Rugby leagues demise in the northern hemisphere has always been greatly exaggerated. But I don’t believe it is a controversial to suggest that the sport is in a real rut. The following are my 5 suggestions to help get the greatest game regain some of it’s buzz.
1. The return of a Great Britain side
Ok, this looks like it is going to be happening, and not a moment too soon. This would have a few excellent consequences- it would see a return to a side with much more heritage and prestige than England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. It would also actually help all those sides. Instead of players jumping from home nation to home nation depending on what their selection chances are and who is playing the more prestigious games, they could nail their colours to the mast. They would be safe in the knowledge that, if they played well enough, they may still get a chance to play against the Australians and Kiwis for a British touring side. Also…
2. Introduce more mid season internationals
One of the reasons British sides have historically underperformed is the lack of any really meaningful international fixtures. Whilst Australia and New Zealand had the ANZAC test, England has had a myriad of different opponents that have fizzled out. The “Exiles” concept seemed positive, but came to nothing. We even had an origin series, between Yorkshire and Lancashire. Again, this started out well, but enthusiasm was quickly lost. But imagine if England played Wales, Scotland met Ireland, maybe in a double header of games? With spots in a British touring side on offer the intensity should grab attention.
3. A return of “A” teams
One of the biggest issues for rugby league these days is the way young talent progress into first time rugby. Some players, especially forwards, take longer to grow physically and mentally, to be ready for first team rugby. Offering them a reserve team or A team comp would be perfect. It would also allow older players to be retained in the game, and players returning for injury more time to recover. Ok, they cost money to run. But could that money be found? At all?
4. Try and find a broadcaster for Championship and League 1
I know the RFL don’t have a magic wand. If people don’t want to broadcast rugby league under super league level then they cant make them. But I do believe some may be interested depending on the packages on offer. At the very least, both of these leagues deserve much more publicity. Some of the rugby is of very high quality, and most of it is entertaining.
5. Put Toronto straight into Super League
I can see why people would be against this. But at the moment, we have a team with a burgeoning support base, a high quality squad, a high quality coach and an owner with money he’s willing to spend. Letting them obliterate league one is not doing anyone any favours.