Blake Solly earned a medal.
Self-interest is central to the role of every chairman of the National Rugby League. Changes to the rules, changes to the upper limit of wages, initiatives for the benefit of the player – as you call it – none are ever considered from a broader perspective, only the prism of their own club.
If the NRL CEOs ever agree on anything, international football is a bad thing.
Mickey mouse games that can injure players who are tired after a busy club season are not welcome and probably fair enough.
So it was shocking – not to mention commendable – to see Solly’s recent commitment to the international game.
Solly, once general manager of the English Super League competition and now managing director of South Sydney, planned the proposed hybrid game between the All Blacks and Kangaroos as a “circus act” that threatened to further reduce the rugby league’s reputation for friendly matches.
“We are committed to helping Tonga and the NZ Rugby League. We should be promoting our own international game, not a hybrid exhibition game … now we’re going to discount that for a circus act, ”said Solly The daily telegraph.
At first glance, the talk of a 14v14 side game between New Zealand and Australia’s rugby teams looked interesting.
The Wallabies, bless them, will hopefully become a real rival for the All Blacks once Dave Rennie is established as head coach, but at least for now the Bledisloe Cup series is not the spectacle it was 20 years ago.
New Zealand Rugby (NZR) needs revenue. Scotland and Wales are not coming here this season and the chances of the All Blacks going to Europe in November are slim. There is talk that the rugby championship could take place in Australia, but it remains to be seen.
So it is true that the NZR is looking for other ways to make money after it has been confirmed that 25 percent of its organization’s employees will be fired. The Super Rugby Aotearoa production has mitigated the financial blow that the NZR will suffer for 2020, but it hasn’t prevented the All Blacks coaches from falling victim to wage cuts, for example.
However, the organization will get back on its feet. The plans for a global season are still going nowhere and we still don’t know how long South Africa and Argentina will hold out with SANZAAR or what the post-COVID 19 show market could be, but the All Blacks will eventually make it to play on the world stage and accumulate income for their parent’s body.
In the meantime, a fictional game against the kangaroos would generate some money and interest without compromising the All Blacks brand or the primacy of test rugby.
Where the match looked a bit nonsense was from the rugby league’s point of view.
New Zealand’s Rugby League manager Greg Peters quickly suggested this after being left out in the cold. Former kiwi trainer Frank Endacott said similarly. The surprise was that an NRL manager would join this choir.
The emergence of Tonga, largely at the expense of the kiwi fruit, was a blessing for the international rugby league.
Often, an afterthought that was played in front of half-empty stadiums urgently needed a shot in the arm. Tonga made sure of this – thanks to the victories over the kiwis, kangaroos and Great Britain – and hopes that Samoa will soon achieve the same as more and more New Zealand and Australian players promise their loyalty to their country of origin.
The basic difference between the two rugby codes, however, is that test football is the highlight for some and for others. That’s why Solly’s claim was so startling.
In any case, this hybrid game is not a game where you have to die in a trench. Great when played. If not, nobody will be too disturbed.
Dean Lonergan, the sponsor of the proposed clash, may still have to face a legal challenge posed by a man named Phil Franks who believes he has a patent on hybrid league and union games.
We have all tried to be a bit calm at NZR over the years. For the desire not to innovate or diversify enough or just to give fans a few things to get excited about.
We still don’t know what the international season will bring, but NZR has been able to improve Super and Club rugby in the short term, and the Miter 10 and Farah Palmer Cup competitions are still pending.
This hybrid game may not be on the way, but it’s nice to see that our often malicious board of directors is at least trying to offer us something different.
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