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“We need to…” – Leeds Rhinos CEO on NRL versus Super League

Leeds Rhinos

Leeds Rhinos CEO Gary Hetherington has spoken in depth about the NRL, branding it ‘significantly bigger’ than Super League.

Speaking on The Bench with Jenna and Jon, a Sky Sports podcast hosted by Jenna Brooks and Jon Wilkin, Leeds Rhinos’ top boss Hetherington was asked how he saw the state of Super League in 2024, and the differences to the NRL.

Speaking on the NRL’s expanding horizons, he said: “They’re now looking beyond Australia and New Zealand, they’re looking at the United States of America, a country that we’ve always believed has got huge potential for the Rugby League and they’re serious about it as well.

“So I think we need to be part of that strategy, that plan and we need to play our part even though the NRL is a significantly bigger competition than us.”

The NRL had its first-ever fixtures in the United States this year, with a historic double-header in Las Vegas drawing a crowd of over 40,000 – higher than the capacity of Elland Road, where Magic Weekend will take place in 2024.

Further to labelling it ‘significantly bigger’ than Super League, Hetherington explained some of the reasoning for the differences in size:

I think we’re very quick to compare ourselves to a country where rugby league’s way way bigger than it is in England, but in the NRL they’ve got so many so much more resources so many more kids playing it – it’s inevitable they’re going to create what is a bigger or better competition than what we’ve got.

“The NRL don’t have Premiership soccer to compete with. Soccer dominates our sporting landscape in many respects.

“But in Australia, rugby league is a dominant sport in two of the major states. The clubs get significant government support as well.

“That’s a different type of mentality that they have in the Southern Hemisphere than we have in this country.”

Indeed, in England, association football, rugby union and cricket are also huge spectator sports, often taking up valuable airtime on TV and competing with rugby league for spectators.

In New South Wales and Queensland, two of Australia’s most-populated states, rugby league is the dominant sport.

Leeds Rhinos’ Chief hints at NRL and Super League link-up

As an Australia player, James Tedesco, of NRL side Sydney Roosters, lifts the Rugby League World Cup 2021 trophy with teammates.

Credit: Imago Images

Hetherington also suggested that more collaboration may be possible between Super League and the NRL.

This comes shortly after reports that the NRL may be looking to invest in, or even buy, Super League.

“The way that the game is expanding with its crowds, its commercial revenues, it’s never been better and bigger than it is in Australia and New Zealand.

“The whole business model is very sound, all the indicators are very positive.

“Now we’ve got to be part of their plan to actually take advantage of that explosion of interest and expand our game.

“International Rugby League has got huge potential, we’ve never really tapped into it as a game. We need to do so.

“I think there is now a coming together of the NRL and Super League to actually make that happen.

“So that’s what I talk about by positive indicators, it’s not happened yet but I think it could do.

“There are only two major competitions in the world isn’t there, Super League and there’s the NRL, and we need to be collaborative, we need to be working together, we’ve got common interests, we need to be helping each other and we need to also use our profile to expand the game in other countries and horizons.”

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