Graham hopes Denver Test gets green light
St George Illawarra prop James Graham has made a last-ditch plea to NRL clubs to support an annual Test in Denver that he believes could rival State of Origin for England and New Zealand players.
A meeting of NRL club CEOs on Tuesday will discuss issues around travel, insurance and recovery procedures for players with representatives of the RLPA, NZRL, RFL and the RLIF, as the June 23 Test appears certain to go ahead.
Despite NRL CEO Todd Greenberg, RLPA CEO Ian Prendergast and South Sydney CEO Blake Solly outlining their concerns on behalf of clubs in a letter last week, it is understood that the NZRL will make the final decision as the host nation.
The NRL, clubs and RLPA believe that playing the match at altitude, the travel time to and from Denver and the short turnaround before their next game could expose players to a greater risk of injury, while they want to ensure their contracts and any medical costs are adequately covered by insurance.
As the Test is scheduled for the stand alone representative weekend in the NRL and Super League, and has been sanctioned by the RLIF, the NRL could be asked to stand down any player whose club refuses to release him.
However, New Zealand officials are confident they can address the concerns raised by the NRL, clubs and RLPA after announcing last week that players would have the same insurance as players in State of Origin.
Leading Kiwis players, including captain Adam Blair, have spoken out in support of the Test and Graham said England's NRL stars were also determined to play.
''I want to see the international game at the forefront of our game and this Test for us English lads and the Kiwi boys has the potential to be our State of Origin,'' Graham said.
''We don't have that [Origin] but we have got the opportunity to go and play in the United States in front of what I am being told is going to be a packed Denver stadium.
''People want to take that away from us. I get their reasons but we want to play.''
With the Dragons due to play Parramatta on June 28, Graham and captain Gareth Widdop would have just two days after their return to prepare for the Thursday night match.
The Warriors and Melbourne Storm, who are likely to provide the nucleus of the New Zealand team, are also scheduled to play matches on June 29.
The NRL and clubs support the Test but believe it should be played at a venue which can be reached in a single flight, such as Hawaii, or preferably New Zealand.
However, promoter Jason Moore, who bought the opening match of the 2015 Major League Baseball season to Sydney and is behind the 2025 World Cup in North America, has guaranteed the NZRL $500,000 to play at Mile High Stadium.
It is understood Denver was chosen as the location because the time zone is beneficial for broadcasters in Australia, New Zealand and England, as well as North America.
''There is so much riding on this that we have got to get it over the line, we have got to get it done,'' Graham said.
''There are so many reasons for it to happen, not so many reasons for it not to happen or not genuine reasons in my opinion.
''Some of the things that have been put forward, I just don't think there is any merit in them and anything that has been put out there has been easily disproven.
''I understand why some people don't want it to go ahead, that is their prerogative. My prerogative is I want to see more international games.''