MELBOURNE chairman Ron Gauci says he would be happy to host the World Club Challenge at AAMI Park next year – but has withheld support for now on extending the competition in 2015.
As the debate over scheduling continues, the Storm say they support plans to move the game to Australia next year after 13 consecutive seasons in the UK.
“If the game was to be played in Australia next year, and we were premiers again, and it was at AAMI Park, we’d fill it – no question,” Gauci tells League Week.
“And I think there’s something to be said for alternating the game (between hemispheres) and the English are prepared to do that as well.
“I’ve been involved in the discussions and our opinion has been sought – especially since we’re the club that came over here.
“There’ve been some broader discussions and negotiations about expanding the competition to include more teams.
“That might well be something to consider but what I’ve said is we’ve got to put the players’ welfare as the paramount issue.”
Storm captain Cameron Smith and coach Craig Bellamy last week spoke out against the Auckland Nines and an expected WCC being added to the program without consultation.
A WCC working group has agreed to stage a six-team tournament in 2015, although the idea is yet to be ratified.
“You can’t just keep adding games to the season,” Gauci said, “something’s got to give at some point.
“We’ve got to look for a way to prioritise which games are important and go through a process to achieve what we want to achieve.
“(The Nines) are a case in point. Whether it means we look, as some other sports do, at increasing the roster …. But as we stand right now, we cannot keep putting pressure on the players by adding more fixtures.”
Gauci wouldn’t comment on how much of the WCC prizemoney – which is now so small the Rugby Football League won’t say what it is – will go to the players.
“We’ll use the Collective Bargaining Agreement as a starting point,” he said.
Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK