BRING it on – that’s the message from Leeds Rhinos in response to Aussie champions Manly Sea Eagles’ desire to host the 2012 World Club Challenge.
The NRL Grand Final winners – who beat Leeds at Elland Road in 2009 – are keen to stage the annual showdown in Australia early next year.
The clash between the Super League and NRL champions is usually staged in England in February or March – with Leeds’ previous four World Club Challenges all having been played at Elland Road.
But Manly officials say their “preference” is to host next year’s tie and they reckon it could attract a crowd of up to 80,000 – around twice Elland Road’s capacity.
Leeds’ England captain Jamie Peacock reckons playing Down Under would revitalise the competition and chief executive Gary Hetherington said Rhinos are up for the challenge.
“I think we should play it over there,” Peacock said. “It is about time we did something different with it.
“It has probably run its course over here, but two of the world’s biggest clubs playing in Sydney would be a fantastic occasion.
“I think we should make sure it happens, it would be a real prestige game.”
Hetherington fears the logistics of an English side going to Australia after the Super League season has begun could prevent Manly staging the fixture.
But he stressed: “If it’s possible, we would really be up for going over there. It is the ultimate challenge and I have always said that is what we should be aspiring to do.”
Hetherington has not yet spoken to the RFL or the Manly club, but he added: “As far as we are concerned, it is a great honour for our club and the city to host a world title match.
“On the other hand, we would relish the challenge of going over to Sydney and taking them on over there.
“They believe they could get a crowd of 80,000 and for us to go and be part of an occasion like that would be a great honour.
“To go to Australia and represent Super League would be exciting for the club and the players. I know there’s a real desire among our players to do that.”
Recent World Club Challenges have been a pre-season game for the Australians, but played a few matches into the Super League campaign.
Hetherington said: “There’d have to be a mechanism put in place to make it happen.
“Their season starts later than ours and if we were to play it at the time we do, in February or March, I am not sure how that could happen.
“The ideal thing would be for it to be played at the end of the season, in whichever hemisphere is hosting that year’s Four Nations.
“Then it would be the two sets of players who have just won their Grand Final taking part. But certainly the 2012 World Club Challenge will be played at the start of the year.
“We are still waiting to hear a date and other arrangements, but it will certainly be high on the agenda of the RFL.
“The challenge for us is going to be to regain the world title, for Leeds Rhinos and Super League.”
Meanwhile, Manly chairman Scott Penn said: “If it is possible, we would certainly like to play it here.
“I don’t know if there are any contractual issues with the Rugby Football League but, if Leeds were happy to come here, that would be our preference.
“If it comes down to finances, I think the game would make more money here as we could get 80,000 at ANZ Stadium or 50,000 at Suncorp Stadium.”