Historic New York league bid to attract NRL stars
From Brookvale to Brooklyn, Bondi to Broadway, Shark Park to Central Park, Bankwest Stadium to Yankee Stadium.
Rugby league, New York is calling.
The Daily Telegraph can reveal New York's historic bid to enter the English Rugby Football League structure is now just weeks from final approval.
Christmas this year in New York will now include a professional rugby league team.
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It will be a whole new world for rugby league and a game-changer for off-contract Australian players.
And although Santa won't be able to deliver the presents this year, New York has already started compiling an NRL wish list of players who are coming off contract after next season.
Most of them will be nearing the end of their careers and include Benji Marshall (34 years old), Kieran Foran (29), Brett Morris (33), Josh Morris (33), Darius Boyd (32), Sia Soliola (33), Aiden Tolman (30), Matt Prior (32), Jesse Bromwich (30), James Tamou (30) and James Graham (34).
New York will likely win entry into the third-tier League One for 2021. There would then be an expected promotion into the second-tier RFL Championship in 2022 before an anticipated rise into the top-flight Super League by 2023.
"The amount of players that have reached out and wanted to be involved has been ridiculous. This is huge," said Ricky Wilby, the New York Rugby League chief executive.
The RFL is expected to rubber stamp New York's entry into English rugby league before Christmas, and a $1 million-a-season marquee player will be targeted once in Super League.
"We would want players who are prepared to be involved in something from the ground up," Wilby said.
"It (official entry from the RFL) probably won't be days away but certainly weeks. We want it closed and sealed off by Christmas or the close of this year.
"That will give us a full year before we kick a ball. Things are progressing nicely.
"The players coming out of contract next year, we can start talking to them. That's why we want to get it signed off before Christmas.
"It's a whole new world for rugby league and for the player pool."
New York hasn't announced a nickname or logo but is working toward playing at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey - 12km west of Lower Manhattan.
The stadium is also the home of professional soccer club the New York Red Bulls.
Virgin Atlantic and Hilton Hotels are poised to be announced as New York's major partners.
Their charter will be to nail down flight and accommodation packages for clubs which make the seven-hour trans-Atlantic journey.
The hope is for New York to copy the instant success of Toronto Wolfpack, who entered League One in 2017, were promoted the following season and are now heading into Super League.
"I think we will be told to take the League One route," said Wilby, who has been dealing with RFL financial director Tony Sutton, who was in Australia for the World Nines.
The formalities for New York are being finalised and include liability for fans at home games.
Senior general manager of Hilton's Newark Airport hotel, Paul Grande, was a special guest at this year's Super League grand final at Old Trafford, Manchester. So too were Wilby and James Rowan, head of sports partnership for Virgin Atlantic.
Newark Liberty International Airport is located just 8km from Red Bull Arena.
Grande told the English media: "Ricky was looking in the area for hotels and the league came to our sales team and explained it was a potential start-up in the area.
"I'm keen to grow our business, that's the selfish part, then as I saw the potential of this league and the vision of it, I want to be as big a part of it as possible.
"My initial reaction when not knowing the sport well was that I couldn't understand how the sport was surviving without all these concussion issues that we seem to experience in the States with our helmet sports."