After weeks of rumour and speculation, Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have finally confirmed the sign...
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Executive chairman Selwyn Pearson said the New Zealand Rugby League was keen to play a tri-series against Australia and Great Britain only if there were benefits for all three nations.
Pearson has been a lone voice expressing doubts about the wisdom of scheduling an end-of-season tri-series in Britain for each of the next three years.
Under the British plan the Lions, Kangaroos and Kiwis would meet each other twice leading up to a final, over seven weeks from late October in 2004, 2005, and 2006.
Pearson faxed a letter to Colin Love, the Sydney-based Rugby League International Federation chairman today, setting out his concerns and offering three alternatives.
Pearson is worried about the lack of Test football in Australia and New Zealand, the apparently uneven financial terms and the burden on the leading players.
Not to have any Test in New Zealand in one season, let alone three, would be tantamount to committing sporting suicide, Pearson said.
"I might as well ring the rugby union and say `the country is all yours'. I would then probably get locked up for treason," he quipped.
Pearson has told Love, who is also the Australian Rugby League chairman, that New Zealand do not want to give up their annual trans-Tasman Test match. Player welfare is also uppermost in his thoughts.
"At the end of the (NRL) season we are asking them to go to the United Kingdom for six to seven weeks, three years in a row. There is only a certain amount of gas in the tank and the heavy schedule could shorten their careers," he said.
He said the current proposal appeared to have financial benefits only for Great Britain as the annual tri-series is included in their new television deal with BSkyB.
The alternatives suggested by Pearson were:
* New Zealand and Australia play their tri-series matches home and away in October before leaving for Britain. Both then play Great Britain twice, with a final if needed. Maximum of five matches.
* A home and away trans-Tasman series with Anzac (April) Test in Brisbane and October Test in New Zealand. The tri-series in Britain to comprise only one round, with a final if needed. Maximum of five matches.
* To have no tri-series at all. Australia and New Zealand to play a two- or three- match Test series, at Brisbane on Anzac Day and once or twice in New Zealand in October. Maximum of three matches.