If the AFL wants China then they can have it. The Canberra Raiders and ACT Brumbies have no desire to take games to the world’s most populous country in the short-term future.
And while they’ve scrapped plans to go to China, the NRL has scrapped the under-20s competition with next year’s season set to be the last.
Canberra Raiders CEO Don Furner says they are no longer looking to play a game in China. Photo: Colleen Petch
AFL clubs Port Adelaide and the Gold Coast will play each other for premiership points at the Jiangwan Sports Stadium in Shanghai in May as part of the AFL fixture announced on Thursday.
But the Raiders started investigating the idea of taking an NRL game to China four years ago.
Raiders sponsor Huawei — a Chinese telecommunications giant — and the Manly Sea Eagles sponsor at the time, Russian software company Kaspersky, were both keen to take a game to their home region, with Shenzhen Stadium near Hong Kong the proposed venue.
But talks dragged on and eventually stalled due to a lack of NRL support and Raiders chief executive Don Furner said on Friday it was unlikely to go ahead.
As revealed by Fairfax Media, Furner was investigating taking a home game to Wellington instead and was waiting on next year’s NRL fixtures to be released.
He was considering utilising direct flights between Canberra and Wellington to play a game in New Zealand’s capital against the Warriors — provided they only played them once in 2017.
It was also dependent on whether the Canterbury Bulldogs decided to play the Warriors in Wellington like they did this year.
“Logistically it was just too hard. At the end of the day it got knocked on the head … [we have] no plans there,” Furner said of playing in China.
“It’s a nice idea, but you won’t engage the people or get them playing it, you just won’t. Anyway, good luck to them.”
The Brumbies then threw their Super Rugby hat in the China ring last year.
They looked at potentially taking pre-season games to Guangzhou initially, with the longer-term goal of taking Super Rugby games there for premiership points.
The opportunity came about through the Brumbies signing Hong Kong developer Aquis as their major sponsor.
Singapore was also being looked at as a possible venue now that direct flights come out of Canberra, with the National Stadium keen to attract content.
But the Brumbies were no longer entertaining the idea of either China or Singapore in the short-term.
Instead of the NRL under-20s competition, there’ll be state-wide under-20s competitions introduced in both NSW and Queensland in 2018, with the NSW and Queensland Cups to play a bigger role in player development.
“The fact is we take young men in our game away from their homes too early, we put them into intensive competitions, we ask too much of them and quite frankly we’ve had some disastrous outcomes,” Australian Rugby League Commission chairman John Grant said on Friday.