Jacksonville Axemen Rugby League

Axemen Founder considered a pioneer of US Rugby League by Russell Crowe

FROM Sydney Morning Herald (http://www.smh.com.au/rugby-league/league-news/crowe-wants-a-vegas-playoff-20101126-18aow.html)

Crowe wants a Vegas play-off

Brad Walter, Sydney

November 27, 2010
SOUTH Sydney co-owner Russell Crowe has proposed an expanded World Club Challenge competition involving the top four teams from the NRL and Super League be played in the United States at the end of the season.

Crowe believes such a tournament would provide the dual benefit of promoting the game in the US, while creating a potential new revenue stream for the code from international broadcast rights.

The Academy award-winning actor told The Age of his proposal in an email from Tokyo, where he is promoting his latest movie The Next Three Days, and predicted the competition could become the rugby league equivalent of football’s Champions League.

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”I have in mind that rugby league can create in America the same type of opportunity that the Premier League has in Europe with the UEFA and Champions League competitions,” Crowe said.

”Instead of focusing on the World Club Challenge where two teams play at an inconvenient time for both the NRL and ESL there could be a competition that takes place soon after the NRL grand final on American soil whereby the top four teams from the NRL and ESL gather in a place like Las Vegas, and they play a tournament that decides the world champion.

”Two pools of four – two NRL [teams] and two ESL [teams] in each – to decide a final four and then, of course, the final match to decide the winner.

”One of the truly exciting aspects is giving a second chance to the teams who got close in their home competition but didn’t win. Over time you would seek to increase the teams in the competition, drawing teams from the top of the AMNRL, PNG, French and NZ club competitions.

”With effort it may well become a financial boon for the clubs involved, as Europe represents for English soccer clubs. With expansion of TV that is happening world wide I think there is a good chance of having multiple suitors for broadcast rights in the USA and other territories.”

Crowe said he first thought of the concept when the Rabbitohs played Leeds in Florida during a pre-season match two years ago.

The match attracted a record crowd of 12,000 at Hodges Stadium in Jacksonville and Crowe suggested other teams return the following season.

”The only way the USA will be excited by rugby league is to see it played with the best players,” Crowe said.

”The game has a foothold there through the hard work of people like [AMNRL boss] David Nui and [Jacksonville Axemen founder] Spinner Howland, but much more needs to be done to bring it to the attention of the football-loving public there.

”Rugby league is so easily explained to NFL fans because of its defined periods of offence and defence [six tackles = four downs], an affinity that rugby union just doesn’t have. The USA is a huge football market and the pace, impact and excitement of rugby league is very attractive to the typical NFL and college football fan.”

He said Las Vegas was the ideal venue to stage a tournament because it ”has the infrastructure to accommodate and entertain fans and players alike”.