NSW Cup Player
- May 15, 2012
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International rugby league bosses have expressed a desire to see the sport included on the Commonwealth Games programme, potentially as early as 2018.
In May last year, rugby league gained a significant boost when it was named as a "Category Three" sport by the Commonwealth Games Federation.
"Category Three sports are those that we recognise as working towards future inclusion," CGF vice-president HRH Tunku Imran said at the time.
But being recognised by the CGF is just the first step in a masterplan the Rugby League International Federation hopes will culminate in the sport one day sharing the spotlight with rugby sevens at the Commonwealth Games.
"It is a genuine vision of ours," said international chairman Scott Carter, who also doubles as chairman of the New Zealand Rugby League.
"The role of the RLIF is to grow and foster the game internationally. If we look at where the Commonwealth Games actually has a role to play, it's to have medal sports that are the most meaningful to Commonwealth nations.
"There are quite a number of Commonwealth countries for whom rugby league is an important sport.
"Category Three basically gives us official recognition. It is a stepping stone to rugby league potentially becoming a medal sport.
"But there are other hurdles to overcome along the way before rugby league would indeed, or could indeed, become a medal sport."
The next Commonwealth Games are in Glasgow in 2014 before moving to the Gold Coast in 2018.
Given Queensland is true rugby league country, Carter believes there is every chance the sport can make its Commonwealth Games debut in six years' time, albeit as an exhibition sport.
"I think there's a distinct possibility that rugby league could at least be included as a demonstration sport in the Gold Coast," he said.
But for rugby league to ever feature at the Commonwealth Games, administrators acknowledge they may need to tinker with the format.
Sevens rugby, which makes its Olympic debut in 2016, has featured in every Commonwealth Games since Kuala Lumpur in 1998, but matches comprise two seven-minute halves.
"That's a distinct possibility, an abbreviated form of the game," Carter said.
"Because it's early days, I think there are a number of things that have to be practically explored.
"What we are mindful of is that the sports that are very, very similar in origin or concept, sometimes the game's body has to make a fundamental choice."
Meanwhile, the RLIF expects to unveil within months a long-term test calendar, spanning eight years and starting after the 2013 world cup.
It had been reported the Anzac test may be scrapped next year due to indifference across the Tasman but the Australian Rugby League Commission on Thursday expressed its ongoing support to keep the fixture.
"We have received encouraging endorsement of it, certainly for the immediate future, from the new commission," Carter said.
Discussions are also under way about the future of the Four Nations tournament and whether it made commercial sense to include additional teams in the annual competition.
"I think the concept could do with some refining in terms of frequency and potentially even some evolution," Carter said.
"The Four Nations concept so far has taken the best out of the Tri Nations and given the Papua New Guineas, Frances and Wales of this world a shot at playing the bigger nations, which is really important for their development.
"The question begs as to when could be the time to potentially expand it. Or, if you did that, do you potentially go to a two-tier competition?
"What we are finding is working from a cost effective point of view and international development perspective is holding double-headers at stadiums.
"It's very good value for money for spectators and it's commercially appealing.
"What we are is open to evolving international competitions so we can do more but without compromising those commercial realities."
- © Fairfax NZ News