The proposed cross-code clash between the Australian Kangaroos and the New Zealand All Blacks is facing a significant legal challenge from a former Rugby League player who first formulated the idea of a hybrid rugby game that could be played by players from both codes.
Phil Franks, whose playing career encapsulated five Sydney clubs, has a legal patent on the hybrid rugby game and claims that he will not allow a match to take place without his permission.
In a letter to NZRU chief executive Mark Robinson, Franks has threatened to serve an injunction to prevent any match taking place.
The match now being proposed for December 5th is being promoted by former New Zealand Rugby League international and boxing promoter, Dean Lonergan.
The key points from Franks’ letter have been reported in the Sydney Morning Herald by its columnist Roy Masters.
“Hybrid Rugby concept is a registered brand name here in Australia and there in New Zealand and as such, the promoter has no authority from Hybrid Rugby to offer any Hybrid Rugby formation whatsoever without the express consent of Hybrid Rugby,” wrote Franks, who copied the letter to ARLC Chair Peter V’landys, although he hasn’t apparently played a significant role in the discussions.
“Your organisation together with your spurious promoter have damaged our brand, greatly belittled us with yours and your promoter’s false public circus and, as a consequence, we are currently seeking legal advice.
“Also be warned, further attempts by you and or your promoter to damage our brand, will most definitely lead to an application in the Supreme Court for injunctive relief.”
The main proponent of the proposed game from the Rugby League side of the fence has been Kangaroo coach Mal Meninga.
“Who wouldn’t watch it, honestly? Everyone would be watching it,” Meninga said.
“People criticised State of Origin when it started off but look at the behemoth it is today.
“We’ve got to start somewhere. I’m a fan, obviously, of the game and I want to see it go global. I just think this is a great opportunity for us to spread the word.
“I think it helps our game become the entertainment that it is and we’re in the game of entertainment. We are. We’re here, we’re talking about the game of Rugby League, and we want to be entertained. I think it’s a great concept.”