2015 was a successful year for local Rugby League in Canberra and the surrounding regions. 

It was misreported earlier in the year that junior participation numbers were falling. This was not the case however, with numbers actually enjoying a steady rise in 2015, increasing from 3575 in 2014 to 3592 in 2015.

Mark Vergano the Canberra Region and Community Rugby League General Manager explained the mix up.

“It was simple mistake, where it was reported and they didn’t compare apples with apples. They put the seniors and juniors together for the 2014 figures and then only included the junior figures in 2015. On like for like basis with the juniors we were up slightly, which was good” Vergano said.

“We had a slight rise which was against trend for a lot of the other areas, being one of only two to rise in the NRL area. We are more ambitious with growth moving forward. We are pleased to be ahead of the trend and are now looking to foster a closer alignment with the Raiders and promote Rugby League more heavily through schools and clubs to get those numbers up even higher.”

The senior competitions also enjoyed a successful 2015, highlighted by the Queanbeyan Blues retaining the TTM Canberra Raiders Cup with a thrilling extra time victory over the Goulburn Workers. Similar to the juniors, senior competitions in 2015 also had a slight rise in participation. Vergano was pleased with 2015 but admitted there are still lots of work to be done with senior competitions.

“The seniors are certainly in the same realm (as the juniors), what we want to do is free up some of the structures and look at alternate offerings such as Rugby League 9s to increase our reach and ensure that we have people playing rugby league. That’s a work in progress at the moment.”

The George Tooke Shield is a particular area of focus for 2016, as numerous teams are looking to be added to the competition. The grand final held in Bungendore was a fantastic advertisement for the appeal of Rugby League in regional areas.

“We have had terrific interest in having new teams. We are trying to prepare two new teams to come in and could have up to four new teams going forward. It was a very competitive and a terrific grand final at Bungendore. Bungendore’s population is 2,500 and we had 1,000 through the gate which was a fantastic advertisement for bush footy. Good football and great enthusiasm around the clubs and that’s really what we want to tap into for growth” Vergano said.

Female participation was a key focus for growth in 2015 and will remain crucial moving forward. Numbers increased especially in regional areas as the league tag initiative proved popular.

“League tag has proved very popular and it’s been terrific the way it’s changed the nature for our regional clubs at the moment. So we are looking at now making sure our Canberra Raiders Cup teams start on that pathway of growth as well. It has been fantastic in our regions, having the extra game, often having the boyfriends and the girlfriends turning up to play together. There are some terrific women athletes we weren’t really catering to before and this really gets them engaged”.

Having been in his new position for only six months, Vergano has already made a successful start and has a number of new initiatives he is working on over the offseason. Vergano has found the new start with Rugby League invigorating, after 13 years previously as CEO of Cricket ACT. Participation numbers growing is positive and will again remain a key area of importance leading into 2016.

The article on particpation numbers rising in local leagues is featured in the fourth and final edition of the 2015 Raider magazine, which is now available. Also included in the magazine is an interview with Sia Soliola after he picked up the 2015 Meninga Medal plus heaps more! 

CLICK HERE to read the online version of the Raider Magazine. 

NOTE: Physical copies of the magazine will be available at Raiders HQ mid-December. There will be no copies sent via mailout. 

CLICK HERE to read all of the past issues of this year's magazine.