So I woke up to the headline ‘NRL clubs set to crackdown on player NFL trials’. The really funny thing that happens in times like these, is that people think the sky is falling, obviously the NRL does. Stories like this emerge.
For those of you who live on the moon (or any country outside of Australia or any state outside of QLD, NSW or ACT, come to think of it), Jason Taumalolo and Valentine Holmes recently worked out for 14 NFL teams. Tom Burgess worked out for some NFL teams in 2015. Jarryd Hayne left for the NFL in 2014. It probably qualifies as a trend, to be fair.
Ironically, the new rule wouldn’t have stopped Jarryd Hayne, Jason Taumalolo, Valentine Holmes or Tom Burgess from trialing in the U.S, as each of these players were contracted to NRL clubs that provided permission for them to do the things they did. So it really is a beat up but there is precious little news during pre-season training so stories like this one and John Grant going mano a mano with the clubs are a god send.
So is the NFL really a threat to the NRL?
YES, but not for the reason the latest beat up is surmising.
Every other sport in the world including the NFL is a threat to the NRL. In particular, the NFL, NBA and EPL are set on global domination and the availability of content via cable TV and the internet means bespoke sports like Rugby League are indeed facing extinction. You just have to see the crowd figures for an under-strength Liverpool team playing in the pre-season in Australia or the U.S to know there is a hunger for that kind of World class competition everywhere. Ditto the NBA and China. The NFL has a harder road to travel as American Football is not as widely played, but a worldwide competition is not out of the question in the future. There may always be a market for the NRL but it is certainly under threat.
So why isn’t the trickle of star Rugby League players moving to the NFL a big deal?
Because it is virtually impossible for Rugby League to break into the American market by any other means. The NRL should have paid for their ticket. I’ve watched the NFL most of my life and it is a completely different Universe to the one we live in. It is all encompassing for those that watch and play the game. In reality, Jarryd Hayne barely scratched the surface in terms of actually making an impact on the NFL but I must have seen footage of him playing for Parramatta at least 4-5 times during the American coverage and he received a lot of attention in the American print media as well, especially in the Bay area. It obviously had a curiosity factor for the Americans but it was the first time I had seen anything about Rugby League on American coverage of anything full stop.
In business, the experts often talk about the risk/reward paradigm, in that reward is directly proportional to risk, however, the higher the risk the higher the probability something will go wrong. Investing in the American market for Rugby League is the ultimate risk/reward paradigm. There is a high probability that Rugby League investment in the U.S would be for nought but the potential rewards are great. I applaud the award of the 2025 Rugby League World Cup to Canada and the U.S, but for goodness sake I hope they do something prior to that. Some of their players ostensibly gaining them free coverage in the U.S for no cost is a win-win.
Like I said, the NRL should have paid for their ticket.
BTW, Fox Sports outsourced a break down on each player to a couple of American Football scouts, which was a grand idea given they actually understand the game and how it is played. Interesting reading.
Next exciting episode will be on Thursday, 22 December 2016 titled ‘Cricket in Australia is at a cross roads – Which way will the road turn?’.