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The NRL ploy to 'undermine' NZ rugby and 'weaken' the All Blacks

By Ian Cameron
Beauden Barrett of the All Blacks looks dejected after losing the 2020 Tri-Nations rugby match between the New Zealand All Blacks and the Argentina Los Pumas at Bankwest Stadium on November 14, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

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Former New Zealand standoff Andrew Mehrtens has accused the NRL of trying to weaken rugby union in his native land and undermine the All Blacks.


It has been suggested that the NRL in Australia, who enjoy an ascendency over rugby union in that country, want to introduce a second New Zealand-based team to go alongside the Auckland-based Warriors, but the 70-cap All Black isn’t buying it. Writing in his column in the Sydney Morning Herald, Mehrtens went about dismantling the idea.

“It sounds like a ploy to undermine rugby and, in doing so, try to weaken one of the strongest sporting brands in the world: the All Blacks.”

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Mehrtens doesn’t think such a venture could be financially viable.

“I seriously don’t think it will have any material effect, and I’m not sure the NRL really believes it can deal a crippling blow to New Zealand rugby, but rather it is just trying to improve the value of its own brand.

“In that context, I would question whether a second New Zealand team would really stack up financially.

“Clearly a team [in Asia] would not be stacked with locals but, given the size of the economies, even a small slice of the pie would far outweigh the financial contribution of a new NRL side in Christchurch or Wellington.’’


“Keep in mind he [NRL CEO Greg Peters] is a former Sanzaar chief executive, so has an excellent understanding of the challenges Kiwi Super Rugby teams face to stay afloat.”

With All Blacks halfback TJ Perenara rumoured to be looking to move to the 13-man code with the Roosters and the code hopping antics of Sonny Bill Williams grabbing headlines over the last decade or so, league certainly has a significant foothold in the rugby union mad country. Mehrtens, however,  doesn’t feel the market is there for a second NRL team, given how Super Rugby continues to struggle to wipe its face financially.

“It’s hard to get buy-in from the entire support base when there’s already a national team playing that role. So having a second Kiwi NRL team from that angle seems to me to be a positive,” wrote Mehrtens. “…to put it simply, if Super Rugby franchises are finding the going tough in New Zealand, why would a new NRL team fare any better?’’


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