NRL: Dolphins farcical naming decision is wildly unpopular and counterproductive

Opinion: @Hayward_AdamK

The Redcliffe Dolphins had only been an official NRL franchise for a few hours before sending social media into meltdown over their decision to simply be known as ‘The Dolphins’.

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In an apparent attempt to “not alienate anyone”, they have alienated everyone by not including a geographical name of the catchment area which they represent.

Supporters identify with a club based on their location.

Yes, we all know the Dolphins are based in Redcliffe, but who are they suppose to be representing?

Dropping the name ‘Redcliffe’ in favour of a geographical name which is more inclusive to their catchment area made sense.

‘Moreton Bay Dolphins’ was a popular choice because it is the name of the entire region which includes Redcliffe, neighbours the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane metropolitan regions and intertwines all three communities.

The idea behind not including a geographical name was to broaden the clubs appeal beyond Moreton Bay, to include Greater Brisbane, Sunshine Coast and Central Queensland. But one could argue, it lessons their appeal. It makes the club look soulless and lacking an identity.

It will confuse anyone new to rugby league as to who the Dolphins are and who they represent.

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That in itself is counterproductive when you are trying to bring in new fans to the game as well as showcase the National Rugby League to new markets such as the US.

And telling rugby league supporters in Central Queensland to “support us, we’ll represent you,” would be akin to the Newcastle Knights claiming Coffs Harbour and the mid-north coast as their own.

If the club wants to inherit a catchment area of that size, they may as well have gone with the suggested ‘Sunshine State Dolphins’ name and incorporate all of Queensland.

ARLC chairman Peter V’landys and NRL CEO Andrew Abdo love throwing around the word, ‘tribalism’.

Tribalism, in rugby league terms is about supporters being loyal to the team which represents their tribe, or to paraphrase – their home region, which in the Dolphins case is Redcliffe and the wider Moreton Bay area.

The way modern sporting franchises and competitions market and promote themselves means fans can choose to support any team from anywhere for any reason.

The Melbourne Storm have strong support in all of Victoria and in south Queensland. The South Sydney Rabbitohs are supported by rugby league fans all over Sydney, regardless of whether they are from the Rabbitohs geographical region or not.

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Manchester United, Real Madrid, Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Cowboys are among the most popular sporting franchises in the world, with supporters from all over the world.

Each one of those teams have a geographical name of the area which they represent, and yet their worldwide support is organic.

What the Dolphins are trying to do, is manufacture support from as large of a geographical footprint as they possibly can. But simply going by ‘The Dolphins’ is not going to get fans invested in their historical roots, identity and values.

If the Moreton Bay based club wants support from Central Queensland, Sunshine Coast and Greater Brisbane, it is not about a ridiculous notion that a specific geographical name would exclude or alienate them.

It is about doing the work by investing in community engagement, providing pathways for their juniors, taking home games to those regions and most importantly – achieving on-field success. That is how clubs win the hearts and minds of supporters beyond their geographical footprint.  

One other NRL club, the Warriors, also ditched their geographical name for sponsorship reasons – much to the chagrin of their supporters. However, they were formally known as the Auckland Warriors, then the New Zealand Warriors for most of the clubs history and that is how all rugby league supporters still identify the club.

The Dolphins still have over a year before they enter the competition for the 2023 NRL season, which is plenty of time for logic to prevail and they give their supporters a club with a geographical identity.

Feature Photo: Courtesy of Vuepix Infiled