Watching rugby league with my grandmother wasn’t a tradition, it was a ritual. Every Friday night my single mom would get a night all to herself — to recharge. I would eat dinner, slip into my pajamas, brush my teeth, and climb into the lovingly made cot in the living room of my grandmother’s tiny one-bedroom apartment, watching TV through the narrow gap in the easy chair up front. That.
When the clock struck 8:30 grandma would slam the volume down to deafening levels and “Simply the Best” filled the room, blasting through the cement walls and enveloping us in the noise. Tina Turner is many great things to people: Legend, icon, Queen of Rock and Roll, and embodied perseverance, just to name a few. To Australians she is her face and voice Friday Night Footballthe biggest weekly rugby league broadcast, and part of the material that made the sport in the early 90’s.
I cannot possibly overstate how monumental Turner was in rugby league in Australia. Starting its engagement in 1989, Australia is just now establishing its presence on the global stage. Most of it is still an abandoned island, especially known for its involvement in World War I and World War II, as well as Dundee CrocodileAC/DC, and Mel Gibson.
However, while people are starting to learn about Australia globally, it remains a country that exports entertainers, rather than imports them. There’s a lack of belief that there aren’t any serious global mega-stars who would associate themselves with something as local as rugby. league – and Tina Turner’s involvement in the sport has been an extraordinary stroke of luck. Roger Davies, Turner’s manager from 1981-2010, happened to be from Australia, and he was approached by the Australian Rugby League to see if Turner, who soon made Mad Max: Beyond the Thunderdome would be interested in shooting a series of commercials for the league.
Nobody internally thought this would happen. Not too. It was a dream move that captured the imaginations of those involved so much that a small contingent of rugby league executives and players flew to London to meet Turner, hoping to sell his idea of Rugby. He was immediately hooked, and a few months later we have this – without a doubt one of the funniest promos for a sports league ever.
For many people, the “What You Get Is What You See” promo. That definitive rugby league ad. It was the first of its kind, and while it’s hilarious now — it taps into the spirit of the game. Guys become friends, laugh during the week, and blow off each other’s minds on the weekends.
Going deeper than that, Turner’s involvement in the promo is validation. A culturally significant moment for a nation that sparks the imagination. If a huge star like Tina Turner can love rugby league and embrace Australia then anyone can.
A year later the promo changed as we entered the 90’s. “What You Get Is What You See” was a success of unimaginable proportions for the league, but would reach the stratosphere when Turner again changed the rugby anthem to “Simply the Best”.
Opening with a crowd of reporters and paparazzi swarming Turner as he lands in Australia, the video opens with the icon blowing kisses to every TV screen in the country.
Aussies have a sixth sense for bullshit. Always have, always will. We know when someone fakes interest for money, or just part of a company’s gears turning – but Tina Turner goes beyond all that in this one video. He was in the stands with the fans, laughed with the players in the locker room, wrapped the game’s biggest stars in warm hugs, and played with them on the beach.
This is not a perfunctory task, it is players who understand us. He is one of us. Someone who truly understands the heartbeat of a nation and thus becomes its greatest champion. To Australia, Turner spanned his entire career and gave a piece of himself to us every Friday night in a way that made each of us feel special, loved and blessed with the presence of one of the greatest musicians the world has ever known.
Every year there’s a new version of the “Simply the Best” promo, and every year Turner is back, having fun with a new batch of players, meeting new rising stars, and continuing to be the goddess of rugby league. In 1993 she sang the halftime show in the grand final, in one of the sport’s most unforgettable performances.
The opening was all the start of a crescendo, as 45,000 fans surprised even Turner, by singing the chorus to “Simply the Best” at the top of their lungs. The opportunity to sing in the grand final arrived, and Turner decided to launch an entire Australian tour around it. As the game ended, he was invited into the locker room of the victorious Brisbane Broncos, and when he walked through the door, they were ready, still unwashed, covered in dirt, and soaking wet to sing “Simply the Best” to their queen. .
Time was ticking, and after years of delivering beloved promos, rugby league finally decided to pivot and move on to another anthem for the league. Year after year they tried, and failed, to catch even a drop of the magic Tina Turner created.
Then, in 2020, “Simply the Best” returns — honoring Turner’s legacy, influence, and impact on the sport of rugby on the 30th anniversary of the first iconic promo.
This is a love song for rugby league to give back to Tina Turner. To show him how much he has impacted the lives of Australians. It traces the history of its involvement, of course, but also how far the game has come since the first promo aired in 1990. Indigenous Australians making an impact on the league, women starting to play rugby professionally, teams under constant threat of relocation to higher markets. big. reclaimed by fans and people alike, refusing to let something they love go. None of this would have happened with Tina Turner popularizing rugby league and turning it from a regional sporting curiosity into a national powerhouse.
Everyone has a different way of remembering Tina Turner’s influence on rugby league, but hearing “Simply the Best” immediately transports me back to my grandmother’s flat. Those uncomfortable folding beds, and the gym memories I made with my grandmother that will last a lifetime. Honestly, I didn’t think much of those moments until Turner’s death was announced Wednesday, and watching all of this promo brings back every memory like I was five years old again, watching my beloved Eastern Suburb Roosters use the medium of sports as a canvas to teach me about love. , hate, triumph, struggle, and persistence — all through the lens of competition.
I wouldn’t be writing about sports without those moments, and they wouldn’t have the same impact without Tina Turner. So, to the legend, the icon, the Queen of Rock and Roll, the woman who validated a country, created a sport, and influenced me in ways I didn’t even know she had: Thank you. We love you Tina Turner. You are simply the best.