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Is Old Trafford or Wembley ready for the NRL?

Test match rugby league hit its peak in the early 1990s. (Photo: Daniel Wighton).
Roar Guru
26th February, 2014
51
1284 Reads

Thinking outside the box has never been rugby league’s strongpoint. But as we enter into an exciting new frontier where any match, event or format is being considered it is being becoming increasingly obvious that anything is possible.

With the success in the last few years of the annual NRL Indigenous All Stars match, a superb World Cup in the United Kingdom and most recently the Auckland Nines, administrators across the country are starting to realise that if you put an exciting new concept out there, the people will come in droves.

Salford City Red Devils owner Marwan Koukash has already expressed interest in putting together a consortium to take nines rugby league to Dubai.

The sky isn’t the limit, it’s just the beginning.

For Australia’s greatest concept, State of Origin, tinkering still needs to be done.

The majority of people agree that Origin takes a massive chunk out of the regular season with the NRL seemingly stopped in its tracks mid stroke as Origin pandemonium takes over.

Teams are without their best players for weeks on end and some of these representative players become burnt-out and fizzle as they return to their club sides for the remainder of the season.

The answer could be standalone weekends, with Queensland and New South Wales doing battle on a Sunday night rather than a Wednesday.

This would allow for a full week of promotion and build-up while players aren’t forced to back-up for their NRL team and fans aren’t forced to watch second-string sides without their Origin players.

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A Sunday timeslot would also give nations like Samoa, Tonga, Papua New Guinea and Fiji an opportunity to play regular mid-season Test matches against each other or even a touring French side.

But why do we have to stop there?

The NRL is attempting to tap into new markets and always looking for that edge.

It isn’t just the NRL but the clubs themselves sniffing out opportunities, financial gain and a little thing called history.

With Chinese and Russian companies as major sponsors, the Canberra Raiders (Huawei) and Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles (Kaspersky) were on the verge of playing a first grade match in Shenzhen before dreaded red tape put an end to the idea.

One of the sticking points was the travel and time involved in an already hectic regular season. If Origin was given stand-alone weekends, games like this could come to fruition.

While a game in China is a fantastic idea and makes sense considering the deals between the Raiders and Manly and their respective sponsors, the idea itself can be investigated further.

In the past this writer has proposed such crazy concoctions as an NRL summer league for developing areas, a New Years Eve Australia versus World All Stars match and even State of Origin played outside Australia.

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If Origin does get the nod and moves to stand-alone weekends, would two NRL clubs ever consider taking a competitive match to England and a venue like Old Trafford or Wembley Stadium?

While most clubs would be missing their superstars due to Origin commitments, a few teams like the New Zealand Warriors and Sydney Roosters would still have enough star power to sell the event to the masses in The Old Dart.

The NRL brand sells itself and you can be sure that all Super League fans would salivate over the thought of witnessing an NRL match live in their own backyard.

For example, if the game was played in the UK in 2014, the Roosters would still boast Sonny Bill Williams, Jake Friend, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Anthony Minichiello with Frenchman Remi Casty an obvious selection with his Super League connection.

New Zealand is the most unaffected by Origin and would star Shaun Johnson, Feleti Mateo, Manu Vatuvei and returning favourite son Sam Tomkins.

The fixture could be played on one of the Origin weekends with the Roosters and Warriors receiving the week off when the NRL returns for the following round.