15th July 2018, 09:54 | steve_mascord
It was an entirely unexpected announcement that shuffled around a few existing ideas and mixed in a determined attempt to scuttle the mid-season Denver Test.
But if there is one benefactor out of the NRL’s unveiling overnight Wednesday of a proposal for the next four years’ worth of international fixtures, it’s New Zealand.
Bundled out of the 2017 World Cup at the quarter-final stage and financially strapped, the Kiwis desperately needed the appearance fee for the June 23 international at Mile High Stadium.
Despite being well beaten in America, they have gone from ugly ducklings to desired commodity, with the NRL trying to steal them away from promoter Jason Moore’s three-year agreement and put them in a southern hemisphere Four Nations with Tonga, Samoa and Fiji.
The last time an Australian administration took such an over-arching view of the international game was in 1995, when a pay TV war begot Super League and there was money and personal vendettas at stake.
It’s taken competitive tension for the Aussies to become interested again, this time a private promoter using a hole in their schedule to put on a Test in America from which they earned nothing.
As Prince wrote and Cyndi Lauper sang, money changes everything. Or, to use another metaphor, sometimes you only appreciate your spouse when someone else is checking them out.
Looking through the proposal - it’s only a proposal - there’s some good and bad in there... and a lot of old.
More competition for Fiji, Samoa and Tonga is long overdue and will be welcomed by those countries. Tonga getting to play New Zealand, in particular, on a regular basis will help them to go to the next level as a team and a cultural phenomenon.
The Nines World Cup has long been gazetted and is actually NRL-friendly because it decreases demands on players in comparison to 13-a-side matches. But holding it at Parramatta - one proposal - would seem to be a difficult sell in the same year as the NRL Nines are due to return.
Aside from the attempted sabotage of the Denver Test, the worse aspect of this is Great Britain Lions effectively being told to stay home for the second time in five years.
In 2015, the Collective Bargaining Agreement was cited in the Lions being told they are unwanted on Australian shores. One can only assume the ARLC don’t want to take on the burden of hosting them next year after the World Cup returned a lower than expected. The Aussies want to go to England and have the RFL do all the promotional heavy lifting.
All that would be OK if they tour were just being switched (thereby preventing the Kangaroos from saturating the UK market 12 months before the 2021 World Cup) but apparently that’s not happening either - Australia are playing in a southern hemisphere Four Nations in 2020 under the NRL plan.
The teams left to play in the northern hemisphere? England, France, Papua New Guinea and Fiji - a tournament that would be unable to attract fans, TV interest or sponsorship in the UK.
But competitive tensions - and personal rivalries - can cause positive outcomes.
"As soon as the Denver Test was confirmed, my coach supported me and Gareth fully"— England Rugby League (@England_RL) June 23, 2018
Jamma on how important support from domestic leagues and coaches are for the international game
📲 See the full video on the #OURLEAGUE members app & site pic.twitter.com/13opsVZjnh
The NRL still haven’t addressed their primary problem surrounding their stand-alone origin weekend: they want to let players of some nationalities represent their nations but don’t want to release others.
England’s James Graham has already said he’s travelling to Denver next year regrdless. So if Italy or Lebanon replaces New Zealand and Italian players take the same stance, the NRL are now fighting against more players than they were a month ago.
Discriminating against employees on the basis of their nationality floats in dangerous water indeed.
What is to stop the Cook Islands, Malta, Canada and the United States announcing they, too, intend to play on the Origin weekend and expect their NRL players to be released?
The problem the Australians intended to solve by co-opting some old ideas and presenting it alongside a couple of new ones as an international rescue plan is actually not addressed at all.
And by creating an incentive to get another country (what about an Americas selection in the spirit of the West Indies?) up to speed for a tilt at England, they are encouraging others to create still more pesky properties the NRL cannot control.