NRL's big win over AFL, Manly and Roosters' greedy move: Good, bad and ugly of Vegas

The Sea Eagles and Roosters have come under fire after their wins during the NRL's opening weekend in Las Vegas.

Scott Penn and Nick Politis, pictured here alongside NRL players.
Scott Penn (L) and Nick Politis (R) are trying to convince the NRL to send them back to Las Vegas next year. Image: Getty

😃 The good: NRL in Las Vegas proves a massive success

😔 The bad: Manly and Roosters bosses too greedy

😡 The ugly: Shocking allegations against Spencer Leniu

NRL scores crushing win over AFL with Las Vegas success

Whatever happens from here with rugby league's assault on the hearts and minds of Americans, let's just declare the weekend's double header for what it was – an outstanding success. Whether it moves the dial as far as luring new fans to the game and convinces Fox Sports 1 to show more games in the States can be judged in time.

And as for the rivers of gold that will supposedly flow from Yanks betting on the game…well, let's just say we're is sceptical on that front. But the sheer audacity in getting this project off the ground - and the smoothness of the entire operation on and off the field – is something to stand and applaud.

The Sydney Roosters and Brisbane Broncos, pictured here at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
A general view of Allegiant Stadium during the Broncos and Roosters clash in Las Vegas. (Ezra Shaw via Getty Images)

It was bold, it was brash and it was brilliant. And the best part is it really pis*ed the AFL off that they didn’t think of it first. There was plenty of cynical laughter behind hands and jokes about NRL players being let loose in Vegas, but it was all a bit of FOMO.

Collingwood's American star Mason Cox admitted as much when he made fun of the two codes' respective opening rounds, tweeting: "Round 1 NRL goes to Las Vegas. AFL premiers go to … A showground for livestock."

He later said: "I didn’t say anything that wasn't true. It was just showing the difference of what the NRL is trying compared to what the AFL is doing at the moment.

"I’m always trying to push the initiative to do something here in America. I saw what the NRL was doing and I was a bit jealous, I’m not going to lie." In terms of PR, exposure to an international audience and all-round hype, the NRL's American dream is the AFL's nightmare.

Roosters and Sea Eagles bosses are kidding themselves

Maybe they've spent too much time in the States and have picked up the locals' brashness, cockiness and inward thinking. Or perhaps they figure they’re in Vegas so it's worth rolling the dice.

To hear Manly owner Scott Penn and Roosters chairman Nick Politis pleading with the NRL to allow their clubs to return to Allegiant Stadium next year was a WTF moment. Penn argued the Sea Eagles were a good fit because of their name – American Eagles, get it? – while Politis suggested the Chooks' colours of red, white and blue synergises with Yanks and makes them the obvious choice as 'America's team'.

Nice try, fellas. The Roosters and Sea Eagles – along with South and Brisbane – were wonderful ambassadors for Australia and the NRL and will go down in history as pioneering ground breakers. But the whole idea of signing a five-year deal to play the opening round in Vegas is to spread the love.

New blood in the form of different teams 12 months from now will bring with it a fresh contingent of fans and a new burst of enthusiasm and excitement. The Warriors are near certain to be one of the four invited teams while three-time – or will it be four-time by then? – premiers Penrith have one foot on the plane. It's a scramble among the other clubs for the other two spots but it won’t be Manly or the Roosters again.

Victor Radley and James Tedesco, pictured here during the Roosters and Broncos clash.
Victor Radley and James Tedesco celebrate a try for the Roosters against the Broncos. (Ezra Shaw via Getty Images)

Spencer Leniu allegation just what the NRL didn't need

It goes without saying racial slurs are never acceptable anywhere at any time. And race is a particularly sensitive area in the United States where there has been a long history of civil unrest and unease.

That this was the country where Roosters prop Spencer Leniu allegedly called Brisbane star Ezra Mam a 'monkey' defies belief. Leniu has protested his innocence and is entitled to a fair hearing.

Mam insists he heard what he heard and was visibly upset on the field. If Leniu is proven guilty, he should have the book thrown at him and spend several weeks on the sideline to dwell on the enormity of his actions.

Not only has one of the NRL brightest talents been badly affected – and the game's priority should be his wellbeing – but any race related matter will not go down well in the States. Media organisations which may have given the NRL's bold move to Las Vegas a wide berth could now give rugby league the headlines it didn't want or deserve after such a successful venture.

Check back in every Monday throughout the NRL season for Adam Lucius' 'Good, Bad and Ugly' column.

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