No Gladiator, no problem.
South Sydney's decision to pull out of a proposed NRL premiership game in the United States next year – set to be promoted by their part-owner and Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe – won’t stop rivals Manly from pursuing the match.
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The Sea Eagles, despite their dreadful end to the 2022 season, are committed to playing the game in California to kick-start the 2023 competition next March.
If the game gets the green light, it would be the first time two competition points were played for outside Australia or New Zealand – and Manly doesn't care who they play.
"We are 100 per cent keen. (Club owner) Scott Penn has driven this through the NRL. Being based in America he could procure a lot of sponsorship, backing and interest," Sea Eagles CEO Tony Mestrov told Yahoo Sport Australia.
"We've had talks internally with our coach and football department as to how it looks from a logistics point of view and we are keen and set to go if the NRL can find us a team to play."
St George Illawarra was mooted as a possible opponent but turned down the opportunity, citing Souths' concerns that there was still scant information and not enough time to pull it altogether with so many moving parts still not locked in.
Clubs are also worried about player overload, with the World Cup to be staged in the UK in England from mid-October.
Manly still keen on America match despite Souths' withdrawal
The Sea Eagles are disappointed the Rabbitohs backed out of the proposal, especially with Crowe set to promote the game through his massive movie star profile, social media following and extensive contact list and pulling power in the States.
"Obviously, Souths have a lot of supporters and have Russell Crowe in their corner so they would have been ideal, but at this stage I think it's more important we get a game up rather than who it’s against," Mestrov said.
"We're not doing the ring-around or driving this – the NRL are - but are we right to go in 2023.
"I understand their (Souths) reasons but we are still keen.
"We see it as a growth area and somewhere to build our membership base and support.
"There is a lot of upside to it, from promotion for the club and rugby league in general."
But Mestrov admitted time was running out if the Sea Eagles were to commit to the proposed game.
"It's not super urgent but we'd need to know by the end of the season," he said.
"The sooner we know the better but if it's sorted in the next six weeks or so, we're comfortable with that."
Manly's No.1 celebrity supporter and Hollywood heavyweight Hugh Jackman has pledged his support and will have a huge role to play in promoting the game should it go ahead.
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