NRL talking points: A ground-breaking Test and history was made in the women’s game

Last week was a monumental one in Rugby League. It saw the ground-breaking Test between England and New Zealand played in Denver, plus history was made in the women’s game.

The historic week has ignited plenty of talk about how better to grow this wonderful game.

Let’s start with Saturday’s international between England and New Zealand, which was played in front of nearly 20,000 spectators in Denver.

The Test has been hailed a huge success with Wayne Bennett calling for it to be a permanent fixture in the Rugby League calendar.

“We’ve a great product, I don’t know why were embarrassed about it. If we don’t have a global product, we won’t have a product in 20 years,” Bennett warned.

Bennett also believes that making it a permanent fixture will not only help grow the game, but could also encourage NFL players to switch from American football to Rugby League.

“You need to have a competition in this country for that to happen. If we can be here enough and promote it, if those young men saw the game we play, (it will happen).

“There’s no doubt if more young men saw rugby league and saw an opportunity to play, if they couldn’t make it in college or at the pros, it would be wonderful for us,” Bennett said.

Phil Gould also supports the need to grow the international game. The former player, coach and Aussie rugby league broadcaster has gone as far as calling for the NRL season to be cut short.

“We’ve got to provide windows for international competition so that we can invite England out, we can invite New Zealand, we do have Tests between the Pacific Island nations, and when they’re good enough, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be playing against Australia.

“We don’t need 24 rounds of club football, we don’t. It dies during Origin anyway and it’s just too long for a lot of people.

“There is huge interest in international football, and we don’t play enough of it.” Gould said.

While the Denver Test received plenty of support from the players and some coaches, the NRL were not as supportive. So will we see it played in Denver again next season?

The games promoter Jason Moore said: “I think it’s more likely than unlikely but we’ve got a lot of work to do in structure and getting the comfort around NRL clubs.”

Women’s State of Origin

Last week also saw a turning point for the women’s game. For the first time, the women’s NSW and Queensland representative sides played under the State of Origin banner and the game attracted plenty of attention.

The biggest crowd in history for a women’s game watched the Blues beat the Maroons 16-10 in what was a thrilling encounter, but it wasn’t the result that had everyone talking – it was the quality of rugby played.

Brad Fittler, the men’s NSW Origin coach was in full support of the game, calling it fantastic.

“Women’s rugby league has come a long way. The quality with which they were playing was exceptional. I think there is a bright future for rugby league with women. There were some big moments in the game, it was quite incredible.”

The game attracted almost 1m viewers, with close to 7,000 fans attending the match in North Sydney, setting a new record for the women’s game.

The best thing is there is still more to come from the women’s game this year. In September, four teams will participate in the first NRL Women’s Premiership, with future plans to add more teams.

While the match was a huge success, it also reminded us that their is some way still to go, as the sport remains semi-professional with players also working day jobs.