Rugby league in Australia clawing back COVID TheCOVID threat has been a distantmemory, and rugby league in Australia is thriving. Healthy match day attendances and TV audiences have helped the sport grow and strengthen. Following successful rule changes, the game has become more fluid and entertaining. Expansion plans are underway with the addition of Wayne Bennett’s Dolphins this year. The threat to the Kangaroos’ on-field dominance is emerging from Pasifika teams and the resurgent Kiwis. These are positive signs for the game, and the NRL should take the opportunity to enjoy this moment. However, there is a potential threat brewing for another “Super League”-style attack on the NRL, and it’s essential for the league to be vigilant.
Nearly 30 years ago, the Super League Visigoths threatened the existence of rugby league, and though the NRL was born from a peace deal, there are no future guarantees. The modern game is more likely to face such disruption with significant financial resources and TV revenues available. The current players prioritize financial gain over loyalty to their clubs, state, and country, which makes the sport susceptible to financial interference. A corporate raider could assemble teams from the NRL, English Super League, and even rugby, creating their competition and putting the NRL’s future at risk.
If the NRL is faced with the choice of surviving or perishing, there is a possibility that many clubs would leave the NRL and join a new competition. The IPL and big-money TV-saturating 20/20 cricket competitions have disrupted traditional cricket competitions, highlighting the consequences of financial disruption. The power of the Saudi-based LIV competition threatens to turn rival professional golf competitions into a side show. While Super League 2.0 may not have the financial scale of other events, it could still cause significant disruption to the NRL.
Sporting legends like Rupert Murdoch, Kerry Packer, Lalit Modi, and Greg Norman have proven that major events can create unexpected financial changes. The NRL must have its eyes open, conduct continuous SWOT analysis, and be prepared with a contingency plan for when the moneymen come knocking. Money talks!