By STEVE MASCORD
A COUPLE of weeks ago, British league legend Mike Stephenson let a pretty staggering development seep out onto the world, in the middle of his weekly magazine column.
Stevo wrote in Rugby League Express that he knew of two Leeds businessmen who wanted to enter a team in the NRL. Not a team based anywhere near Australia or New Zealand, mind you.
No, they want to enter a team in the NRL based in Leeds.
“These guys are friends of mine and I would be loathe to identify them,’’ Stephenson told me when I called him at the weekend.
“Their aim is to make the England team stronger and they believe the way to do that is to have a team in the best competition, like New Zealand now has.’’
Stevo went on to say that in his mind the proposal was a near impossibility. But is it? Couldn’t a team playing alternatively in Yorkshire and Lancashire play a month of home games, and then play a month of away games?
Isn’t the travel time that teams have between, say, Christchurch and Durban in the Super 14 about the same as Sydney to Manchester? Couldn’t the teams about to play them be scheduled for the previous Friday night, and the teams who have just returned be given an MNF game?
And how much money would the television rights generate? My God! The NRL would surely salivate at it. Of course, the Rugby Football League would kick up a huge stink – just as the Queensland Rugby League did when the Broncos came in – about the local competition being devalued.
RFL chief executive Nigel Wood told us nothing had come across his desk.
We also called David Gallop to ask if he had heard anything. He hadn’t. We asked him that if he was to receive an approach, would protocol require him to advise the RFL and get their permission, or would they just be another consortium like Central Queensland or the Central Coast Bears.
He declined to speculate. Tell us what you think.
I’M not sure if sharks have backs but the Reni Maitua drugs positive should have just about broken Cronulla’s.
They are broke. They have lost $150,000 in sponsorship. They are running last. Their major sponsor is about to pull out. They are at the centre of the year’s biggest off-field scandal.
Here’s what I think. The best option for the game is that they relocate somewhere – Central Queensland, the Sunshine Coast, Adelaide, Perth or Wellington. There’s up to (and maybe more than) $12 million in it for them.
Who, dear reader, should Cronulla merge with?
Gallop would not speculate on whether they would get any money for forming a joint-joint venture with St George Illawarra. Surely, though, the idea would have crossed Peter Doust’s mind.
But the right partner for Cronulla would be a team that doesn’t mind giving away it’s home games already. That team, for me, is the Bulldogs. Even the colours are a decent match.
Dogs CEO Todd Greenberg has said Cronulla should be considering a merger – but has discounted his club from involvement. We’ll see.
That, of course, would leave us one team short in 2010. I asked David Gallop if he had already worked on a contingency plan for fast-tracking a new team into the premiership.
He said ‘no’.
IT was disappointing to see my favourite player, Terry Campese, not take on the defensive line himself at all on Monday night.
I want to see a fellow who plays with a smile on his face test himself at State Of Origin level but it seems unlikely he will get a shot in the first game of the series after a tentative display against Melbourne.
With John Sutton injured, my choice for the Blues at five-eighth is Trent Barrett. He’s looking a bit battered at the moment and claims he needs the split rounds to recover, given his advanced years!
But he is a determined competitor and has the physical presence to bolster NSW’s defence.
I’VE left the Matthew Johns imbroglio alone this week but I want to thank everyone who commented on last week’s column.
In many ways it is good to get some of these issues out in the open instead of leaving them behind bedroom doors. I think “broadminded’’ people need reminding how conservative others are and – perhaps more importantly – vice versa.
And I notice that my comments about legal action for defamation may actually become reality. What a terrible court case that would be for all involved….