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Best of both worlds: NRL looking at buying Super League but questions remain over international game

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23rd February, 2024
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The ARL Commission is considering the possibility of expanding its asset base by buying the Super League in a move which would give the Australian governing body control over the two main competitions in the sport.

What that would mean for the sport’s governing body, the International Rugby League, remains to be seen. The IRL would potentially then just be reduced to organising Test matches but the Australian body would have control over the contracts of the professional players.

According to a NewsCorp report, the NRL would look to establish direct links between Super League clubs and an Australian counterpart although that model could lead to fears that the English league will just become a farm system for NRL talent.

It would open up the opportunity for NRL players to switch between the UK competition when they want but the likely scenario would be the best talent still gravitating towards the richer Australian league.

Apart from a few powerful clubs, Super League teams have traditionally struggled to make ends meet while the competition has also had ongoing financial issues.

St Helens celebrate their win over Penrith last year. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Newcastle legend Matty Johns, who played in England at the tail end of his career before finishing in the NRL with a season at Cronulla, is an advocate of closer ties with the UK.

“The rumour I’m hearing and it’s getting stronger is that the NRL is seriously looking to possibly buy the English Rugby League,’’ Johns said on SEN on Friday.

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“And that way it broadens the base and it adds to the depth of both competitions because players can go over and have guest stints.

“One of the things that really helped the game over there (in the 1980s) was the likes of Peter Sterling, Brett Kenny, Phil Blake and those guys going over there and having those short stints with Wigan and Leeds and Castleford.

“Let’s imagine if the Roosters are faced with the situation of letting Joey Manu go to French rugby or we let him go and have a stint at Castleford.

“It’s an opportunity for players to really optimise their income while they’re in the game.

“It helps the English game two-fold with the fact that Wigan send their players over for guest stints, but the other thing that helps them is that guys like Jack Welsby (St Helens fullback) can get their NRL fix and come out and prove themselves but still part of the English competition.

“As opposed to Moz (Adrian Morley) having to make the complete change.’’

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