Off the Wall

The bosses of the 16 NRL clubs and the NRL hierarchy have their annual conference at Byron Bay this week...and one hopes the ambiance does not lull them into a false sense of confidence and complacency when it comes to the challenges facing the game today and tomorrow.

And one must surely hope they don't give priority to the nonsense in the SMH today suggesting an expanded World Club Challenge be held in Las Vegas, yes Las Vegas, each year!

You would have thought the South Sydney Rabbitohs CEO, Shane Richardson, would have enough on his plate to be proposing such unadulterated nonsense.

It might appeal to Russell Crowe, but is that really a priority for the game, let alone be raised at the annual clubs conference?

And the truly troubling point is that a number of club CEO's have lined up to support the idea of an eight team world club championship being played each year in the US desert state of Nevada!

The current World Club Championship is declining in relevance - from a very low base!

The Dragons have had to bring their annual charity shield match against the Rabbitohs to Saturday February 13 to avoid a clash with their World Club Championship match against Wigan...because Wigan could not play any later as the UK Super League season would be already under way.

You would have thought that would make the Dragons CEO, Peter Doust, wary of supporting an even more demanding "world" club championship structure? But now, he has jumped in along with a few of his counterparts.

They must have short memories about rugby league in the USA!

For years the ARL pushed the development of the game in the USA - we even had the indignity of an "Origin" game in the USA in 1987. Then in 1994 the Kangaroos played the USA on their way home from the UK tour. The game was played in Philadelphia - and the crowd? 4,500!

And as for playing a world club championship in Las Vegas, the temperature in November ranges from 6c to 19c...and in February when it might likely be played it ranges from 4c to 17c.

The game faces numerous challenges without this distraction.

It needs to look at how it responds to the challenge from the AFL in Western Sydney and on the Gold Coast. It needs to look at the implications of the new anti-siphoning laws AND it needs to put in place a competent and transparent independent commission to drive the games future - and address its challenges.

And it needs to look very carefully at the implications of the growing influence of sports betting on the game...and how it minimises the games integrity being corrupted and irreversibly damaged.

And it needs to look at the state of the game in regional and rural communities - and see what can be done to reverse the decline that we read about all too often.

By all means encourage the game in the USA - but don't put even greater pressure on NRL players, and clubs, when it comes to the international duties than they already have!

You would have thought club CEO's would be the first to realise that?

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