Club Challenge Format Change Unlikely

World Club Challenge Rugby LeaguePlans to to send the Rugby League World Club Challenge, to the Middle East or possbily Asia look to have been shelved at this stage.

The annual event which has been in England for a decade, was talked up as a future ‘Champions League’ style tournament – where the Top 3 teams from the NRL and UK Super League would face off. However, the exciting concept doesn’t look to have the legs just yet.

The Manly Sea Eagles became the first Australian WCC winners in 6 years when they defeated the Leeds Rhinos 28-20 with a large crowd of 32,569 in tow at Elland Road, Leeds.

There have been calls from both sides for the annual match to be staged at a neutral venue, the likes of Abu Dhabi and Hong Kong considered, while Gary Hetherington, the Leeds chief executive, has put forward proposals to expand the competition.

However, the competition looks set to remain a one-off match held in the United Kingdom for the foreseeable future.

The Sea Eagles have given lukewarm backing to Hetherington’s plan for the top three clubs from both Super League and Australia’s NRL to contest the event and the Rugby Football League will consider that during their debrief.

But the situation is complicated by television deals which are in place for the next three years and the League may be reluctant to tamper with what has become a successful one-off event.

“It’s appropriate to have a discussion about what may or may not be possible,” said Rugby Football League chief executive Nigel Wood.

“There are issues about the over-playing of players which we need to bear in mind.

“Sunday was a terrific and outstanding success. International football delivers a profile that domestic football doesn’t and we have got to weigh up the balance.

“All things are possible. The Middle East or Far East are options but as yet no-one has come to the table with a package that would enable us to take the proposal to the next level.

“There is every likelihood the event will look the same next year.”

Manly’s successful coach Des Hasler, who played for the Sea Eagles in the first challenge against Wigan in 1987, has cast doubt over the viability of Australia hosting the event.

“We’d love to defend it in Sydney and I’m sure Leeds would like to come to Australia but, as a concept, I’m just not sure how it would go down there during our off season,” he said.

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