Canberra Raiders charge into NRL season with technology

When the Canberra Raiders compete against the Sydney Roosters this weekend, global positioning system (GPS) units tucked into the players’ jerseys will help coaching staff analyse how long the players can last before they need to rest.

The units measure how many kilometres a player travels, body impact such as the amount of times they are tackled and speed zones measure how fast a player is running.

Canberra Raiders media and website manager Ben Pollack told Computerworld Australia that the Catapult GPS tracking units have been a huge part of the Raiders strengthening and conditioning regime for the past two years.

All of this data is collated on a laptop and used by the coaches to calculate how long players can run, kick, tackle and scrum before they need to retire.

This is particularly important for the hefty front row and second row forwards who sometimes fatigue quicker than other players.

When the Raiders play around Australia or travel to New Zealand to take on the NZ Warriors, this data can be accessed by coaching staff via a laptop.

Off the field, the Raiders check their training schedules online using the new Ascend D1 quad smartphones supplied by their major sponsor, Huawei.

Initially, six of the high profile players were given smartphones. For example, winger Sandor Earl who is a big social media fan uses his Huawei phone to interact with fans on Twitter.

"Huawei has also provided the coaching staff with Internet dongles so they can access emails and websites while they’re on the road," says Pollack.

NRL fans to get live match streaming on mobiles, tablets from 2013

Sports clubs scoring goals with technology

NRL bets on cost savings with BYOD strategy

Stadium tweeting

Like every National Rugby League (NRL) team, the Raiders have been enthusiastic adopters of technology which help it interact with loyal club members.

For example, fans who attend games at Canberra Stadium have their live tweets broadcast on the big screens around the ground.

“If it was a great try or goal we’ll encourage people to tweet through now so fans can feel like they’re part of the game,” Pollack says.

“We also do a Twitter Man of the Match where fans tweet through who they think is their man of the match and at our post game presentation, that player gets presented with an award.”

Getting social

Encouraging live tweeting at matches is just one part of the Canberra Raiders social networking strategy. It currently has 43,000 'likes' on Facebook, 11,290 Twitter followers and 2000 Instagram fans.

“This means we have about 56,000 people we can target our information to and we encourage the players to use social media — if they do it right,” Pollack says.

One former Raider who did not follow the social media rules was fullback Josh Dugan. Against club orders, he posted pictures of himself on Twitter drinking beers the day after the Raiders lost to the Penrith Panthers and also threatened fans on Instagram.

Dugan was subsequently fired by the club on 14 March this year after a long list of off-field incidents.

“That indiscretion on social media was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of his list of indiscretions,” he says.

However, Dugan was an isolated incident. Second rower Joel Thompson uses the forum to publicise the volunteer work he does with the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre while club captain Terry Campese tweets about his charity foundation.

Strategies for handling trolling or abusive player is included in the club’s social media do’s and don’ts.

“The biggest thing we say to the players is if someone is being abusive towards them on Twitter, they should block the person and ignore them,” Pollack says. “If they get a continued tirade of abuse, we’ll report it through Twitter.”

According to Pollack, Twitter Australia has been very helpful in shutting down fake Canberra Raiders player accounts and getting the real player accounts verified with the blue and white tick.

Page Break

Member services

In addition to social networking, the Raider's club website is designed to be the number one source of information for fans.

Pollack says the website has to hit a certain amount of key performance indicators (KPIs) throughout the week by posting stories, player profiles and list the teams playing for that week before these are announced elsewhere.

“We also do a lot of video packaging with interviews and features on the websites which we produce internally,” he says.

“This extends into our social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram which we use regularly to update the fans on what is happening at the club.”

In order to manage its paid up club members, the Raiders uses a content relationship management (CRM). The membership ticketing manager can log on to the system and view seating allocations, membership history and how many members have joined since last season.

The CRM system is also used to email members a weekly club newsletter which includes updates and exclusive membership offers such as meet and greets with the players.

Paid up members were rewarded when the Raiders made it into the semi-finals of the 2012 NRL season before succumbing to the South Sydney Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium.

“On field success does gauge a lot in terms of how you track membership wise and we did have a good finish to the season last year,” Pollack says. “We’ve worked hard to build off the back of that [success] and there has been an increase in membership.”

This has been made easier by the advent of e-commerce where fans can go to the Raiders website, answer a couple of identification questions and pay for their season tickets.

“Gone are the days where you had to ring up, organise your credit card payments over the phone or come into Raiders headquarters and renew your membership,” he says.

“They get their season tickets up front and don’t have to worry about purchasing tickets every week."

The Raiders have partnered with Ticketet and rewards people who pre-purchase tickets, even if they are not club members, with discounts.

“If you buy your ticket online and print it out at home then it will cost less than buying a ticket at the stadium gate," he says.

Pollack acknowledges that the club has to accommodate both the loyal members who turn up to every game and fans who prefer to watch at home on Channel 9 or Foxtel.

“It’s a constant battle for clubs to try to get bums on seats but we offer incentives,” he says. “If you purchase a membership and you can get to six out of the 12 games, you’ve already saved money rather buying individual tickets for each game.”

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

Shop Tech Products at Amazon