Tina Turner, known as the Queen of Rock, died Wednesday at the age of 83.
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Tina Turner. With her music and boundless passion for life, she enchanted fans worldwide and inspired future stars. We say goodbye to a dear friend who leaves us her greatest work; her music. Tina, we will miss you dearly. pic.twitter.com/8SihpxMe14
— TinaTurner (@tinaturner) May 24, 2023
The accolades and tributes for Turner came from all over the world as news of her passing spread. One country that is mourning Turner’s passing, in particular, is Australia. Seven Network’s Sunrise show noted Turner’s unique connection to the continent:
. @MarkBeretta looks back at how rock legend Tina Turner came to be involved filming several classic commercials for Australian rugby league in the 80s and 90s. #tinaturner #rip #simplythebest pic.twitter.com/t3PrsynMf8
— Sunrise (@sunriseon7) May 24, 2023
That’s right. Tina Turner promoted the New South Wales Rugby League from 1989 through 1995.
First using the song, “What You Get Is What You See,” Turner promoted the sport using then-stars Cliff Lyons and Steve Roach among others. While league officials were said to be nervous about using a Black American who was not associated with the sport, it became an instant hit.
Thanks to the success of the ad, the Rugby League signed Turner to a five-year contract.
How did this come about? The NRL has produced its own video on how Turner came to promote rugby. In a nutshell, Turner’s manager, Roger Davies, originally hailed from Australia and was contacted by someone from the league. Davies thought it was a good idea for Turner to build her audience beyond United States borders.
Not only did the song work, but it also brought new fans to the sport, mainly women. It’s also credited for making the NRL more inclusive. The ad campaign led to other promos using Turner’s song “The Best” which Davies felt would work for sports. The league bought the rights to the song and, for Australian footy fans, the rest is history.
The first ad using the song appeared in 1990 with Turner running with rugby stars on the beach:
Thanks to the popularity of the ads, Turner appeared at the 1993 Grand Final in Sydney to sing “The Best” live. The crowd sang along with her.
And in 1995, her last year of promoting the league, she danced on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. While that sounds dangerous, if anyone could do it and do it well, it was Tina.
In 2020, the NRL brought the campaign back hoping to tap into nostalgia and attract a new generation of fans.
The reaction Down Under to Turner’s death noted her connection to the NRL.
The prefect tribute this weekend in the @NRL to celebrate Tina Turner' s life and contribution to rugby league would be a halftime presentation at every game. Big screen..crowd sing along to Simply the Best. @VossyBrandySEN @fanfoxleague A minutes silence would "not be her go." pic.twitter.com/zESXviWxtR
— Andrew Voss (@AndrewVossy) May 24, 2023
Simply the best. Here is the legendary singer performing at the 1993 Grand Final. Played a huge part in the surge in popularity of our game in the late 80s & 90s. Will always be in the hearts of Rugby League fans around the country. RIP Tina Turner. pic.twitter.com/YFcy2V1BXM
— That's Rugby League (@RugbyLeagueGold) May 24, 2023
In Rugby League it’s not about how many games you played, but the impact you had upon the sport in the hearts & minds of fans.
Tina Turner, an icon of the music industry, and an unforgettable and much loved part of the image of Rugby League in the 90s, taking it to new heights. pic.twitter.com/t5MypZCfYX
— Badly Drawn Rugby League (@BadlyDrawnRL) May 24, 2023
Today we pay tribute to a rugby league icon.
One that helped transform the game and bring in audiences never thought imaginable.
Tina Turner – you are simply the best
— The League Scene (@LeagueScenePod) May 24, 2023
As a rugby league loving kid, I heard Tina Turner belt out her songs every weekend on TV. She was a part of the soundtrack of my childhood.
As a rugby league loving adult, I will always associate Tina Turner with the sport that I love.
RIP Tina. You were Simply the Best. pic.twitter.com/xf5n8b7bCF
— Raiders 2023 Believer (@sloanefather) May 24, 2023
Turner was well-loved in Australia thanks to her NRL ad campaign, but I would be remiss in omitting another contribution to Aussie culture: The Nutbush line dance, which came from her classic song, “Nutbush City Limits.”
May Tina Turner rest in peace and our thoughts are with her family.
[Image credit NRL]