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All 17 NRL club bosses are expected to fly to Las Vegas where a cast of former NFL and college players could enter a rugby league combine in a bid to find the next Manfred Moore.
As part of the NRL’s historic double-header to open the 2024 season, talks have begun about the potential of finding American athletes to make a switch to rugby league.
According to sources speaking on the condition of anonymity given the private talks, club chief executives have been told of the plan to hold private trials in front of representatives from all NRL clubs in the week of the Las Vegas extravaganza.
The combine concept is in its infancy but would mark a huge gamble from the NRL which has launched a five-year plan to play regular-season matches in the United States. NRL club recruitment staff would be present.
It’s expected to feature up to 60 male and female players, with a preference for athletes who might have previously been part of an NFL franchise or played American football at college level.
It is also hoped clubs could spot possible female stars for the rapidly expanding NRLW competition.
Former NFL turned rugby league player Manfred Moore and Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium.Credit: AP
While it seems almost unthinkable for the NRL to transfer American athletes straight into its rugby league system, there are hopes a small few could be offered lower-tier or train-and-trial deals in Australia.
While NRL stars Jarryd Hayne and Valentine Holmes have spent time with NFL franchises, there has been virtually no appetite from American athletes to go the other way.
The late Moore was the highest profile athlete to make the switch, recruited by the Newtown Jets with the backing of John Singleton in 1977. He played his first top-grade rugby league match only three months after being a member of the Oakland Raiders squad that won a Super Bowl.
The NRL’s combine plans coincide with tickets going on sale on Friday for the Las Vegas matches.
The NRL has already taken expressions of interest from Australian fans planning to travel to Las Vegas for the matches that will be played on March 2 (US time).
The games will be broadcast into Australia at 1pm and 3.30pm on Sunday, March 3.
This masthead revealed last week the NRL had told the four clubs who will play in the double-header – the Rabbitohs, Roosters, Broncos and Sea Eagles – the Allegiant Stadium field will be five metres narrower than a traditional rugby league ground.
It will also be only 96 metres between trylines with the $3 billion state-of-the-art venue, home to the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders and known as “The Death Star”, having a playing surface considerably smaller than NRL venues.
Manly coach Anthony Seibold has already forecast he will have his team prepare on a smaller field in the fortnight before it plays South Sydney. The Roosters and Broncos will play the other match.
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