World Club Series: Leeds Rhinos’ chief Gary Hetherington prefers talk of Series expansion rather than English capitulation

Mitch Garbutt, foreground, leads Leeds Rhinos through their paces in a training session at Headingley Carnegie yesterday ahead of their World Club Challenge match with North Queensland Cowboys (Picture: Bruce Rollinson).
Mitch Garbutt, foreground, leads Leeds Rhinos through their paces in a training session at Headingley Carnegie yesterday ahead of their World Club Challenge match with North Queensland Cowboys (Picture: Bruce Rollinson).
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DEFIANT Leeds Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington insists the World Club Series will survive even if Super League suffers another 3-0 whitewash against their NRL rivals.

The injury-ravaged domestic champions take on their Antipodean counterparts North Queensland Cowboys for the World Club Challenge at Headingley Carnegie tomorrow night.

However, it is the second year of an expanded format whereby three games take place over the weekend, St George Illawarra, Brisbane Broncos and champions South Sydney Rabbitohs all winning here last season.

There is a fear that if the NRL clubs are as dominant again this time around – Sydney Roosters vanquished St Helens 38-12 last night 12 months after Souths thrashed them 39-0 for the 2015 World Club Challenge – that the Australians will soon lose interest. But Hetherington told The Yorkshire Post: “I’m not one of those who say if we don’t win it’s a waste of time.

“It’s about how we can compete that matters and it will be a benchmark for us, but we shouldn’t beat ourselves up if we don’t do it. It might be a number of years before Super League wins the World Club Series.

“If you look at the State of Origin, New South Wales had to wait eight years to defeat Queensland, but that didn’t stop interest as every year it was competitive.

“As well as that, considering it took about eight years to get the NRL to agree to this three-game concept and only some teams wanted to come here last year, this time all the NRL clubs have said they want to be involved.

“And it was Andrew Hill (NRL director) that spoke this week about potentially playing four games next season, two here and two in Australia, over the same weekend, which is encouraging again they are suggesting that.

“We at Leeds would certainly like to see it. One of the problems we’d like to look at, too, is a way of defending the World Club Challenge as, to do that, you have to win the Super League title again, which is never easy.”

Build-up: Pages 7 & 12