What To Make Of David Smiths Secret Meeting With Rugby Union Officials?

For well over a decade now there has been talk of an exhibition match between the Australian Kangaroos Rugby League team and the Australian Rugby Unions Mustard Disgrace. The money is supposedly being put up by ANZ Stadium and a mystery broadcaster. The money on offer is supposedly huge. It is something that is brought up every single year….and it never goes anywhere.

In the past when NRL and ARU officials were asked about this game, neither side had any interest. The feeling was that Rugby League did not need to do Rugby Union a favour by opening its big Australian market to the much smaller sport, while the ARU would get nothing out of being “the bad guy” and possibly having their biggest asset, the test team, getting thrashed by Rugby League players.

Now the Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that NRL CEO David Smith met with Rugby Union officials to discuss the proposal.


While it is David Smith’s job to run the business side of Rugby League, it is not like the sport is short of money. Rugby League doesn’t need to be looking at proposals such as hybrid games, the NRL is putting $40 million in the bank every year. So why would the NRL entertain an idea such as this? Why would David Smith contemplate working WITH the ARU?

I understand that David Smith feels that Rugby League underutilized its potential international reach. He has talked about it before.

If you had no tied what so ever to Rugby League I can see where you might look towards a future where by the Australian Rugby League team earns huge money to play Rugby Union international teams all over the world playing exhibition games. The problem is, this would undermine Rugby League terribly on many levels.

Any time the Australian Rugby League team takes part in a Rugby League test match or a test series, it is a problem for someone. The clubs hate losing their players, either for a round of football or for part of the off season. They hate that their players may pick up injuries.

Players complain about burn out. They want more time off when they play these games. To play in the World Cup at the end of this year players made it very clear that they wanted to skip the Rugby League 9’s that will be held in early 2014. This makes me think that if there was an exhibition game of some kind it would no doubt come at the expense of a real Rugby League test match.

It worries me that the NRL’s CEO is willing to look at investing the games resources in a concept that would not add value to Rugby League’s international game.

Personally I have zero interest in some stupid hybrid game against a bunch of reserve grade quality Rugby Union players. I would much rather see the NRL working on flying over the English Rugby League team or playing another game against New Zealand. Why not look at playing a game against Tonga, Samoa or Papua New Guinea. Why not invest time and effort into building something for Rugby League’s future, not just looking for some cash crab that the game frankly doesn’t need to be going after.

The Australian Rugby Union team just failed to get anywhere near a sellout crowd for a Bledisloe Cup game in Sydney against the All Blacks. Rugby Union in Australia is at a very important moment where it will either find a way to continue on its way or it will find itself being completely decimated by NRL clubs who are flushed with cash.

Why would the NRL CEO even contemplate allowing the ARU to share their stage? Why would the NRL CEO even give a second thought to doing anything that would put money into the ARU’s pocket?

It really worries me. I wonder what the motivation is. I wonder what the long term thinking is behind it.

Rugby League in Australia has enough money that it can pretty much do anything it wants to. If the NRL really wanted to, they could announce they were expanding the competition in 2014 by one team and buy the entire Australian Rugby Union team and have tens of millions of dollars to spare.

That might sound outrageous, but the entire Australian Rugby Union team have been bought out like that a number of times by Rugby League authorities over the course of the games history.

In 2013, Rugby Union in Australia can not compete financially at all with the National Rugby league and its clubs. So why is the NRL thinking of working with these people?

David Smith really needs to address this. You can’t go and negotiate with a rival sport and not be accountable for your actions. Smith is responsible for driving Rugby League towards a bigger and brighter future. That is a difficult thing to do when you are contemplating working with an organisation that competes for players, sponsorship dollars, TV views and bums on seats with your sport.

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