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Changes afoot for World Club Challenge

Date

Steve Mascord

Every year Leeds play in the World Club Challenge, their CEO Gary Hetherington offers to play it in Australia and calls for the concept to be expanded.

Every year, nothing of the sort happens.

But things are different this time. In the middle of last season, South Sydney chief executive Shane Richardson flew to England for talks with Hetherington, Warrington "pop impresario" Simon Moran and Wigan's Ian Lenagan.

They agreed to play the WCC in the opposite hemisphere to internationals in each season for the next five, and to trial an expanded competition every second year.

The six-team comp in 2015 does not mean six teams have a chance of being crowned world champions. It means the game will be played as part of a Super League v NRL "Test" series.

On a single weekend in February 2015, Super League will be paused and on Friday night the third-finishing teams in each comp will meet, followed by the second-finishing on Saturday – with the WCC on Sunday.

This concept has the backing of NRL clubs – but the key is selling it as a separate television product and building it up to the point that states and cities bid to host it.

Playing the WCC in Australia next year will have no impact at all on the All Stars or the planned Auckland Nines – instead the pre-season will start to generate some real momentum (throw in the Charity Shield as well).

Although the clubs support these ideas, they still need to be signed off on by the Australian Rugby League Commission and the Rugby Football League.

***

The Australian Crime Commission report was tabled at a media conference just as the last Discord was being posted.

That was unfortunate timing for readers of this column but my initial thoughts on what does seem to be somewhat of a mess right now appear in Wednesday's Rugby League Week.

Colleague Richard Hinds has cautioned officials against shooting the messenger but a few league officials – North Queensland coach Neil Henry and South Sydney chief executive Shane Richardson come to mind – have broken ranks and lashed out at the process so far.

If we break things down into how the various parties acted and how we think they should have acted, the difficulties involved become clearer.

Richardson's argument that the report should have been tabled in Parliament instead of at a press conference appear sound – although knowing how the media works, the chaos surrounding "named names" would have dwarfed what we have already seen.

Can you imagine player X showing up for training after his name was mentioned in Parliament? Even though he has tested positive to nothing, he would have become a victim in his own house.

Should the NRL have sought permission from the Australian Crime Commission to contact individuals instead of clubs, even if such permission had been longer coming? I think so. That way clubs would not have been slighted, as they clearly believe they have been.

But individuals would not put out press releases saying they had been contacted, would they? And this is the key – the imperative that progress SEEMS to be being made, as opposed to it actually occurring.

If the NRL had said "we contacted 24 individuals who have been mentioned in the report" and then none of them said boo, it would not have gone close to feeding the hungry media beast and criticism would have rained down on League Central.

The clubs, in the main, have reacted well. Cronulla, in particular, should be congratulated for going into some detail about the allegations concerning them.

But saying "no one at our club has tested positive" is just PR spin – if they had, we'd have heard about it by now!

What people in rugby league perhaps don't realise is that they are seen as mere cogs in a massive government operation. The government isn't worried about hurting our feelings.

It's going to go on all year. At this stage, it may look like a grandstanding overreaction. God forbid we one day look back at it all as an under-reaction to what was really taking place below the surface in our game.

***

Melbourne's WCC jaunt didn't start off so well.

After scientifically planning the flight from Tullamarine to Heathrow so that sleep was strictly policed and food and liquid intake regulated, the premiers' bus driver slept in and players milled around arrivals drinking coffee for half an hour.

Eventually, they were ferried to their quaint Richmond hotel in a fleet of taxis, where massages were eventually administered.

Players were under strict instructions not to sleep in the day. They had the afternoon off before assembling in Central London for dinner. Yesterday, they trained at the world's poshest school – Eton College.

After an opposed session against London Academy on Friday, they transfer to their Leeds digs over the weekend. A joint media conference is planned for Monday.

***

Thanks for all the comments last week.

Kelvin talks about adding contests like fastest player, best kicker etc to the All Star game. I remember Jamie Soward tossing this idea up several years ago. It's a good idea and I don't know why it hasn't happened.

Benjamin said the idea of a sporting body having a duty of care to athletes is ridiculous. But I think you'll find, legally, they do. That's why players can't take the field uninsured.

