After sinking $40,000 into their fantasy football league, this group of mates nearly lost it all. Now, more than a decade later, they are running a successful website thanks to the efforts of volunteers and hard work.
Five of the original six members of the first ever NRLCEO competition.
By JOSHUA WELLS
WHEN six blokes got into bed together, they had no idea their 6’Some Cup would explode to become one of the most unique fantasy football league websites Australia has to offer.
When living on college, many people think it is just partying, drinking, sport, drinking, drugs and drinking, but for one group of mates living at John Flynn College in Townsville, rugby league was the main choice of addiction.
In 2003, a humble bloke by the name of ‘Cappo’ – the Godfather of NRLCEO – found out about a website called VNRL and decided to rally the troops; a group who all rated themselves as “rugby league gurus”.
So Michael ‘Mig’, Craig ‘Cappo’, Dean ‘Deano’, Thomas ‘Bomma’, Steve ‘Bona’ and Dax ‘Pando’ decided to put themselves to the test.
“This was to prove who was the best and worst, and the ‘most knowledgeable’,” Mig said.
And like any ‘nerd’ would, Cappo walked it in and won the first tournament just by understanding the game – well according to the losers anyway.
The original trophy from back in 2003.
A few seasons later, VRNL collapsed, leaving the 6’Some Cup with nowhere to go.
“We were forced to explore our options because we were hooked, and the rivalry kept us in contact with each other,” Mig said.
“We were scattered all over the world. Cappo developed a pretty extravagant spreadsheet which we used for a few years until he decided to update his spreadsheets by designing a website.”
NRLCEO was born.
Cappo had no experience on how to run a website, so the first season meant bugs were crawling through the site’s systems.
But it was impressive nonetheless — so they kept at it.
“Cappo finally got it good enough to try on a wider audience and we went public with this website dubbed ‘greeny’ (that was its background colour) and it was probably at this stage that we had our most ever users playing our game,” Mig recalled.
The original site included many of the features seen in today’s site but lacked stability.
“Fantasy Rugby League was still a relatively new concept back then and we had an original product that no one else had at this stage.”
Following the success of NRLCEO, the 6’Some decided to stop forcing Cappo to design, test, fix and tamper with the website for good – it was time to look elsewhere.
“I spent many sleepless nights over a January and February a lifetime ago trying to understand snippets of code from Google to achieve what I wanted,” Cappo said.
“I had to take a spreadsheet to a website. I knew nothing about HTML let alone dynamic websites.”
They wanted to chase their dream and they chased it hard.
Cappo sunk a whopping $30,000 into the concept, a dream, while stakeholders came up with more than $10,000 to make it a $40,000 venture.
But they bet it all and almost lost.
The dark old days: the front door looked ok, but there were a lot of bugs behind the scenes back in 2012
“The company that we employed to do the job made a mess of it throughout the entire process,” Mig said.
“The poor coding caused the site to regularly crash and eventually the company cut us loose — they refused to answer our calls or make the necessary fixes to make the site bug free.
“In essence, they refuse to take responsibility for a site that cost us a fortune and quite simply could not meet the demands of it users… This period of time in the evolution of NRLCEO was very frustrating as we were sinking money into a ‘dream’ that wasn’t performing as it should.
Made in India: the site has come a long way. This is the player selection page that $40,000 gets you!
“We were really disheartened at this stage and I think Cappo checked out at this stage and Jimbo took over in a sense.”
And with NRLCEO heading the way of VNRL, Jimbo spoke to his people and secured a deal with ‘TheBench’.
“This has been the best thing to happen in our quest to present a bug free, unique fantasy rugby league that the public can enjoy,” Mig said.
“We have so many ideas for the future but now, we are really only limited by our programmer’s availability to find time to implement them into action.”
Despite their struggles, NRLCEO is now attracting hardcore fans who love the draft based system – and probably ‘The League’ TV show.
A quick sit down with NRLCEO originals Mig and Cappo
What has so far been the crowning achievement of the site?
Mig: Having a really solid fan base who has stuck with us through some really dark times. Our fans are awesome and I like to think they stay with us because they feel like they are ‘part of the NRLCEO family’. We strive to give users a more personalised feel where we respond to questions via a range of social media promptly and we are always open to suggestions for improvements or modifications/additions and discussion.
How did it become its own website? Its own concept?
Cappo: I was running multiple competitions from a spreadsheet and always getting requests for up to date player lists etc. I decided to teach myself how to make a website. Once you know how to do one thing “it’s not that hard” to do the next thing. Everything was going very smoothly for a few comps privately until one year we opened it up to the world. We had several thousand users sign up that season but the site couldn’t handle the load and it all crashed hard.
What is the lowest low the site has ever experienced?
Mig: Dark dark times – when we invested plenty of dollars for a complete lemon of a website. The developing company who we hired had no idea what they were doing and at no stage admitted as much. The longer it took for the developers to get it right probably cost us a larger share of the ‘fantasy rugby league pie’. We genuinely had an opportunity to be really big but we were let down badly by a company who lacked experience in a) fantasy sports and b) rugby league knowledge.
Cappo: Paying for the last heap of bollocks that was the last version of the website. It is referred to as my pool because it cost so much. Over the course of years and lots of $ it didn’t even get back to the same functionality as ‘Old Greeny’.
What is the biggest difference in fantasy football from when you started until now?
Mig: Coaches are still really passionate about playing AND winning — that won’t change. Our users are really serious about winning but I guess, social media has made everyone more connected with the game. Jimbo is forever on social media and we’ve now got a ‘band of brothers’ who are that passionate, they volunteer their time, just to be a part of the daily running of NRLCEO which is pretty cool really.
Cappo: It is everywhere. When we started there was nothing and we were fantasy nerds. Now everyone plays. We have seen others come and go and some of the big corporates take on board the draft based competitions.
In your personal competition, the forefather group of the site, still together?
Mig: Yep all six of us although one coach (Bona) had a hiatus in Canada for about five years so his brother, Mick took over. We’ve toyed with the idea of expansion but that’ll never happen. NRLCEO has kept us together and despite the kms between us, we are regularly chatting footy. We always arrange our draft weekend on the weekend of the NRL 9’s where we all catch up, sink some beers and of course, sledge each other’s draft picks. Life doesn’t get much better does it?
The boys at one of the notoriously big draft weekends.
What does the future hold for the site?
Mig: Hopefully a long one. We are secure in our partnership with TheBench (kudos to the Commish Jimbo and TheBench Creator Ben) and the profits from the Season Guides fund the running costs of the site. We keep coming up with original, unique competition ideas too like the Supporters and High Rollers Comp which have been a real hit with punters. The Legends of League Comps are really popular and again, our fans keep coming back with their private competitions – many of which have been going for close to a decade now I suspect. Overall, the future looks promising and we’ve even branched out and offered Big Bash and Super Rugby versions over the past two years.
Cappo: It is what everyone makes it. When I first made Old Greeny the dream was to be able to customise whatever you wanted. I think we have a lot of that now and most of our users are long term users. I’ve resigned myself to the fact I will never have that swimming pool. As long as the site keeps funding itself now it will continue. There are so many people like JB and Mig who dedicate a lot of time to the site that isn’t sustainable forever. I know there are enough fanatics out there that they will pass the baton on them when the time comes.
Speaking of passing on the baton – there is nothing worse than getting the wooden spoon!