Five NRL Creatives to look out for in 2023

March 2, 2023
8 mins
Five NRL Creatives to look out for in 2023

There has never been a more exciting time to be involved in rugby league content. With a brand-new club and plenty of fresh creatives coming onto the scene, 2023 shapes as a massive year in the sport’s digital world.

As the season kicks off, SDA celebrates five #NRL creatives to look out for this season!

Brad De Leon

(Parramatta Eels National Rugby League Club) – Video Producer

Dancing to the beat of his own drum, Parramatta’s newest creative is one to watch in 2023.

A session musician turned video producer, Bradley Michael de Leon has traded Tame Impala and festival shows for NRL stars and stadium sports to be part the Eels’ digital team, led by Content and Marketing genius Nicole Chesher.

With a background in the music industry as both a performer and content creator, Brad has brought a fresh approach to rugby league’s digital landscape and produced some stunning visuals in the process.

“I want to capture football in its raw form and the emotion people have towards sport,” he said.

“I think that is what drives great content: tapping into people’s emotions and remembering why they watch sport in the first place.”

True to his creative past with Universal Music Australia and Island Records, Brad’s approach to content is highly artistic. His productions feature striking cinematography and touches of terrific animation, built around precise music selection.

This has been on display in his short time with the Eels, particularly throughout the pre-season in his trial match coverage and club brand content.

A unique creator, Brad looks away from the sports world rather than within it for inspiration.

“I tend to follow and draw inspirations from filmmakers as opposed to other sports videographers,” he explains.

“I’ve always had a passion for film and am really inspired by Indie films and classics to drive my creative ideas.

“I purely create with feeling and base my ideas around the music I choose for each project. Pacing, feeling and emotion is what drives an interesting video.”

Molly Donahoe

(Dolphins NRL) – Video Content Producer

With a new NRL club comes new players, rivalries and fans… the Dolphins have been making waves since joining the NRL, and so has Molly Donahoe.

The club’s Video Content Producer for their inaugural NRL season, Molly is documenting a new history as it unfolds before the rugby league world, an almighty task she tackling head-on.

“We’re very fortunate as a new club to have the opportunity to set a new standard for club content,” she said.

“As it is our inaugural season, I’ve been focussing on highlighting individual player journeys, as well as the journey of the team as a whole to cement these moments in history.”

Molly’s individual journey has been inspired by many leaps of faith: from interning in New York City, to starting her own production company, and then leaving the project behind to take up a dream role with the Dolphins, it has been quite the adventure.

Her bold move to the Dolphins is paying dividends, as the club is shining on social media.

She has produced some fantastic content to date, but her favourite piece of work came way back in November, declaring the club’s entrance to the NRL.

“When I made this, we had no players,” she said.

“While it isn’t my best piece of content, it holds a special place for me as it was one of our first real big pieces. We launched it as the clock ticked over to 12am on November 1, and it’s still one of our highest engaged posts to this day.”

And while the Dolphins are a new foe for NRL rivals, she has been delighted to join the friendly community of rugby league creators.

“I’ve been so inspired by the culture between digital teams across clubs,” she said.

“I’m connected with creators from each club, and it’s incredible to see how everyone pumps each other up and backs each other’s work.

“All healthy competition and inspiration. Amazing to see.”

Henry Ward

(Penrith Panthers) – Senior Digital Content Producer

Unless you have been living under a rock, you will be familiar with the work of Henry Ward.

The mastermind behind recent hit docuseries, All the Way: Panthers’ Title Defence, Henry has taken the NRL content world by storm since joining Penrith two years ago.

A film fanatic from his teenage years, Henry joined the Panthers as a Junior Content Producer in 2021 after moving from Wollongong to Sydney to pursue a career in the creative industry. Two years on, he has covered a pair of premierships, produced an acclaimed docuseries and progressed to Senior Digital Content Producer.

Unsurprisingly, he credits All the Way (now streaming on 9Now) as his finest and proudest piece of work to date.

