America’s queen of rock Tina Turner became the face and sound of rugby league across the late 1980s and early 1990s, but it didn’t happen the way you might think.
There were no Porsche-driving, pony-tailed advertising execs throwing names up round a boardroom table at a glitzy north Queensland island resort location, or business negotiations over rounds of Tequila Sunrises and Singapore Slings, or whatever they drank back in the days of Knight Rider and MC Hammer.
Securing the rock goddess actually came about via much simpler channels: someone knew someone, who knew someone else. It was so … rugby league.
As historians David Middleton and Ian Heads wrote in their amazing 2008 book A Centenary Of Rugby League, “the coup came about through a friendship between Nicki Braithwaite, the personal assistant of then NSWRL general Manager John Quayle, and Roger Davies, the Australian manager of Turner. Davies was a league fan and was receptive to the NSWRL’s approach.”
An interesting factoid about the first “Tina” promo campaign of 1989 - which was basically her 1987 song What You Get Is What You See played to a backdrop of video footage of Winfield Cup players hamming it up at training - was that Tina’s on-camera contribution to the clip was filmed in London.
According to Middleton and Heads, “Under a veil of secrecy, leading players Cliff Lyons and Gavin Miller, who were spending the off-season with Leeds and Hull KR respectively, were ushered to the British capital alongside Turner.” Aussie match footage and shots of players sweating during pre-season training were edited in later.
(Photo at top by TONY RANZE/AFP/Getty Images)