Rugby Australia looks set to once again poach talent from their biggest rivals the NRL in preparation for their home World Cup in 2027.
Top level talent switching codes is not a new phenomenon but by publicly announcing their intentions this far out from the tournament Rugby Australia will have put several of the NRL’s top players and officials on alert.
Speaking in Dublin following the announcement that Australia would be holding the global showpiece in 2027 Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLean had the following to say.
“Andy Marinos and I have been speaking about it,” McLennan told The Sun-Herald. “There are a few good league players who grew up with rugby that he and Dave Rennie have been looking at.”
“These players love the game, and they know that a Rugby World Cup experience in Australia can’t be replicated by league. We’ve already chatted with a few players who are interested in joining us and now that we’ve got the World Cup, I’m sure that those discussions will intensify.”
Whilst there are several top-level league players who would undoubtedly make the Wallabies stronger, it is worth remembering that a code switch can lead to varying results.
On the positive side of the spectrum are superstars like Sonny Bill Williams, Israel Folau and Chris Ashton who have seamlessly transitioned without missing a beat.
Whilst other league superstars such as Sam Burgess, Karmichael Hunt and Benji Marshall all struggling to make any lasting impact on the code.
Thus, the conundrum facing Australian Rugby is do they look to fast-track league players in the hope that it leads to a successful World Cup? Or do they focus on developing their own talent and make a push for players looking to switch codes permanently.
As former Wallabies captain George Gregan pointed out this is a key component to any players looking to make the switch.
“Before I’d have a chequebook, I’d have an attitude book,” Gregan said. “If their attitude is to compete on an international arena, contribute to the Wallaby team and they want to play the game of rugby and try and get to the heights that it enables you to do, then that’s great. The rest takes care of itself.” He said.
When asked why players may wish to change codes considering the current strength of the NRL from both a playing and followship perspective, Gregan pointed out what Union can offer than neither the NRL or Australian Rules football can.
“Rugby separates itself from those two codes [NRL and AFL] with a Rugby World Cup,” he said. “It’s a global, international event, which attracts the best players in the world and attracts incredible support from all around the world. You’ll play in front of arenas which are sold out over a seven-week period which is pretty unique. The other codes, as great as they are, they just can’t offer that.”