World Club Challenge set to be scrapped?

The 2018 World Club Series is looking unlikely to go ahead with the two NRL sides due to take part arranging a testimonial match against each other on the same weekend.

Premiers Melbourne will face runners-up North Queensland in Brisbane on Friday 23 February to honour respective club legends Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston.

With both sides not keen on travelling to England, Super League champions Leeds and League Leaders’ Shield winners Castleford may have to travel Down Under to save the concept.

Despite this, Rhinos Chief Executive Gary Hetherington remains confident their match against the Storm will happen and is expecting more information on Wednesday.

With the ongoing redevelopments at Headingley Stadium, Leeds want to play the WCC at Elland Road having faced Melbourne there in both 2008 and 2013.

But with the World Cup not finishing until December and a busy pre-season schedule already planned, the NRL sides are showing little desire to take part.

If Craig Bellamy’s team decide not to travel and other arrangements cannot be made, it will be the first time since 1999 that there has not been a World Club Challenge.

Australian clubs are paid £60,000 from Super League for taking part and an extra £25,000 for winning, however the longevity of the trip has put them off competing.

The three-match series was reduced to two last year when Melbourne decided not to travel over for their match against Hull FC, stating they would gain more from a pre-season friendly in Australia.

Should the concept be completely scrapped this year it will not see the end of Super League sides facing NRL opposition, with Hull and Wigan travelling Down Under in February.

They will first take on each other in a Super League match in Wollongong, before an exhibition double header against St George and South Sydney respectively at ANZ Stadium.