More than 160 American-based rugby league players have agreed to immediately fly to Australia to help save rugby league should NRL players decide to strike.
In an extraordinary development during the stalled collective bargaining agreement discussions, The Daily Telegraph can reveal the USA’s Championship Rugby League plan on contacting ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys to offer a contingency plan to relocate to Australia to ensure the NRL competition starts.
“I have spoken with our players today and we have 160 ready to go to Australia if the NRL players go on strike,” Championship Rugby League president Tom Stevenson said.
“Today, I reached out to the coaches to get confirmation before calling Peter V’landys and all our coaches said their players would drop everything and be on the next flight over to Australia.”
The CRL comprises eight clubs in three states — California, Utah and Nevada. Competition officials also have players in their database in New York, Florida, Ohio and Colorado. Round one of the competition is due to start on Sunday, January 29.
America's Championship Rugby League is ready to send players to Australia to play NRL if the players strike.
“If the strike action is to go ahead, we would instantly pause our season and send over all 160 players to help save the NRL competition. The show will go on with or without the current players,” Stevenson said.
“If the NRL players don’t think there is somebody waiting in the wings to do their job for a quarter of the money then they are kidding themselves. Our players are ready.”
Little progress has been made in the CBA talks with players ramping up industrial action in protest. While unlikely, NRL stakeholders are bracing themselves for the possibility of a player strike.
“I am under no illusion our guys are not training in professional programs at the moment, but this move to Australia would keep the competition going for the fans and would keep the game’s broadcast commitments, which is employment for a lot of people,” Stevenson said.
“We could be over to Australia with all 160 players who are on the books at Championship Rugby League. We have a database of USA based men’s players with more than 400 names on it.
“American players are natural athletes with a strong grasp of the game and we play an entertaining style of rugby league. Who knows, it might even open the door for some of our players to be lured to the NRL.
“Most of the guys have played college football or have a Rugby 7s background in college and have taken to rugby league with a lot of passion.
“As an NRL fan, all this is kind of confusing.
“Players in Australia play for clubs, not billionaire owners and they represent the community and fans are attached to the teams, not the players.”
The CRL is made up of California franchises the San Francisco Savage, Sacramento Immortals, North Bay Warriors and East Palo Alto Razorbacks, the Las Vegas Islanders in Nevada, and Utah teams Salt Lake City Spartans, Provo Steelers and Utah Saints.
The competition’s mantra is: “We at Championship Rugby League are committed to continuous improvement, so we are constantly looking for ways to improve the experience for all our fans.”
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