The Canberra Raiders are seriously considering playing an exhibition match in China after new major sponsor Huawei showed strong interest in bringing rugby league to its homeland.
The Chinese technology giant first revealed its desire to stage a Raiders match shortly after announcing its two-year deal with the NRL club in Canberra late last month.
China's ambassador to Australia Chen Yuming was an interested onlooker at the Raiders' impressive 32-12 Easter Sunday win over the New Zealand Warriors at Canberra Stadium yesterday.
Afterwards, Canberra boss Don Furner confirmed the Raiders will explore the viability of staging a pre-season game in China, in January or February next year.
''Certainly we have had some talks and the powers-that-be at Huawei were keen on us investigating the idea of playing an exhibition or trial game in China,'' Furner said yesterday.
''They literally brought it up and said to think about it.
''We're definitely going to explore it and if the numbers stack up, it would be fantastic.
''Whether it's an English Super League side or another Australian side, it's not that far to go.
''Fifteen years after Super League said they were going to China, we may finally get there.''
The AFL became the first Australian football code to take a match to China when the Melbourne Demons clashed with the Brisbane Lions in 2010.
That match was attended by more than 6000 people.
Furner believes that novelty value would ensure China also embraces a rugby league fixture.
''I think it would be a one-off thing to start, for the novelty factor, see how it went and go from there,'' Furner said.
''They may take an interest in it like I take an interest in gridiron, I've been to a few games.
''They're very patriotic, if they see a Chinese company, a Chinese basketballer [Jeremy Lin at New York Knicks] or a Chinese golfer do well, they get on board.
''They certainly think they would pack it out. You think about the merchandising opportunities.
''[Raiders jersey manufacturer] ISC won't let us leave it alone now after we've mentioned it to them.''