NRL in talks to buy Super League with winter return discussed – reports

Ben Olawumi
Super League logo, NRL logo, Jack Welsby, Nathan Cleary

Reports from Down Under suggest that the NRL are looking to buy Super League - Alamy

Reports from Down Under suggest that the NRL will try to buy Super League and set up a return to winter rugby in England for the health of both competitions.

Rugby league in this country has been considered a ‘summer sport’ since the beginning of Super League back in March 1996.

Two years later, the NRL kicked off Down Under to bring an end to a ‘Super League war’ in the Southern Hemisphere where prior to the NRL’s founding, they’d had teams competing in the ARL (Australian Rugby League) and their 10-team Super League, two separate divisions entirely.

But as we approach the 30-year anniversary of the English Super League’s kick-off, a u-turn could potentially be on the cards, if reports from ex-Australia international Matty Johns are to be believed.

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NRL in talks to buy Super League with winter return discussed – reports

In a clip doing the rounds on social media this morning, New South Wales native Johns has been speaking on ‘The Run Home with Joel & Fletch’, a radio programme hosted on Sydney-based station ‘SEN 1170’.

Johns said: “The rumour I’m hearing, and it’s been mooted a little bit, but it’s getting stronger, is that the NRL are seriously looking to buy the English rugby league.

“(They’ll) move it back to being a winter sport in England, and that way, it broadens the base and 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 was guys like Peter Sterling, Brett Kenny, Phil Blake, going over and having those short stints with Wigan, Leeds (Rhinos) and Castleford (Tigers) and what not. They really miss that over there.

“Let’s imagine the Roosters are faced with a scenario where they allow Joey Manu to go to French rugby or we let him go and have a stint at Castleford. That’s the opportunity for players to really optimise their income while they’re in the game.”

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‘It helps the English game two-fold’: Matty Johns on prospect of winter rugby return as NRL reportedly look to buy Super League

52-year-old Johns himself experienced life both Down Under and in the English game.

Making the move from Newcastle Knights to Wigan and spending the 2001 season with the Cherry and Whites before heading back to Australia to round off his playing career with Cronulla Sharks.

That year, the former playmaker partnered now-Leigh Leopards boss Adrian Lam in the halves at Old Trafford as Wigan lost out to Bradford Bulls in the Super League Grand Final.

Johns continued: “It helps the English game two-fold. We can send our players over there and have guest stints, whether it’s half a season over there or even just four or five games.

“But the other thing as to how it helps them is that guys like Jack Welsby can get their NRL fix, come out here and prove themselves while still being a part of the English competition as opposed to guys having to make the complete change.

“You have a look at the Penrith side and all of those terrific young blokes who are ready to come through the grades for example, like young Jack Cole who’s getting his start (in the World Club Challenge).

“A player like that, Penrith could turn around and say, ‘we haven’t got the spot for you right now, but we know you’re going to make it.’

“He goes to Wests Tigers, but that’s where instead you could send him over to Wigan or Warrington (Wolves).”

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