Parso81 reported that the NRL would be shown overseas on Setanta's iPlayer, with five games a week available. Thanks for the scoop there Parso.

If you don't want to wait until next week for a response, the forum is here and the podcast is here.

10 comments so far

  • Noone invites their mates around to watch the WCC. NRL players already play too many games. I vote NO to an expanded WCC concept.

    Commenter
    jg
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    February 14, 2013, 12:29PM
    • I disagree and agree.

      Disagree with the fact that nobody would watch an expanded WCC it would be basically the "champions league" of rugby league anything that encourages Rugby League to take to the international stage is a good thing for the game.

      Agree that there are too many games in the NRL season, the game would benefit much more from an international season at the end of the year even if it starts out at only 5 or 6 games. We really need to stop have these All-stars games at the start of the year with quarters rather than full halves played and players being likely to be injured in a genuine contest and move them to the back end of the season.

      Commenter
      El Seano
      Date and time
      February 14, 2013, 3:03PM
    • People don't invite their mates over for the WCC because it starts at 6:30-7am. If marketed properly in both hemispheres the WCC game can become pretty big. It's the greatest club game in Rugby League. We in Australia need to start thinking of Rugby League world wide and actually give it the credit it deserves for being so big, instead of mocking it because it may no be as big as some other sports internationally. RL does alright.

      Commenter
      DynamiteShifty
      Date and time
      February 15, 2013, 3:09AM
  • A waste of time. NRL clubs have never taken this one too seriously. If it were a four team event with $1 million for the winner then it would be a different ball game altogether. The Poms like it as they know our comp is supreme whereas our boys already know the toughest challenge was last year's GF. Until the purse is big enough forget it.

    Commenter
    Horrid Bees' Wax
    Date and time
    February 14, 2013, 1:07PM
    • scrap the world cup challenge and get a league 7's or 9's happening...much more entertaining and interesting...why drag a team half way across the globe to play in a dead rubber...the australian team has had a long lay off and is way off its best form...id even enjoy an nrl vs union modified game more...what about a knockout night comp in february, bring in some regional teams...30 minute halves...fireworks....c'mon, where are all the ideas ???

      Commenter
      wallygee
      Date and time
      February 14, 2013, 2:11PM
      • At least for the NRL teams, how do you tell who comes 3rd? Do you go back to the minor premiership, and pick the highest ranked team which hasn't already qualified? Can't see the teams which lose in the qualifying finals (in the week before the GF) being too keen on a play off.

        Commenter
        JohnB
        Location
        Brisbane
        Date and time
        February 14, 2013, 2:30PM
        • With League in the UK about to go bankrupt due to high costs and minimal crowds/revenue I doubt the WCC has many years to run. It will soon resemble AFL as an Australian oddity.

          Commenter
          Kdog
          Location
          Bris
          Date and time
          February 14, 2013, 2:55PM
          • I am all for the Club Challenge expansion, but I wonder if it is too late. The English clubs are struggling now... this should have happened years ago.

            Rugby League people (in particular certain Sydney Rugby League people), were way too insular and couldn't see the big picture.

            That said, I can understand JG's concerns about playing too many games - perhaps it's time to shave a couple of games of the NRL season itself, and definitely lose the ridiculous Anzac test match and City v Country.

            Commenter
            Jimbob
            Date and time
            February 14, 2013, 6:18PM
            • interesting that, from my impression, it was generally accepted that the players season was too long. Now, we're talking Auckland 9's, extended WCC. Must be money to be made! Stuff players 'welfare' eh?

              Commenter
              andy
              Date and time
              February 14, 2013, 6:35PM
              • I love the idea of an expanded WCC but it should be a 4 or 8 team knockout competition.
                I love the soccer world cup but I never watch the 3rd place playoff, which basically all this tournament will be. Who cares about watching the 2 third best teams play each other? Australian fans already see the WCC as a glorified trial this will only entrench that belief. Also believe the prize money must be increased to get the Aussie teams interested.

                Commenter
                paulmac
                Date and time
                February 15, 2013, 12:39PM

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