Super League must get its most important roll of the dice right in Las Vegas: or risk losing it all

Aaron Bower

2WNCKHW Brisbane, Australia. 01st Mar, 2024. The smaller nature of Allegiant Stadium has left little room for the NRL between the field of play and a harder surface near the sideline, Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas, Friday, March 1, 2024. The NRL is confident players will be safe within the tight confines of an NFL stadium as officials prepare to showcase the sport on its grandest ever scale. (AAP Image/Scott Bailey NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY Credit: Australian Associated Press/Alamy Live News

Perhaps, in the end, it was fitting that rugby league’s most important moment was to take place in the city renowned for gambling and high stakes.

We’ve heard about ‘breakthroughs’ and ‘important opportunities’ before but this is the biggest one of them all. It was likened to an atomic style moment by Warrington Wolves CEO Karl Fitzpatrick and in truth, it is hard to disagree.

This is a sport which has struggled for mainstream attention for well over a century. Rugby league has held ambitions of moments like this for decades upon decades and now, it has been delivered on a silver platter to two of Super League’s biggest clubs.

The size of this opportunity cannot be underestimated – as underlined by the success of the NRL’s first venture there earlier this year. This is a five-year commitment for the whole sport to capitalise in the United States and Super League has been invited to the party.

After languishing from missed opportunity to missed opportunity – there are, quite simply, too many to mention – you feel we have now finally arrived at a moment which will define the sport for decades to come.

It is entirely possible that in 10, 20 or even 50 years, people will look at the events of next March as the defining moment in our history. The day that the glass ceiling which has for so long felt insurmountable was finally smashed.

While opportunities like Twickenham, the Nou Camp and Magic Weekend – heck, even Toronto Wolfpack – have always felt important, this is different. This is the US sports market. It is the biggest beast there is on the planet. Yes, you could argue Denver was our first opportunity to crack it and we failed, but there’s a real difference this time.


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The NRL have already laid the groundwork for the game and shown that when it’s done right, there’s an appetite. If Super League can slice off even a tiny percentile of that market.. things have changed forever in the blink of an eye.

There’ll be no need to worry about what traditionalists think of rugby league, and get upset that people are still complaining about going to Las Vegas – but the sport will open itself up to markets it could, quite simply, only dream of just a few short years ago.

But mess it up, and there will categorically never be an opportunity to spread the sport’s wings on this side of the world like it again. Fortunately, Super League has a shrewd operator in Kris Radlinski driving this: and you do wonder what IMG, who have not been involved in these discussions, are thinking watching on.

Can they utilise their Stateside contacts and help open some doors for Super League?

You have to wonder, beyond that one day in March next year, what this all means for the future of the sport at administrative level in the United Kingdom too.

There are rumours that the NRL retain a very live interest in purchasing Super League, although there is clear resistance from those at the top of the game on this side of the world to allow the NRL to effectively run the whole of the world game.

But this is now effectively Super League’s biggest and brightest clubs marketing itself in the shop window. There is appetite from within the clubs to do a deal and allow the NRL to take control – Wigan and Warrington know that if they get it right, they will make the whole of the British game a more appealing prospect.

But that is perhaps a discussion for another day.

Right now, it’s time to get excited. Those who have dreamed of rugby league having an opportunity to showcase itself to the world have been given what they wanted all along.

We’ll never know another moment like it again. So savour it, enjoy the build-up and the occasion – and pray that those in charge are capable of delivering.

If they do, well maybe – just maybe – Super League can go global. If it doesn’t, we’ll be confined to this corner of the UK forever more.


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