Leeds happy to play WCC in Australia: CEO

Super League champions Leeds are prepared to travel to Australia to play Melbourne in an effort to keep the annual World Club Challenge alive.

NRL premiers Melbourne appear to be reluctant to travel to England for the annual World Club Series.

NRL premiers Melbourne appear to be reluctant to travel to England for the annual World Club Series.

The Storm's apparent reluctance to come to England in February has cast a major doubt over the annual clash of the champions, which has been played every year since 2000, usually in England.

Melbourne have arranged to play a grand final rematch with North Queensland in a testimonial for respective captains Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston in Brisbane on Friday, February 23.

That is the weekend Super League provisionally set aside for the World Club Series but the date can be amended and talks are ongoing between the two governing bodies.

Three-time winners Leeds have booked Elland Road for the fixture but chief executive Gary Hetherington says he would be happy to forfeit home advantage.

"Clearly we'd love to have it at Leeds and we have arranged Elland Road as the venue," Hetherington said.

"We are confident we would generate a big crowd but we would be prepared to go over there if that is what is decided.

"It's not our responsibility, it's not our match, it is down to Super League and the NRL."

Brisbane and Sydney Roosters are the only Australian clubs to have hosted the World Club Challenge, which was first contested in 1976 and became a regular fixture in the calendar 24 years later when Melbourne beat St Helens at Wigan.

Three years ago the decision was taken to expand the one-off game to a three-match series but, after successive whitewashes by visiting NRL clubs, it was cut back to two games in 2017, when Wigan and Warrington gained victories over Cronulla and Brisbane.

As winners of the 2017 League Leaders' Shield, Castleford are due to make their debut in the World Club Series but, without the NRL champions, the event would almost certainly be scrapped.

"It is a great shame that there is so much uncertainty surrounding it," Hetherington said. "It is a great spectacle for fans and there is an opportunity for players to be acclaimed as the best in the world, It would be a shame if that is denied them."

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