Talking RL: Are short-sighted NRL bosses shirking international responsibility? Damn straight!

Last month, during their mini-tour Down Under, the Illawarra Mercury newspaper ran a story which began: 'Wigan owner Ian Lenagan has fired a salvo at the NRL, accusing it of shirking its responsibility to grow the game globally...'

Thursday, 22nd March 2018, 10:16 am
Updated Thursday, 22nd March 2018, 10:20 am
Will John Bateman be playing in Denver?

We’ve not had to wait long for an example of how inward looking they can be.

In June, there is a blank weekend in the NRL fixtures to accommodate a stand-alone State of Origin game.

On the same weekend, England will play New Zealand in Denver.

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Why America? Because the two nations will pocket quite a lot of money from the venture. Plus, America is set to stage the 2025 rugby league World Cup – it makes sense to take a couple of baby-steps first, right?

The players want to be involved and – remember – there are no NRL games that weekend.

Yet since the idea was floated, there has been opposition from some club bosses Down Under; even a suggestion players won’t be released to play in the sanctioned, ground-breaking Test.


According to media Down Under, NRL chief medical officer Paul Bloomfield and chief operating officer Nick Weeks have “grave” concerns.

If it’s not the travel, it’s the heat – stop laughing at the back – and, the biggest worry, the altitude.

So just to be clear; it’s fine for American Football teams to fly to Denver, play a game, fly out... but not rugby league teams?

Look at other sports, and the moans of the NRL bosses becomes almost laughable.

Travel is part and parcel of sport; especially for those trying to strengthen their profile, attract new fans and open up new revenue streams.

Eight NFL teams, remember, played in London last year!

Footballers frequently jet around the world for games. If not for internationals, for pre-season tours in America, Asia, Australia.

Boxers, UFC fighters, the same.

Five days ago, the NSW Waratahs rugby union team played in 37c heat in Sydney.

The week earlier? They had a game in Argentina.

The week before, Durban, South Africa.

And code-hopping Israel Folau, the only one I’d heard of, played in them all!

You look at those sports, and I ask whether Lenagan is right. Are self-interested NRL officials shirking their responsibility to grow the game globally?
Damn straight they are.

First reply on Twitter, to news of Josh Charnley’s move to Warrington, was a complaint that Wigan didn’t sign him.

It made me laugh. I hear so many moans about the club re-signing former players, and the first time one of them goes somewhere else, there’s a grumble!

But I think most recognise Wigan are well-stocked for quality wingers; it would have made no sense to bring him back.

Charnley is back in rugby league after cutting short his time with Sale Sharks.

There aren’t many home-grown players who leave Wigan and go on to bigger and better things, but that’s not a criticism; just the way it’s gone.

I don’t blame players for trying something new.

Josh went to rugby union, had a crack, it didn’t quite work out, and now he’s back.

And Super League will be better for his return.

I wish him all the best at the Halliwell Jones Stadium – a ground where many of my fondest memories of him were made.

Shaun Wane was on good form in his press conference midweek.

Asked for his thoughts on St Helens’ loss to Leeds last week, he said: “I’m very disappointed.

“I mean, fair play to Saints, they’ve been playing exceptionally well - but I’d have loved to have gone into Good Friday with them unbeaten.”

I’m looking forward to next week already!

If you’ve not already watched it, I highly-recommend watching BBC Wales’ Codebreakers documentary. 
It’s available on iPlayer, and tracks the number of Welsh players who moved north over the years including, not surprisingly, Jim Sullivan and Billy Boston. It’s well worth a watch.

The first friendly ahead of the women’s Super League takes place this Sunday.

The season begins two weeks later. The teams will play real games, for competition points, in a league ladder.

The RFL says interest is growing, with 30 per cent more teams welcomed to the female game over the past 12 months; there’s a vibrancy to women’s rugby league.

Which is great to see.

Just a shame we don’t have such a well-organised, competitive league for Super League’s reserves as well.