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Ruta Mave: ‘Simply the Best’: Tina Turner changed rugby league forever

Monday 29 May 2023 | Written by Ruta Tangiiau Mave | Published in Editorials, Opinion


Ruta Mave: ‘Simply the Best’: Tina Turner changed rugby league forever
Singer Tina Turner with rugby league players during filming of the ‘Simply the Best’ advertising campaign for the 1990 Rugby League season. Pic Peter Muhlbock/IBM/ Source: News Corp Australia/23052810

The death of Tina Turner had fans all over the world grieving including male Australian league players and fans who to this day hold her song ‘Simply the Best’ as their anthem to the beautiful game, writes Ruta Mave.

He was a large Australian man ruff and gruff from a country farming background, his wide calloused palms dwarfed the small newborn girl as he picked her up and cradled her to his chest. Then to the surprise of his grand daughter he softly sang “I call you when I need you my hearts on fire, you come to me come to me wild and wild, give me everything I need…” then he belts out louder “You’re simply the best better than all the rest, better than anyone, any-one I’ve ever met. I’m stuck on your heart, you’re the best.”

The death of Tina Turner had fans all over the world grieving including male Australian league players and fans who to this day hold her song “Simply the Best” as their anthem to the beautiful game.

It wasn’t the first time the NRL had used one of her songs. Back in 1989 the lyrics of ‘what get is what you’ attracted the NRL for its new promotional video. The words attracted the female fans and boosted the ego of the male fans and players. “Some boys just got the look of a Greek Adonis and some boys just try to talk you off your feet. Some boys they’re god’s gift to women and some boys just think they’re sweet enough to eat … What you get is what you see, aint nothing more to it.”

The use of Tina Turner as the forefront of rugby league came under a lot of fire at the time. After all she was not only American but she was black and a grandmother. How was she supposed to be synonymous with the tough and bruising sport of league where she was surprised to see they walked onto the field with no padding and no helmets, and routinely bashed their bodies into each other at full speed.

Using Tina Turner’s songs and more importantly having her support on the videos with the players and performing at the 1993 NRL Grand Finale where everyone sang the song in the stadium, changed the face of the sport of league. The campaign was so successful that even those who didn’t follow the sport loved the commercials, loved the song and loved Tina Turner. 

But if anyone was able to attest to the punishing trials of life in the game it was Tina as the details of her abusive relationship with Ike Turner, her first husband, promoter and entertainer himself, were exposed after she escaped one dark night by running away after being beaten with only 36 cents in her pocket and the clothes on her back.  She had already made a name for herself as the lead singer in the Ike Turner revue and should have earnt millions from her tracks Proud Mary, Nutbush City Limits and River deep mountain high. She walked away from them all asking for no royalties or rights to the songs and only asking to keep his name as that was how she was known in the music industry. From there she rebuilt herself and her music at 40 years old to become the worldwide phenomenon she was until she died.

Tina found true love in her second relationship. In 1986 she met music producer Erwin Bach and after dating for 27 years they married in 2013. When she needed a kidney in 2017, he declared she was the only woman he ever wanted so he donated one of his, which extended her life time with him by her side. Tina went from ‘what you get is what you see’ with Ike to Erwin who was ‘Simply the Best’.

Often in death is when you find out the struggles and challenges a person has survived and overcome before they were famous. It is not uncommon for the living to remember the dead in a more special and elevated way. Even those who have lived their lives being harsh and abusive to others can have their actions portrayed softer during their eulogy.

The same can be said of the words by CISNOC’s general secretary, about the departing chef de mission (CdM). Complaints of the CdM drinking at major events since 2018 has been continually ignored. He has left an indelible mark on our sporting community – none of it good. Then to hail him as a ‘pivotal role’ we won our first bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games takes away the rightful place of honour from the athletes’ skill and competitiveness. He failed the test.

Congratulations to the new chef de mission, who will be appearing in court – for his job, not his behaviour.

  • Ruta Mave is a regular contributor to the Cook Islands News. The views expressed in this article are hers and do not reflect the views of this newspaper.