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Discord: League's lofty ambitions require more thought


Worthhis weight in gold: Scotland's Danny Brough.

Worthhis weight in gold: Scotland's Danny Brough. Photo: Getty Images

The London Broncos will be competing in Super League next year after agreeing to a ground sharing arrangement at Barnet - but what sort of side will they field? And can the NRL's reported Wembley ambitions finally breath life into rugby league in the capital after 30 years of hand-to-mouth toil?

Some Broncos sides over the years have grossly underachieved after shipping in big names from Australia and New Zealand so we can only hope the opposite is true and a team of young locals can outstrip everyone's - admittedly very low - expectations in 2014.

Which brings us to colleague Brad Walter's recent story about the NRL planning an Origin game at Wembley.

To suggest 74,000 people attended the World Cup final looking for "NRL-style rugby league" would be more than a little egotistical on the part of the commission. They went looking for ... a World Cup final. And most of them bought their tickets when England was still a chance of being there.

The expression is "build it and they will come" not "throw it out there and they will come".

Even the mighty NFL had to saturate television in the UK for years before moving games to Wembley. To think a sport that struggles to get 2000 people to The Stoop every second week can suddenly attract 92,000 for a game between two Australian states is nothing short of extreme Antipodean hubris.

That is not to say we should abandon the idea altogether.

The beauty of it, in fact, is that the NRL now has an incentive to help the British game, and London in particular. If it truly believes it can make money out of the biggest city in the world where our sport has a professional club, then it should get on board and help that club.

This could take the form of scholarship arrangements for young Australian players, an investment in the club, outright ownership, coaching assistance and pre-season training camps in either hemisphere.

Certainly the NRL will find it hard to capture the imagination of rank-and-file Londoners as something more glamorous than the flat cap-and-whippets northern game they know rugby league to be as long as it remains on obscure Premier Sports.

But we had the answer first: NRL helping London. With the prospect of making some money, we now have the question.

End of an era?

Cheerleaders seem to be going the way of differential penalties and five-minute sin bins, and I know many of my female colleagues won't miss them.

Me, I can't see the harm in them - especially if they're trained dancers with athletic routines that truly do entertain the crowds. But I won't be getting overly upset if they go or stay.

Of all the suggestions as to how we truly measure their popularity, and whether they really are over-sexualised or sexist, here's the best: Let's survey female fans and ask whether they find cheerleaders offensive.

Credit where it's due

Comments time and Robbo had a go at Danny Brough, the Golden Boot nominee. Robbo, we only have two fulltime professional comps in the entire world and he was the best player in one of them. He played for Scotland in the World Cup and showed his class in a badly beaten team against New Zealand.

If you're going to have six nominees for the best player in the world, I think it's fair enough the Super League Man of Steel is one of them.

3 comments so far

  • Steve I believe an NRL Super league double header could draw a decent crowd but not even close to filling Wembley.As the London Broncos will be in North London next season I would aim for White Heart Lane.The clubs I would play are the Warriors v Souths and London v Bradford.
    Souths would bring in the Aussies and poms with the Burgess brothers and the Warriors bring the kiwis.Bradford have a large following and are a `name" but on and off the field are in much the same position as the Broncos and Would give more of a contest than say Wigan.

    Gold Coast
    Date and time
    December 14, 2013, 10:25AM
    • The NRL should work with the England Super League as a joint venture to help London. Promising players who are discarded from the Under 20s competition would be a good start.Coaching and technical assistance would be a positive step as well. We need to develop the game on a global basis and everyone will benefit. The New Zealand England game showed what a great product we have,we just need to have faith in it.

      Curl Curl
      Date and time
      December 14, 2013, 6:48PM
      • Another point of comparison, if there is real thought being given to an NRL-SL doubleheader in London, would be to go back several years. After the big Christchurch earthquake their union team, the Canterbury Crusaders, had to relocate their home games. One game went to Twickenham against one of the South African teams. SBW was in the Crusaders at that stage. So, known big names in union, relocating to the Northern Hemisphere, playing at the major English union stadium, with a big existing pool of spectators. Memory says they got something approaching half full…high 30,000s. I don't like union much, but the game was quite watchable. I don't fancy league's chance of filling an even bigger stadium than Twickenham.

        But I do agree, worth trying in a smaller and modern football stadium. And I also think money could be well spent promoting league in the Pacific Islands…the latter are shamefully neglected by union's leadership, including the NZRU. The league niche there is one that could be widened by clever, limited, spending. (As you've suggested Steve with your writing about Fiji's potential).

        Old John
        Date and time
        December 15, 2013, 10:37AM

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