NRL would like World Cup Challenge expanded, says Gary Hetherington
Last Updated: 21/03/13 9:02am
Hetherington calls for expansion
Gary Hetherington told Boots 'n' All that NRL franchises are warming to the idea of an expanded World Club Challenge.
Leeds chief executive Hetherington, whose side were toppled by Melbourne Storm in this year's version of the event, recently travelled Down Under to pitch the idea of beefing up the World Club Challenge to include three English sides and three Australian ones.
The competition currently sees the reigning Super League champions battle the most recent NRL titlists in a one-off contest, but Hetherington wants more Anglo-Antipodean duels and thinks his wish may soon come true.
"We have had the World Club Challenge for 14 years now and it has been a terrific success," he said. "But we in the Super League have been keen for more international competition amongst our leading clubs.
"The NRL has a greater respect for the quality of Super League's teams and players now."
"The feeling was that the Australians were interested in that, too, but didn't quite understand the concept, but having spoken to Australian officials and coaches I think there is now an understanding of how it would work.
"They are far more receptive to it now and have a greater respect for the quality of our teams and players, too, as our games are shown live on television over there.
"And we have an opportunity for more international competition, like we see in football's Champions League and rugby union's Heineken Cup."
Elaborating on how his plans for a boosted World Club Challenge would work, Hetherington said: "It is an annual event and should remain so but initially every two years and ultimately every year we should have a three-game Super League versus NRL series.
"We could have Wigan versus Brisbane on Friday night, St Helens versus Canterbury on the Saturday and then on Sunday it could be Huddersfield versus Canberra and [the overall score would then be taken into consideration].
"It would be important that the games were played in both hemispheres and hopefully the concept would get such widespread appeal that other cities around the world would be interested in staging the event.
"The sport is booming in Australia but you don't know who is going to win the World Club Challenge these days; our leading clubs can certainly compete with the NRL clubs and it is our challenge to keep it that way."