A Wolverine v Gladiator showdown in Las Vegas is still very much on the cards at next year's NRL season opener. The NRL is desperate to use the combined star power of Hollywood heavyweights Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe to promote their bold venture into America in early March.
Manly will meet South Sydney before Brisbane take on the Roosters in a double header before what the NRL hopes will be a capacity crowd at the 65,000-seat Allegiant Stadium. It will be the first time a premiership match has been played outside of Australia or New Zealand as rugby league looks to make inroads into the busy and potentially lucrative US sporting market.
Crowe - Souths' high-profile co-owner - has indicated a willingness to help spruik the games, reportedly meeting with NRL executives to map out a publicity plan around his busy movie schedule. Lifetime Manly fan Jackman, who has kept a low profile since splitting with wife Deborra-Lee Furness, has proved more elusive, with the NRL unable to confirm his availability.
Hugh Jackman 'keen' to help promote NRL in America
But Manly CEO Tony Mestrov revealed he has been speaking to the superstar actor and was confident he would play a role in the historic venture. "I have reached out to Hugh via email and there has been a bit of back and forward correspondence," Mestrov told Yahoo Sport Australia.
"I have officially invited him to be a guest at our game and he has indicated he will be there. He is very keen to be involved and thinks the Vegas venture is a great idea for the club and the game as a whole.
"He's obviously a very busy man so I'm not sure of any specifics at this stage, but I'm sure he will help out with promotions where he can. Having Hugh and Russell Crowe involved will be huge. I have just returned from the States and everyone knows who those two blokes are."
Manly boss urges NRL to follow lead of American sports
Mestrov, Manly coach Anthony Seibold and football manager John Bonasera spent two weeks in the US last month, touring various sporting franchises, attending NFL and NBA matches and locking in training facilities ahead of the Sea Eagles' stay in Vegas. The Manly boss returned with a plea for rugby league to implement many of the promotions he saw while attending basketball and American football games.
"The game in America is all around the entertainment. Everything is always bigger and better in America and I think there are parts of that we could apply to the NRL," Mestrov said. "We have to look at our game-day experience in the NRL and make it even more appealing to corporates and fans. We have to be open to change."
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