While the NRL would like to see it come to fruition, the governing body won’t commit without the guarantee of the $8 million carrot that has been dangled in front of it. The NRL also wants to avoid the game being deemed a “circus act” and believe it should mean something. One discussion has centred on making the event a regular fixture, potentially every four years.
How the game will be played is yet to be determined, with the potential for legends of both codes to come together as a panel to create the rules during a broadcast show.
Sources close to discussions told the Herald the NZR is keen to make it happen given recent financial strains on the code. NZR chief executive Mark Robinson said a fortnight ago that the ball was “firmly with the NRL at the moment”.
While the COVID-19 crisis has created a window in the international schedule for the teams to meet in December, the pandemic is also the major obstacle preventing the exhibition match becoming a reality.
This year’s potential match has been earmarked for December in Australia, possibly at Suncorp Stadium if Queensland remains COVID free, however it requires the financial support of the government.
The NRL is concerned it will be a hard sell for the promoter to convince any state government to financially back the game in the current climate. Limitations around ticketing and corporate opportunities are also a factor. The corporate and sponsorship money in Australia dwarfs what is on offer in New Zealand given the difference in population, which is why the game won’t be played across the ditch. It will be offered to the different states if the NRL gives the promoter the green light.
The $8 million cash cow for both parties is incentive enough, but the NRL is also tempted by the international exposure that would come with taking on the most recognisable brand of any rugby code in the world.
On the flip side, Apollo committee members raised the fear of opening the code to a raid from cashed-up French and Japanese rugby union clubs. Sources with knowledge of the negotiations told the Herald that International Rugby League deputy chairman Troy Grant, who is also on the Apollo Committee, is heavily opposed to the idea.
The IRL has been pushing for Australia to play New Zealand in a Test match at the end of the year, but the NRL was reluctant to do so. That reluctance doesn’t extend to a one-off match against the All Blacks.
Even if this year isn’t possibility, the NRL is willing to revisit the concept in the future, potentially as early as 2021, as doubt hovers over the Rugby League World Cup in the UK at the end of next year. The NRL will make a decision on whether it will back the concept next month.
Potential Kangaroos team v All Blacks
- James Tedesco
- Dane Gagai*
- Tom Trbojevic
- Latrell Mitchell
- Josh Addo-Carr
- Cameron Munster
- Luke Keary*
- Josh Papalii
- Damien Cook
- David Klemmer
- Tyson Frizell*
- Boyd Cordner
- Cam Murray*
- Kalyn Ponga*
- Angus Crichton*
- Payne Haas
- Joseph Suaalii*
* Denotes rugby union experience
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Michael Chammas is a sports reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald