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All systems go for NRL's California start to 2019 season

The NRL is moving ahead with plans to open the season in the US next year despite resistance to next weekend's one-off Test between England and New Zealand in Denver due to the travel involved.

NRL officials haven't been deterred by the lack of support from clubs and the game's stakeholders for the Denver Test, edging closer towards a historic match to open the season in California next year a week before the rest of the Telstra Premiership kicks off on home soil.

The west coast of the US is the favoured destination for the match, with Los Angeles and San Francisco in the mix.

If the game was in LA, the South Sydney Rabbitohs would be an obvious choice given Hollywood star Russell Crowe's connection to the club.

However, understands the Rabbitohs would like plans to be sorted by the end of the month. As it stands, the Rabbitohs' contractual arrangement with ANZ Stadium allows them to take two games away – currently to Perth and Cairns – and Souths want to lock in arrangements in the coming months.

The Rabbitohs met with the broadcasters last week to discuss plans surrounding the match on the west coast of the United States.

It's understood the Melbourne Storm and the Brisbane Broncos have been discussed as potential opponents.

There are a number of factors to be considered. The NRL is working closely with Channel Nine and Fox Sports in regards to the broadcast difficulties and costs associated.

Seibold hoping for more flow

There is also a welfare consideration, which has been highlighted through some of the difficulties associated with next Saturday's Test in Denver. understands the NRL player workload balance committee is unlikely to baulk given the welfare measures to be put in place:

  • It has been proposed that two teams will travel to the United States at least 10 days before the game to allow players to acclimatise and adjust to the time difference. It's almost double the amount of time players will spend in preparing for the Denver Test;
  • The two teams will travel on direct flights to the destination. This may make Los Angeles the favoured destination, given there aren't direct flights to San Francisco from all major Australian cities every day. Players travelling to Denver next week will have to hop on connecting flights;
  • Teams will be given at least 12 days to recover after the game. Plans revolve around a standalone match to open the season in California before the remaining 14 teams open their season a week later back home. This will give the two teams two weeks to re-adjust. Some players in the Denver Test will have just three days at home before resuming NRL duties;
  • A match in California means players will not have to deal with any altitude adjustment. It would have less of a toll on the body than Denver, which is 1600 metres above sea level. The altitude is a massive difference between the two;
  • The temperature is also a consideration. Next week's Test in Denver will be played in the American summer. Temperatures are expected to hit the mid 30s this week. Playing a match in Los Angeles at the end of February or the start of March would allow players to play in similar conditions to the NRL season, with temperatures of around 15 to 20 degrees expected at that time of year.
The Eels celebrate a Jarryd Hayne try.
The Eels celebrate a Jarryd Hayne try. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

Fiji lure again tempts Hayne

The whispers about Jarryd Hayne leaving the NRL at the end of the year to try and crack it in Fiji's rugby union team for the World Cup are getting louder by the day.

Hayne has been dogged by injury to start the year and hasn't been able to justify his worth just yet.

He scored a double in his return from injury for Parramatta in Darwin last week but it will take something miraculous (almost 2009-like) or a significant pay cut to keep Hayne in the blue and gold next year.

Hipgrave likely to leave

Gold Coast are all but resigned to losing firebrand Keegan Hipgrave as he continues to attract some interest from rival clubs.

The Titans forward, who was last week sin-binned twice in the loss to South Sydney, has been in discussions with a couple of Sydney clubs, including Cronulla.

Gold Coast, who have signed Raiders prop Shannon Boyd and extended Maroons forward Jarrod Wallace's contract in recent weeks, won't be able to compete financially with rival clubs to keep Hipgrave. They've put forward an offer on the table but he stands to earn almost double in Sydney.

Titans forward Keegan Hipgrave.
Titans forward Keegan Hipgrave. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

Marika may switch back

There have been a few expressions of interest in former Melbourne Storm winger Marika Koroibete and the possibility of him returning from rugby union next year.

Let's just say he would be the highest paid winger in the competition should he return to the NRL given what he stands to earn in the 15-man game when you consider potential $10,000 Wallabies match payments.

Klemmer's costly incentive deal

David Klemmer may have to ask Canterbury for an upgrade soon. He promised his five-year-old son Cooper $50 for every try he scored in his first year in the junior rugby league ranks.

Klemmer may find himself in similar financial trouble to his club, such is the rate at which Cooper is racking up the tries.


The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.

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