LRL Says: We need to take rugby league to Denver again and capitalise on potential growth

The Denver Test was a success but we will only see the rewards of it if we take another international match back there.

We were treated to a cracking international Test match between England and New Zealand on Saturday, with the Lions running out 36-18 winners in Denver.

It was always going to be an interesting game due to it being played in the United States. It was brilliant to see 19,320 people, mainly American I might add, at the Mile High Stadium.

The marketing team and promoters aimed to have around 30,000 spectators at the game but this event should still be considered a big success.

I have seen a couple of people on social media suggest that just under 20,000 spectators was a low amount, given the size of the stadium.

Not all, but the majority of that figure were American and we need to remember that North America is still relatively new to the rugby league world.

To put the Denver crowd number into further context, a double Pacific island double header, featuring Samoa v Tonga and Papua New Guinea v Fiji, brought in a crowd of 17,802 at Campbelltown Sports Ground in the heartlands of Australia on Saturday.

The two comparisons just show that there is an appetite for rugby league in the United States.

A lot of the American fans loved every single minute of action in Denver on Saturday. They enjoyed everything from Gareth Widdop’s 50-metre penalty goal, to Issac Luke’s stamp, to the Kiwis haka and to the huge hits.

We need to capitalise on the opportunity of making rugby league big in America before another sport pips us to the posts, which we all know has happened many times before.

I’ve only touched on the fans so far, but let’s talk about the teams involved.

It is fair to say that England and New Zealand are the leading countries for wanting to grow the sport. Australia simply aren’t fussed over the international game at this moment in time, hence why they didn’t play when the international break took place.

Players from both the Lions and the Kiwis spoke very passionately about expanding the sport after the game, none more so than the coaches, Wayne Bennett and Michael Maguire.

I absolutely love watching international rugby league as a fan and the 2017 World Cup laid down a big marker for the international game and I think everyone recognised the potential for it.

But we need to be clever about it. We need to try and smash the North American market, before venturing off into somewhere different.

Imagine a tournament of some sort being held there, with the likes of England, Scotland, Wales, France and Ireland competing against each other and another group with New Zealand, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Tonga facing off.

In rugby league, we are always very quick to put down our own game but at this moment in time, we have got a product to be very proud about. England and New Zealand did the sport the world of good on Saturday.

Let’s have more international Test matches, please.

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