Time for Nines

Forget the World Club Series – Super League needs to head to Auckland instead.

Much has been made this week about the reluctance of Australian teams to head up north to face Super League clubs in the World Club Series.

The re-invigorated concept of the World Club Series was supposed to trigger a new era of international club competition in our game.

Sadly, that looks to have very little chance of happening any time soon, with NRL clubs (with the exception of Brisbane who, coincidentally, are coached by Wayne Bennett the England coach) lining up to turn down the invitation to participate.

So the whole thing immediately starts to feel pointless. A lot of hard work and a pile of cash invested for very little meaningful return.

So give up with it. The old military maxim of ‘never reinforce failure’ would seem to hold good here.

Instead, the RFL should focus on sending two or three teams to the Auckland Nines instead.

This was another concept that was treated with plenty of derision when it was launched a couple of years back.

But it is beginning to look locked into schedules now, and, crucially, it is something that players and clubs in the NRL seem to like. It is fast, furious, exciting and spectator-friendly. You can even wager on rugby league using this sports betting bonus.

Sending Super League’s champions and the Challenge Cup winners, plus maybe a Celtic Barbarians or Wales team, would probably do much more to raise the profile of our comp down under than getting spanked out of sight in the World Club Series would.

Nines is a format which evens up the game a little. Super League teams would be more than capable of producing shocks and great victories in the tournament, and it would be a great showcase for some our stars.

Seeing the likes of Danny Houghton or John Bateman ripping it up in a Nines tournament, with big crowds and television audiences, would make more commercial sense in the long run.

Also, the Nines is held in New Zealand, which is surely a country that Super League clubs can develop followings in.

Hull FC, in particular, have a big Kiwi/Islander contingent, and could well sell some jerseys and memorabilia in NZ on the back of it.

The name of Super League champions Wigan is well known in the Land of the Long White Cloud too, and surely Ian Lenagan is sharp enough to recognise that too. Wigan have a great relationship already with the NRL‘s Warriors.

The format of Nines would allow Super League players to show their quality in more relaxed surroundings too, on a more even playing field.

Who knows, it may help with talent exchange too – there are a lot of young rugby players in New Zealand who don’t get to play for the Warriors, or get picked up by Aussie clubs.

Raising the profile of Super League in New Zealand may help attract more players, and provide opportunities for developing UK players to experience rugby league overseas.

So forget three heavy beatings in freezing cold weather in England in February.

Head south instead. A Pacific adventure awaits which looks a lot more fun, down in New Zealand.

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