NRL set for American adventure

Zack Wilson


The NRL is planning to open its 2018 season in the United States, with league bosses scheming to take a Premiership game to America.

Australian newspaper The Daily Telegraph reports that the move has the backing of broadcasters Fox Sports and Channel Nine, with South Sydney and Parramatta looking the likely clubs to be involved.

South Sydney co-owner and Hollywood actor Russell Crowe adds star power to help promote the game, and Golden Globe winning actor Simon Baker, from The Mentalist, is a Hollywood star who is also a Parra fan.

Despite his disappointing spell in the NFL, Jarryd Hayne could also be used to promote the event.

The game would also be likely to attract significant interest in the UK, with betting on rugby league big business across the country.

“I love the idea of a game in the States,” said Fox Sports CEO Patrick Delaney.

“Whether it’s the opening round or another round, taking a game to the States is a great idea. We’d love to work with the NRL on furthering the love of rugby league through the world.

“There are similarities between the NFL and NRL, but most ‘Yanks’ would have their jaw on the ground if they saw our athletes operate.

“I know Fox USA would also get right behind us also.”

Nine’s head of sport Tom Malone is also behind the idea, with Stanford Stadium in California mooted as a possible venue.

“We’d definitely consider any proposal on its merits, especially something that is important to the NRL like playing a game in the US,’’ Malone said.

“We’d certainly be interested to hear more about the idea.”

The NRL are yet to identify possible venues for the historic match, although several College football and rugby union stadiums, including Berkeley and Stanford University, are believed to be under consideration.

The NRL have appointed an intermediary with an intimate knowledge of sports in North America to be involved in the process.

While a Premiership match has never been played in the US, South Sydney are no strangers to showcasing rugby league in the States having played an exhibition match against Leeds in Florida in 2008.

A State of Origin match between NSW and Queensland was also played in Long Beach, California in 1987, while 13-years ago, Australia avoided one of the biggest upsets in league history by defeating the USA Tomahawks 36-24 in Philadelphia.