Angela Powers looks at how Wales and France can become part of the real rugby league landscape.
Last Updated: 11/02/11 2:25pm
And so the exodus begins.
The motorways and minor routes of the UK will be a little heavier than usual as lovers of rugby league leave the game's heartlands for the trek to Cardiff.
Cardiff. Considered by many to be the real home of the Magic Weekend, having played host to the event for the first two years before it moved north to Scotland.
But will Cardiff, or South Wales in general, ever be considered part of the real rugby league geography, instead of simply a big fans' away day?
Evidence (Your Honour, I present Celtic Crusaders before the court) suggests not.
South Wales has always had a role in the modern game, but it has been a bit part. For decades, league has reached out its fingers towards the valleys to grab valuable booty.
Jonathan Davies, Clive Sullivan, Billy Boston, Jim Mills, Trevor Foster all came from the principality to ply their trade in league, and a great contribution they made to the history of the game too.
And I know that the Crusaders are working very hard to create strong pathways for Welsh talent to move directly from school to league. But to date, Rugby League has failed to make the big breakthrough and grasp this outpost for its own.
The question is: Does it matter?
Anyone who has followed closely the growing pains of the Crusaders or witnessed the survival struggles of the Wakefield Wildcats is bound to have an opinion, whether it be on the side of expansionism or protectionism, for want of a better word.
It's a debate that is bound to rumble on, but the game's governing body has firmly set its sights on taking our game to a wider audience.
And so it should.
There is strength in numbers and to simply stand still is to be without ambition and risk watching our great game wither and die. The controversy comes in debate about how it should be done.
This week, Wigan's chairman Ian Lenagan addressed his club and sponsors on the eve of the new season kick-off with a speech that put the Warriors' recent success in the context of the health of the game itself.
It was a rallying cry, focussed on that other once-strong 'outpost' of the game on the other side of the channel. What was different about his suggestion - and you can hear it in the clip linked here - was his pledge to 'walk the walk not just talk the talk' to steal an overused sport cliche.Wigan are prepared to take on two players from the developing French league areas and immerse them into the Wigan machine, training them within a proven successful regime and, theoretically, preparing them for a career at the highest level domestically and internationally.
Two players? Wow, not going to set the world on fire, I hear you say. And Ian Lenagan recognises that too. He is urging every other Super League club with the resources to do the same. Twenty-eight players per year - now that would make a dent.
These players would return home with the skills necessary to turn on the 'hands that feed', but that, says Lenagan, is for the greater good. I agree with him. But it would only work if other clubs follow suit and commit for the long term.
It's a plan not without its flaws, especially as money is tight right now and some clubs struggle to find the means with which to bring on their own talent. Still, I believe it puts the power of building strength in the game as whole into the hands of its strongest parts...the clubs themselves.
In the meantime we fans will do what we do best - we'll turn out to watch our teams week in, week out, giving our support as best we can, digging as deep as our own pockets will allow. We're in this together.
See you in Cardiff.