Riverina and regional areas to understand the challenges, and reduce the cost of insurance and registration.
It sparked an immediate response from Jackson, triggering memories of his arrival in the 1970s.
“When I first came to Wagga I couldn’t believe the difference between the support the Aussie rules people get compared to the support we don’t get,” Jackson said.
“I was absolutely surprised and disappointed when I came here.”
Jackson arrived in Wagga after a coaching stint in Goulburn, where Australian rules was virtually non-existent.
Prior to coming to Australia, the star centre/five-eighth had played nearly 30 Tests for Great Britain.
Knee problems – which continue to give him grief today – meant Jackson had retired by the time he arrived in Wagga but he went on to coach Group Nine club Kangaroos as well as Riverina and NSW Country teams.
He said he felt compelled to weigh in in support of Mortimer.
“It’s bad here, like Steve’s saying – I can back that up all the way and I’d like to. It’s very important,” Jackson said.
“No-one seems to be terribly interested in the country, do they?”
NRL clubs are at loggerheads with the commission over a fair share of the $1.8 billion dollar TV rights deal. Jackson said the figures are mind boggling at the top.
“I see players who to my mind wouldn’t be better than amateurs getting hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Jackson said.