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Wendell Sailor rips NRL bosses over divisive Tina Turner move for grand final

The Brisbane Broncos great isn't impressed with the decision.

Wendell Sailor, pictured here alongside Tina Turner.
Wendell Sailor has slammed the NRL's decision to use a Tina Turner tribute at the grand final. Image: Triple M/AAP

Wendell Sailor has added his voice to the criticism of the NRL's decision to use a Tina Turner tribute as the headline act for this year's grand final entertainment. The NRL announced this week that the cast of 'Tina - The Tina Turner Musical' would perform a medley of the iconic singer's most famous songs on grand final night on October 1.

The move is a nod to Turner's iconic status in rugby league after her famous 'Simply the Best' ad campaign in the early 90s. The American performed at the ARL grand final in 1993 alongside Jimmy Barnes and was widely loved and adored in Australia before her death at 83 in May.

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“Thirty years on, Tina Turner’s 1993 performance remains one of the great grand final moments,” NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said earlier this week. “This collaboration is a perfect way for rugby league to pay tribute to Tina and everything she did for our game and it will be a special moment for fans amongst the outstanding entertainment on offer on grand final day.”

But the decision has proved divisive among NRL fans and commentators. While many expressed their support for the move on the 30-year anniversary of Turner's grand final performance, others feel it will be a bit underwhelming not to have a big name as the headline act.

Speaking on Triple M radio, Broncos legend Sailor said he wasn't impressed. The dual international played in the Broncos' grand final victory in 1993 and met Turner.

“I’m disappointed to be honest," he said. "Look I love Tina Turner, I met her a couple of times, but I think we as the NRL should do better, our fans deserve better.

“We could get someone from around the world. The AFL has got KISS and we got a take-off of Tina Turner. They need a headline act, they need to go all in, they dropped the ball again.”

Wayne Pearce, pictured here alongside Tina Turner tribute singer Ruva Ngwenya.
Rugby league great Wayne Pearce alongside Tina Turner tribute singer Ruva Ngwenya. (AAP Image/Supplied by NRL) (PR IMAGE)

Plenty of NRL fans were also unimpressed, but leading journalist Andrew Webster wrote on social media: "Why all the hate for Tina The Musical performing at NRL GF? She gave the game its eternal anthem and opened up rugby league to a whole new audience; there was much sadness when she passed away earlier this year. Entirely appropriate she’s being honoured at this year’s decider.”

Alicia Newton from NRL.com wrote: “Those hammering the NRL for Tina Turner musical headlining the GF have clearly not seen it yet. It’s outstanding, the best musical I’ve ever seen, and the perfect season to do it. Ruva Ngwenya (who plays Tina) is an outstanding talent who will light up the stadium.”

Tina Turner ads changed rugby league for the better

As Adam Lucius wrote May, Turner was part of one of "arguably the greatest advertising campaigns in Australian sport history." Manly great Cliff Lyons, who was in the 'Simply the Best' ad, said: "Tina was a pretty big deal but you wouldn't have known it. She was quietly spoken and very friendly and easy to get on with. I remind ET (Andrew Ettingshausen) what he missed out on every time I see him. It's something I will never forget.

"She was a big star and very talented so I thought they were onto something, but I didn’t know it would become as big as it did. It changed rugby league at the time. It brought in a new audience, especially the females."

Reads 'NRL Finals 2023' with the cut out images of three players throwing a football - Cameron Munster, Nathan Cleary and Reece Walsh, with a backdrop of a football stadium.
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Balmain legend Benny Elias said: "It was a big deal, the commercial itself was certainly what put rugby league on the map. She got women involved, kids involved. You just know when you hear that song (Simply the Best) your memory goes straight to NRL."

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