RL’s international balancing act

Cameron Smith with the World Cup
Cameron Smith with the World Cup
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Rugby league is often tagged as a northern sport only and far too parochial in its outlook - an image which they want tossed in the rubbish bin.

But when it comes to parochialism look no further than Australia who, despite being the greatest and most feated RL nation in the world don’t seem to look no furether than their own shores.

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg has poured cold water on Kangarooo captain Cameron Smith’s plea to play more Tests and prioritise the international game following the success of the World Cup in terms of improving countries, if not by the overall attendance figures.

Former Saints’ centre and current ustralian coach Mal Meninga also endorzsed Smith’s viewpoint but not the powers-that-be Down Under.

Smith acknowledged the NRL and Rugby League International Federation were undertaking a difficult balancing act due to the fact the game earned most of its revenue through television deals and any additions to the calendar would only compound an already hefty player workload.

However the way in which the World Cup had captured imaginations, particularly in the Pacific nations, was proof international rugby league was a growing product.

Despite Smith’s pleas to “get creative” with scheduling, Greenberg said there was no room to scale back the NRL due to the television deal being locked in until 2022.

“We’ve just signed a five-year broadcast agreement and we’ve got a pretty significant schedule for both the premiership and Origin,” Greenberg said.

“But we have provided opportunities for internationals at the end of each of those calendar years.

“I’d be very happy to have those conversations and consider them on their merits but player workload would be pretty important. I think it’s been a pretty tough year for our elite players, playing the volume of games they’ve played.”

Smith played 33 matches for Melbourne, Queensland and Australia during 2017 but still argued for an increased international calendar.

Greenberg said he was a proponent of growing Test match football, however there was limited room to move in the next five years.

“We’ve signed contracts and agreements which have committed us to what the premiership looks like, what State of Origin looks like, international windows come at the back of that,” Greenberg said.

“We’re working with the international federation and countries around the world to figure out when and how we grow international football, which the commission and I are great supporters of but we’ve got to find the balance between that and workloads for our players.”

It seems they are more parochial in the southern hemisphere than the northern equivelant.