Why the NRL invasion continues

Sometimes we are a bit too quick off the mark.
Last week in League Express we ran a centre spread in which we looked at eleven players who will be joining Super League next season after having had experience in the NRL.
That was just a bit too early for Matt Prior, who will be joining Leeds, and Aidan Sezer, who will be coming to Huddersfield Giants.
Both of those players could be described as top notch, with Prior having played State of Origin and Sezer, whose name is a welcome bonus for headline writers, as you’ll see on the front page of this issue, having guided the Canberra Raiders to the NRL Grand Final this season, when they were quite unlucky to lose to the Sydney Roosters.
There is little doubt that the quality of overseas stars in Super League next year will be very high indeed.
But not many people have asked why that should be, particularly given the greater financial strength of the NRL compared to Super League.
I believe there are two reasons.
The fundamental reason is probably that the Super League clubs are terrified of being relegated and they will go to almost any lengths to avoid that fate.
Whereas last year they were more relaxed about relegation, because they all thought, wrongly as it turned out, that London Broncos would be tailed off, this year they are aware that the Toronto Wolfpack have the financial resources to blow the other clubs out of the water. So they are investing in NRL talent to avoid the risk of going down.
The secondary reason is that we have a marquee player rule that the NRL doesn’t have.
So in theory our clubs can make offers to players at the very highest level that NRL clubs couldn’t match.
All this is, of course, all very well, but the question is whether our clubs can really afford all this additional expenditure.
I’m not sure they can, although if we find that the competition increases crowds, viewing figures and commercial income this season, then these players may well pay for themselves.
I certainly hope that happens.

Steve Mac backs my call
I was pleased to see that Steve McNamara backed the call I made in League Express last week for the return of the Exiles next year.
I won’t go over the arguments I put forward last week, but it seems obvious, both to me and to Steve, that a game involving all the stars who are currently coming into our game would be better for England than travelling all the way around the world for a one-off game in the middle of the season.
We have tried that before and it doesn’t work well, as far as I’m concerned.

How many moments?
This week in League Express we begin our annual survey of the 50 most significant moments of the year in Rugby League.
We have been doing this since the year 2015, so this is the fifth year we have carried out this survey of the big moments of the Rugby League season.
Back then, we decided that the most significant event of 2015 was the tragic death of Danny Jones, who suffered a cardiac arrest on the field while playing for Keighley Cougars at London Skolars on 3rd May that year.
It was a terrible shock, and since it occurred its significance has only been magnified by the amazing charitable work carried out by Danny’s widow Lizzie, who has made sterling efforts to ensure that all professional and community Rugby League clubs have defibrillators at their grounds, so that if a player suffers a similar heart problem in future, he or she at least has a chance of being saved.
I think Rugby League owes Lizzie a great deal. I will certainly never forget her rendering of ‘Abide With Me’ at the 2015 Challenge Cup Final.
As it turns out, the second most significant moment that year was adjudged to be Sam Burgess’s return to Rugby League from rugby union.
And now Sam has retired.
If you want to know whether that is ranked in the top 50 significant moments of 2019 all will be revealed in the next few weeks!
The thing that struck me in helping to compile the list was the sheer number of memorable events that happened at various times this year.
We have had to leave out lots of them, and we had to make some very fine judgements.

© League Express (Mon 2nd Dec 2019)