THE prospect of State of Origin returning to the US has moved a step closer after the American National Rugby League (AMNRL) announced a partnership with Los Angeles sport and entertainment giant Grand Prix Rugby.
The company, which has a similar arrangement with USA Rugby, was a driving force behind Las Vegas becoming a venue on the international rugby union sevens circuit and is keen to lure major rugby league events to the US.
Moves are afoot for the US to revive the World Sevens tournament that was played annually in Sydney and host an expanded World Club Challenge, but AMNRL boss David Niu said the long-term goal was Origin.
''That is high end and it is something we certainly want to shoot for down the line,'' Niu said from Hawaii, where the US Tomahawks played Tonga. ''Right now we are focusing on what we can feel, reach and touch with this partnership, but that is certainly a grand vision, and it would make a bold statement about rugby league in the US and to the rest of the world.''
A State of Origin match was played at Long Beach, California, in 1987.
Grand Prix Rugby chairman Alan Rothenberg, a key figure in the US's successful bid to host the 1994 football World Cup and a former NBA and US Olympics official, said his company supported the AMNRL's ambitious plans.
''The AMNRL, under the outstanding leadership of David Niu, has been making great strides in the development of rugby league across America, including the possibility of an AMNRL world rugby league sevens or nines tournament, and also a proposed World Series Champions tournament between the best professional clubs in the world to be hosted in the US,'' Rothenberg said.
The champions league concept between the top NRL and Super League teams was initially outlined by South Sydney owner Russell Crowe in an email to the Herald 18 months ago.
Grand Prix Rugby founder Richard Tatham, who described Crowe as ''rugby league's No.1 fan'', said: ''Who wouldn't want to team up with Russell Crowe?''
A sub-committee including ARL Commission chief executive David Gallop, Souths boss Shane Richardson and St George Illawarra's Peter Doust was formed at this month's International Federation meeting, which was attended by Niu, to consider an expand World Club Challenge.
''These moves now have a backer to support the vision,'' Niu said.