Great job NRL, now over to you, Super League

Great job NRL, now over to you, Super League

Is there anyone out there who still thinks taking round one of the NRL season to Las Vegas was a bad idea?

As a UK-based supporter, it was hard not to cast envious glances across the pond at the weekend as the Aussies wheeled out four of their big guns and put on a spectacular show for the uninitiated American public, not to mention the thousands of dedicated fans who made the trip over from Down Under, plus plenty of fans from these shores too.

Looking at the attendance, the social media activity and the general buzz around the games, it’s hard to make a case against it anymore, and with the opening-day double header reportedly locked in for the next four years, the NRL clearly feel they’re on to something.

Which leads me on to Super League…

Since IMG started to stamp their mark on the game over here, there’s been a fair bit of optimism around the sport again for the first time in a while. And while posters in train stations and 10 games a year on the BBC are strong starting points, I hope they were keeping a close eye on Vegas and taking notes about what’s possible for our competition.

Let’s be frank – the NRL is superior to Super League, and that’s not me taking a pop at our great competition, it just simply has more money, more popularity in its home country and a bigger pool of players to choose from.

All that being said, if you’d swapped out the four NRL clubs for four Super League clubs at the Allegiant Stadium on Saturday night, would the average American have even noticed?

Of course, seasoned rugby league fans will notice the quicker play-the-balls and slight differences in the rules (don’t even get me started on that!), but to a complete newbie, Wigan Warriors vs St Helens would look remarkably similar to Sydney Roosters vs Brisbane Broncos.

So, what do IMG and Super League have planned in response? Based on bitter experience and several years of missed opportunities for the game in this country, my gut feeling is nothing, but I sincerely hope I’m wrong.

We’ve had false dawns before – Catalans Dragons vs Wigan drew a record crowd to a Super League regular season fixture back in 2019 when they played at Barcelona’s iconic Camp Nou, but the Dragons haven’t been invited back since. And despite plenty of scepticism around it nowadays, Magic Weekend has proved to be so innovative that the Aussies even copied the idea from us and launched their own version.

Now, after the success of the NRL’s Vegas experiment, it’s time for us to jump on the bandwagon one way or another. If we can add a Super League fixture to the line-up next year, then great, and there’ll be no shortage of fans willing and able to make the trip. My only concern with gatecrashing the NRL’s party, is that they’ll not only take all the credit, but more importantly, all the money as well, and whilst we’ll gain some great publicity for Super League, ultimately it could be just a more elaborate version of the free pizza deal from a few years ago.

Instead, why not think bigger and go for our own US trip in 2025, perhaps in another city altogether? Think about it, maybe the Aussies will corner the Vegas market, but that leaves plenty of other places for us to take a couple of games. New York? Miami? Boston? Sure, they don’t quite have the same glamour, but they’re still huge cities with thousands of potential fans in them, and all doable in a weekend for UK fans. We can even piggyback off the NRL’s Vegas weekend to some extent. Just show any potential hosts the benefits that Vegas gained last Saturday and they might well be interested in a little boost to their economy for one weekend.

In an ideal world, I’d love to see a Super League double header taken into Europe. After all, it is a European competition, not a UK one, and that was the whole point of it in the first place. But as much as I can daydream about 50,000+ crowds in Munich’s Allianz Arena or Milan’s San Siro, I can’t see it happening any time soon.

The Aussies have shown us that there’s an opportunity in the States with the right promotion and backing. Let’s follow their lead and jump on the American bandwagon before we get left further behind…

Darren Notley

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *