By STEVE MASCORD
IT’s a popular sport among a certain section of rugby league fans in Australia to make fun of Super League, which kicks off on Friday night with Wigan playing Huddersfield.
But consider this: Super League now has a naming rights sponsor, a new and ambitious competition structure and a television rights deal extending to 2021.
International rugby league, which hit a highpoint during last year’s World Cup, still doesn’t know what games it is staging THIS year.
How is it possible that we don’t have a draw or venues for this year’s Four Nations, two months after a World Cup that made $6 million? Great Britain want to tour for the first time in 24 years next season and no-one in Australia or New Zealand has told them if they can.
On one hand, the new NRL administration seems more interested in international development than previous regimes. They are considering playing exhibition games at Wembley.
But on the other, they don’t seem to be able to make decisions on the immediate to medium-term future. When the 2014 NRL draw was announced, the venue for the ANZAC Test on May 2 was ‘TBA’
No-one is saying it but there is a concern in the northern hemisphere that the NRL has agreed to pay players so much for representing Australia that it’s become too expensive to stage a Test match and make a profit.
Super League has clubs with major financial problems and an active rebellion underway among those who don’t have them. The new competition structure is … weird.
But we should remember that all is not rosy in the NRL either – particularly when it comes to the vitally important task of building on the legacy of the World Cup.
THE latest news from America is intriguing.
There’s what purports to be a leaked email doing the rounds, in which a flagship team of the establishment AMNRL distances itself from the organisation, which sent the United States Tomahawks to the World Cup.
I stress this ‘purports’ to be a leaked email, although the New York Knights have yet to deny its authenticity.
“We decided to no longer tolerate foreign intrusion in U.S. RL domestic & international matters,” says the missive, sent by the Knights to the AMNRL and to Aussie Steve Johnson who assembled the Tomahawks.
“No offense to our friends in Australia but we want the game in America to be run exclusively by people who can physically be present at every game. We strongly believe that knowledge of the local reality and field commitment are the required attributes to move forward and put behind us this delusional hope that we’re about to become professional anytime soon.
“Why would we need foreign assistance while the U.S. is by far the country with the best athletic programs and sports business structures? Note that most NRL coaches are desperate to attend an NFL training session…
“I know you guys think that we “shock (sic) the world” at the RLWC but the sad reality is that, beyond the good performances of this 2nd Australian team wearing U.S. jerseys, we also lost a large contingent of talented American players who will play 7′s this summer and pursue their hyphothetical Olympic dream, simply because they know they have nothing to play for on a RL field!
“We literally spoiled a great opportunity to expose our boys (and subsequently our clubs) to top level RL so I personally can’t continue to tacitly endorse this approach.”
The email is signed ‘G’. Guillaume Cieutat is listed as coach on the club’s website, Rob Balachandran as president. Discord has been assured that despite all this, the AMNRL are playing on. If Cieutat chooses not to be involved, that is regarded by other AMNRL clubs as his choice.
AMNRL clubs remain defiant.
THANKS, as always, for the comments last week.