This is not a piece I ever imagined writing, however last night Castleford Tigers confirmed that Jacques O’Neill had been released from his contract to pursue opportunities elsewhere – namely in the villa at Love Island.
The Tigers have first refusal on the player should he wish to return to the sport after participating in the reality TV competition but it is certainly a rare situation like none we have seen before in Super League.
Now, of course there are those who could be described as naysayers claiming that this is a ridiculous move from O’Neill to turn his back on the sport and the Tigers, but perhaps this could be a great development for our sport.
People are always crying out for more eyes on our great game and surely that will come with one of the game’s players on one of the country’s most watched shows.
This year’s premier peaked at 3 million viewers with over 2 million consistent viewers. Further, 1.1 of these are young viewers ages 16-34 who are the kind of people are great sport needs to be targeting.
If he mentions he plays rugby league, then surely a big bunch of those viewers could go and find out a little more about O’Neill’s ‘day job’ which could attract new viewers. Especially if he goes far in the competition and returns to the Jungle, Love Island viewers could descend upon the ground to see him in action live.
It’s also widely known that massive sponsorship deals can befall those in the villa – again this can only be good for the promotion of our game.
The best example could be another sportsman who entered the villa in 2019 in Tommy Fury. Since being on Love Island, Fury has continued his boxing career even making an impression in the USA. So, the villa has furthered his career not hindered it and the same could be said of O’Neill and helping rugby league reach a wider audience.