ONE of the obvious questions on everyone’s lips around Wollongong these last few days is ‘Will Super League return here?’
The majority of people hope it will, not least Destination New South Wales and Destination Wollongong who worked so hard to make it happen and estimated seeing around $7m injected into the state economy.
It would be no surprise if that figure is far greater when the final reckoning arrives; the boom in tourism alone will surely be worth it all having seen images of their beachside city beamed all over the world. Wigan Warriors – who delivered by beating Hull FC at WIN Stadium – clearly want more of the same. With their powerful owner Ian Lenagan publicly declaring last week how he felt international club rugby league has a bigger future than Test matches, then the scene is certainly set.
It will be interesting to see which of his Super League peers will agree with that.
Clearly, by that token, Warriors must now follow-up by beating South Sydney on Saturday, too, to quickly inject extra gravitas to the whole argument. Furthermore, with Leeds Rhinos visiting Melbourne Storm on Friday in the World Club Challenge, the stars are potentially aligning in what could be a significant week for this topic of debate.
As worthy and encouraging as the event was on Saturday, though, unfortunately it was not the classic encounter everyone had hoped for. It was nobody’s fault as such; Hull were never likely to get anywhere near their best once captain Danny Houghton, such a central cog, limped off in the first half especially as they had already lost one other player to injury.
There was enough to pique interest in watching locals in the sense plenty happened in the opening 40 minutes with Wigan putting on some nice shift plays.
But purists will argue there was too many errors and the excitement stemmed from those, rather than anything else.
Some fans would love to see a Magic Weekend transported over and, if the sport is serious about expanding its global reach as it seems to be with interest in New York and Denver for instance, then that should not be beyond the realms of possibility.
On a smaller scale, ask a Hull fan if they’d fancy returning to the ‘Gong in 2019 if Hull KR went down with them for a derby on the road, they’d largely respond affirmatively.
That said, one Black and Whites supporter, when stood on the hill at WIN Stadium overlooking the picturesque beach next door, quickly insisted: ‘They’ll be going down, but not here… back to the Championship!’
The Steelers League club over the road from WIN Stadium has probably reached its profit targets for the year already on the back of the business Hull and Wigan supporters pumped into it.
Don’t be surprised if one of the follow-up stories of this New South Wales tour is of a blurry-eyed Black and Whites fan emerging from under some table there three weeks from now, slightly dishevelled and wondering whose round it is.
Attracting British fans hasn’t been an issue with around 5,000 supporters heading out but securing the local fans may be a bigger issue in the future.
There were some Melbourne Storm fans in attendance on Saturday but they were part of the Sydney branch of the NRL premiers’ supporters club.
Furthermore, they were quick to remind me how plenty of clubs in their competition struggle to get their fans to travel across Sydney to watch their own teams, let alone some from a different continent,
Still, as one Wigan flag declared at the end: “We came, we conquered, we ate all your pies.” Super League has definitely made a mark.
Dave Craven is on tour with Hull FC in Australian in association with Ladbrokes.com