NRL should follow AFL’s American experiment
Excluding New Zealand, it seems the AFL has leapt in front of the NRL in terms of international marketing.
And before shooting off to the comments section, know this: I am talking about the league (NRL) not the sport (rugby league). No doubt rugby league is far superior internationally, simply because Aussie Rules is an Australian sport.
The AFL is currently trialling 26 elite American athletes with basketball and gridiron backgrounds in Los Angeles, CA.
Two will be picked to attend the AFL draft combine in October at Etihad Stadium. If the NRL isn’t already sitting down making plans to try something similar, I don’t know why they’re not.
Let’s start with the immediate competition benefits.
American athletes are, to put it mildly, exceptional. Six American athletes broke Nic Natianui’s standing jump record last Thursday, with the highest (Derrel Acrey) jumping 90 cms.
This incredible athleticism would bring great virtues to the game.
One would think American football is much more similar to rugby league than it is to Australian rules, both with a heavy impact on tackling.
I’m no expert on gridiron, but any running back or receiver would make a great league player as they’re quick, strong and nifty on their feet.
Gridiron players are also good at kick receiving, which would give them good skills under the high ball.
Maurice Jones-Drew is one of the few NFL players I know, but I would sure love to see a player similar to himself charging up a rugby field. He has try-scoring machine written all over him.
Along with the many on-field benefits brought to the game, the off-field ones are also intriguing.
Everyone knows of Americans’ love for sport. Frequently packing out 70,000+ stadiums each NFL game is proof of this.
Obviously, bringing in a few Americans would no doubt increase the profile of NRL in America.
Considering league is almost a quicker version of gridiron, Americans would have no trouble watching.
While it would take a while to get a high American viewership up, and perhaps a few American ‘mini-drafts’, if the NRL was committed, an American fan base of the league would do nothing but good for it.
No doubt this would be a massive experiment that would take years to plan, and this is an article that has not considered the precious time, money and manpower that would have to go into it.
However, if the NRL considered some kind of similar venture in the future, nothing but good would come from it.