Today saw confirmation that Wigan Warriors will host NRL premiers Sydney Roosters next February after finalising discussions and negotiations over when and where to host the 2019 World Club Challenge and, after 2018 seeing Leeds travel to Melbourne to face the storm, the Roosters are set to visit Wigan for what should be an excellent contest.
After all, the match sees the best team in each of the two premier rugby league domestic competitions and all the stars that go with that; George Williams, Oliver Gildart and Zak Hardaker (possibly) in the cherry and white while Sydney have a gluttony of riches to call upon in the shape of Cooper Cronk, James Tedesco and Latrell Mitchell to name just three of their stars.
Yet each and every year there is an element of uncertainty over whether the match will actually take place. Late 2017 saw wrangling between Leeds and Melbourne and it was only the Rhinos’ willingness to travel Down Under after the Storm made it plain that they weren’t willing to visit the UK for the match. It ought to be a celebration of rugby league, one which showcases the very best of the sport.
So here’s an idea: take it global.
At a time when rugby league as a sport seems willing to venture to new areas – even the Australians are getting on board with that notion now – why not make the game a concrete staple and host it in new areas; the USA, Asia, other European countries… Right now, there are smaller nations who are getting increasingly involved with playing rugby league. A carnival atmosphere, one centred on fan experience where they are treated to two of the best teams in the world would certainly be something to grab the attention of generic sports fans and, who knows, if done correctly, cities could bid to host the event annually, benefiting a whole host of people and organisations.
In football, the round ball sort, the European Super Cup – the game where the winners of the two premier continental tournaments are pitched against each other before the season gets underway – has been played in Estonia, Macedonia, Norway and Georgia in the last four years, places who are rarely exposed to the world’s best footballers playing first hand. That sort of thing can draw fans to an event and could be something the powers that be in rugby league could pursue.
Make the World Club Challenge a guaranteed annual event – and make it special.