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Opinion: Why the NRL must buy Super League?

Rugby League is a sport that’s only played in a handful of nations across the world and as such, there needs to be unity between all those nations. Right now, for the international game in the northern hemisphere to continue, the NRL needs to buy Super League.

Saturday’s game between France and England in Toulouse highlighted the sad state of International Rugby League with the game being played around a host of issues ranging from the lack of promotion for the game, the actual production of it being sub-par to the point where many couldn’t access the stream, the attendance failing to hit even 5,000 and even the scoreline with France proving uncompetitive beyond the first 20 minutes.

International Rugby League has sadly taken a back seat and that process has happened in sync with the rise of the NRL. The Super League war in the 1990s marked the English game as the dominant competition, however, the gradual power shift back down under has gone hand-in-hand with the fact that International Rugby League has become an afterthought.

Quiz: Can you get these 15 questions about Rugby League correct?

1 of 15

At which ground did Australia beat England in the opening game of the 2013 World Cup?

How International Rugby League fell to the wayside

England Australia 2017 World Cup Final Ben Currie

Credit: Imago Images

One of the reasons that the international game has become an afterthought is because the Australians have a product that they believe can rival, or even eclipse, the international game and that is State of Origin.

The historic rivalry between New South Wales and Queensland is undoubtedly must-see Rugby League, but is it seriously better than England versus Australia? No. But it happens yearly, meanwhile, England haven’t faced the Aussies since 2017 in the World Cup Final.

There should be no suggestion that the Australians forego State of Origin, that series has existed alongside the international game throughout history and it has never been an issue. That is, until the last 20 years.

Super League’s self-interest as it was formed was then punished and reciprocated by the NRL self-interest. It just so happened that Australia had better foundations and their era of dominance has lasted for longer and is forecast to continue doing so.

Just recently, ex-Leeds Rhinos star Danny Buderus claimed that the downfall of Super League is based on the English obsession with our past, compared to Australia’s obsession with what is next. The former Aussie international nailed it perfectly, Super League and the English game spends so much time looking backwards at its history that it fails to realise that its on the brink going forward.

Why Super League being bought by the NRL is the saviour

Super League

Credit: Imago Images

The RFL and Super League must go cap in hand and beg the NRL for help in the shape of investment, strategic planning and support. That would and should look like NRL subsidising English teams and Super League as a whole when they purchase English stars such as Will Pryce, Kai Pearce-Paul, Morgan Smithies and whoever is next to head down under.

It should also include an outright sale of Super League to the NRL, something that would easily be achieved given reports that the NRL boasts assets in excess of $260 million, per Fox Sports. They also turned over $700 million in 2023. Super League would be lucky to turn over £7 million.

The sale of Super League to the NRL would be the first step in the two competitions and the nations involved becoming harmonious again.  A competitive Super League and more inter-competition games, such as the World Club Challenge, would help the English game regain traction in Australia.

In turn, International Rugby League can be put back on the calendar with the connections formed and the good will earned proving vital to do so. The plan has to be detailed and a decade-long at least with the long-term goal being far more important than any short-term gain.

Moreover, if it doesn’t happen then what happens to International Rugby League? There is an Ashes series scheduled for 2025 but it’s yet to be confirmed. If you were an Australian fan watching England beat France in front of just 4,500 just days after watching NSW beat Queensland in front of a packed-out stadium , why would you possibly want to see International Rugby League?

The tipping point is here. The RFL, Super League and the sport of Rugby League in the northern hemisphere must sell itself to the NRL, or risk the collapse of our international game.

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