I’d Rather Watch The World 9’s Than The World Cup Or World Club Challenge

In my lifetime the best elite level development competition I have ever seen was the World 7’s.

They used to be a way to kick off the season here in Australia and they put Australian clubs up against international teams. They were also a way for emerging nations to dip their toes into the water against better opposition and not have a fear of failure hanging over their heads.

News that a World 9’s competition is likely to be played in Auckland in early 2014 brings back the spirit of the old World 7’s competition. The 9’s version of the game is not only seen as a way to differentiate the game from Rugby Union 7’s, but it is more of a real game of football rather than a bunch of easy, run away tries. It is a good game to watch, and I think it should be made one of the games key development tools.

The 2012-2013 summer here in Australia saw sports fans crying out for something decent to watch. As Cricket in Australia does everything it can to make itself irrelevant, the A League soccer competition stepped up and made huge strides in capturing the Australian sporting public’s attention. I felt as though World 9’s competition in December would have been a perfect way to get a Rugby League event on the calender. Play it in the climate controlled environment at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne. I know I’d have traveled down to watch that and no doubt television ratings would have been great.

It all brings up the possibility of what a potential World 9’s circuit could look like.

I would have all 16 NRL clubs and all 14 Super League clubs involved. I would invite clubs sides from France and the United States and from there I would invite residence sides from places like the Pacific Islands and European nations. It would give you a great mix of teams and talent from all over the world.

There is no doubt you could sell a tournament played in Australia in December. Follow that up with a tournament played in Auckland in February. From there it gets a little tricky as you have to work around the established season schedules of various competitions but I have little doubt that it would be a success mid season in Super League with a reduced role played by NRL clubs. You could then look to play a tournament in September in the United States to build on the work of the USARL and AMNRL with non playoff clubs in the NRL and Super League involved.

That would give you four tournaments every season in four different nations. It is a made for television product that can be augmented based on the availability of local teams and players.

With the investment in the NRL’s under 20’s competition, NRL clubs could use these competitions as a way to give younger players a run against different types of opposition. Fans have become use to seeing their best youngsters on TV so the idea that you could have Under 20’s players mixed in with a few NRL players would cut back on work loads and the risk of injury to star players would carry with fans more than it may have in the past.

It is also something different, something fun. The competition wouldn’t be trying to be something it is not.

With the World Cup becoming a make believe competition full of Aussies and Kiwi’s pretending to be from somewhere else, and the World Club Challenge requiring NRL clubs be heavily handicapped by timing, travel and lack of trail games to even make it a contest, the World 9’s to me looks like a far better competition. Best of all, would be completely unpredictable!

The strength of Rugby League has always been the club game. That strength has been solidified over the last 20 years as we have watched the international games eroded by mismanagement and self interest.

Witha World 9’s competition you take into the strength of the club game while also opening the game up to more international competition. I know for certain that international players playing for their countries of birth in a World 9’s competition will get much more out of that experience than watching an old Aussie or Kiwi take their place in the World Cup at seasons end.

While some people in Rugby League look at what other sports are doing and want to emulate that, mostly with smoke and mirrors, I think Rugby League should look to play to its own strengths.

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