“I’ve never felt more aligned to my high school dream than I did while working on this,” he said.

“The process of creating it took a lot from me personally; from filming every team meeting, training session, recovery day and game day throughout the whole finals series, to editing sometimes all night until the sun came up for the better part of four months.”

Still in his 20s, Henry is only in the adolescence of his career. But he already boasts a ridiculous resume which is only going to grow through his future projects.

“I’m aiming to continue pushing the perceived boundaries and limitations of what club content creators can produce,” he said.

“I’d like to have a tangible impact on the quality of media, content and storytelling in rugby league and Australian sport, and feel very fortunate that I am in a position to do so.

“On a personal level, I’ve been writing a novel for a few years which I’d like to finish and have a short film script on my desk which I’d very much like to shoot this year.”

Kerry O'Connell

(Gold Coast Titans) – Senior Videographer

A 50-year old who is 10 years into his “second career”, Kerry OConnell of the Titans is a terrific story.

Kerry took up videography while deep into his work as a musician on the Gold Coast, and has since become the man behind several moments of unforgettable content for the Titans. A genuine artist, Kerry is dedicated to the emotional side of content creation.

“A video should emotionally connect to people as well as being informative,” he said.

“I would hope that whatever style of video I make hypes, excites or touches the hearts of our audience. The sort of video you would watch more than once.

“Over the years I think I have been able to find a good mix of quantity and quality; a content creator’s biggest challenge.”

The Titans have become one of the NRL’s strongest clubs from a digital perspective, dominating TikTok and producing some stellar inner sanctum pieces; most notably, Behind the Grind, a 7-minute video taking fans inside the Titans’ 2023 pre-season camp.

Kerry is keen to maintain that momentum and bring Titans fans closer to the action than ever before in 2023.

“I want our audience to feel and see the highs this year and hopefully very few lows,” he said.

“We have a very talented media team who all contribute to the success of what we deliver on our channels, at our events and for our partners. We are all helping each other to achieve these themes.”

On a human level, Kerry is a beloved character at the Gold Coast Titans, earning a glowing appraisal from the club’s General Marketing Manager & Fan, Dean Madders.

“Kerry is always positive and brings energy to every part of his day,” said Dean.

“He never stops learning. Every week he tells me about a new technique or trend that he has been researching during his spare time. He even watches tutorials while on the treadmill at the gym!

“In his words, ‘You will never know it all’.”

Jae Nelson

(Newcastle Knights) – Senior Multimedia Producer

While most NRL creatives have rich film experience and tertiary qualifications backing them, Jae Nelson took the road less travelled to become Newcastle’s Senior Multimedia Producer.

He is a self-taught content creator, but you certainly wouldn't guess it. Despite a limited background in film and content, Jae took matters into his own hands to become responsible for everything from photo to video to podcast production at the Knights.

“A large majority of my skills with taking stills, filming and editing footage are self-taught,” he said.

“My background is in music, I started picking up a camera and filming bits and pieces with the bands I played with, basically because we had no money to pay anyone to do it.

“There’s a lot of information on the internet that can point you in the right direction if you’re unsure of things.

“But 90 per cent of my training was learning to make good content by making bad content.”

Jae's ability to cultivate strong relationships with the playing group has proven advantageous in the creation of distinctive content. His impressive portfolio includes the serene cinematography of emotional documentary Jayden Brailey: Road to Recovery, as well as a moody, compelling season launch video which set the tone for the club’s maiden NRLW Premiership triumph.

The multi-talented creator has made an enormous contribution to the Newcastle Knights, says the club’s Chief Marketing Officer, Clair Coleman.

“Jae has a thirst for sports creative, constantly keeping his eye on trends across the globe to deliver cutting-edge and impactful content,” she said.

“He works with multiple types of media to create a cohesive final product and seamless, highly engaging experience for our audience.”

We look forward to seeing what these creatives produce throughout the 2023 season! Good luck 🙌🏻

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