Global Round: Sharks CEO wants NRL to play on four continents in same week

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Cronulla CEO Dino Mezzatesta has called on the NRL to launch a calculated plan for global expansion, sharing a vision for matches to be held on four separate continents in one weekend.

Global growth is back on the NRL’s agenda after South Sydney withdrew from next year’s proposed Round Zero contest, which was looming as an option to kick off the season against Manly in the United States.

Almost every club contacted by the AAP have since confirmed that it will be too short to play next February’s game, with Manly still hoping to find an opponent.

But the majority of clubs are keen to get involved in the future, believing 2024 is a better time with more planning and a pre-season undisturbed by a World Cup.

Mezzatesta Sharks are among those interested clubs.

Cronulla had started serious talks with the UAE Business Council about hosting an exhibition match in Dubai when they signed Aramex as major sponsor, before COVID got involved.

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

But with the borders open and the pandemic subsiding, Mezzatesta now thinks it’s time for a long-term, calculated plan.

According to his vision, four NRL pre-season games with all the big names would play around the world in one weekend with matches in Dubai, Oceania, Europe and the United States.

“I think you would get more,” Mezzatesta told AAP.

“Rather than just going after one country and saying it’s done, and there’s only two teams involved, it probably makes sense to try and make it a multi-faceted weekend and to try to make a few nations.

“You would have eight clubs playing in four different countries and then another eight could be part of something different (home).

“Because while we’re talking about the global platform, there’s also a huge appetite in the regions (in the country Australia).”

The concept would initially start with exhibitions on an annual basis, before becoming part of the competition proper with potentially more clubs traveling.

“You have to have a bit of a focused approach and a long head start to plan this thing properly so that it has huge benefits,” Mezzatesta said.

“It’s about getting a bigger footprint for our game, so you can’t settle for a one-hit wonder.

Mezzatesta believe the move would have significant sponsorship benefits, with most clubs already having global brands as partners.

His experience of the Dubai talks also suggests there could be support for the concept, while there were suggested financial benefits for the NRL around the proposed game in the United States.

“If South Sydney and Manly got the United States off the ground, it demonstrates that if we focus on other areas, anything can happen,” Mezzatesta said.

“PNG would go crazy for some kind of event there at the beginning of the year on a regular basis.

“If we have anything to say about history, the World Club Challenge has always had a lot of interest in the UK.

“And it would be interesting to go to the United Arab Emirates. They have hosted great things and have built stadiums specially designed to host tournaments in all codes.

“So why not consider bringing rugby league to the fore as well?”