CASTLEFORD TIGERS head coach Daryl Powell says it will be “awesome” to see his revitalised club potentially facing the cream of the NRL in an expanded World Club Series next year.
The RFL confirmed details yesterday which will see three leading Super League sides tackle a trio of their antipodean rivals here in England over the weekend of February 20-22.
The annual meeting between the Super League champions and the NRL Premiers will still take centre stage but, in 2015, the two Grand Final winners will be joined by two other clubs from each competition. South Sydney Rabbitohs and Brisbane Broncos have already confirmed their involvement, even if they do not win this year’s NRL Grand Final.
Super League will be represented by the 2014 Grand Finalists plus the third-highest ranked team from the northern hemisphere competition.
Given Castleford could still finish first in the regular season with two rounds to go – after St Helens’ 39-12 defeat at home to Warrington last night – it opens up an enticing prospect for a side that finished 12th last year.
Powell admitted: “It would be great, but we won’t look too far ahead. For us it’s about giving ourselves an opportunity to play in those sorts of tournaments if they are available. It’s what we can do in the play-offs and how high we can finish, but if we can get our job done against Wakefield and Catalan the permutations are interesting.
“The opportunity in front of us is pretty special; the prospect of facing South Sydney or Brisbane Broncos here is awesome.”
Since 2000, the World Club Challenge has seen the respective champions of the two competitions compete and always staged here until Wigan ventured to Australia in February to face Sydney Roosters.
The Super League champions’ presence there helped improve chances of expanding the competition and that has now come to fruition. In 1997, all 22 sides from the English and Australian Super League played in a format which largely saw domestic teams beaten and also proved a financial disaster.
Powell, who missed that opportunity as a player as he was in the process of leaving First Division Keighley Cougars for Super League’s Leeds Rhinos, said: “That went a little bit too far the last time they tried it.
“It went competition-wide and I’m not sure that’s the way to go.
“But I think for us, testing ourselves against the Australian teams on a more regular basis or more teams getting the opportunity, would be great. It would be interesting and something that in a slightly smaller format should be good.
“It’s great to challenge yourselves against teams from their competition; their depth makes it perceived as a much stronger comp’ – but our players have gone over there and shown that there’s not a lot of difference.
“It’s more about the depth than anything, but in a one-off game we’d really look forward to it.”
NRL Head of Football Todd Greenberg said: “Australian fans already love seeing the Premiers go up against the best of Britain – but having three teams from each competition will really add to the excitement.”