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Australia’s bruising, bustling rugby league could be Vegas-bound

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA (AP) – Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL) is hoping that the old adage of what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, will hold true for its proposed first major push into the United States (US) sports market.

NRL officials are optimistic that interest in their bone-crunching, virtually no-protective padding form of football catches on long after their proposed first competitive game outside of Australia or New Zealand in the league’s over 115-year history.

At stake is the league’s entry into the gambling market in the US, and to get more brand exposure.

The NRL this week said it remains confident it will be able to launch next year’s regular season in early 2024 in Las Vegas, but still has hurdles to clear before confirming details of a match.

NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo and chairman Peter V’landys recently returned to Australia from a fact-finding mission to the US and apparently want a piece of that sports action.

Australia’s Greg Inglis makes a break against Wales during a test match at the Racecourse Ground, Wrexham, Wales. PHOTO: AP

“We’ve obviously been learning as we’ve been going and understanding what it takes to make this happen,” Abdo told Australian Associated Press. “The more planning we can do, the more successful it will be. It’s really positive so far.

“We’re going to put everything into making it happen, and we should know within the next couple of weeks if we can pull it off. We think there is an opportunity to win fans on the West Coast of America, which would be a huge opportunity for us.”

Questions remain, though, over the venue and logistics around the season launch.

Rugby league is a 13-player version of rugby which branched off from the established 15-a-side rugby union in 1908 and modified its rules. It is most popular in Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific, northern England and parts of France.

The two major domestic competitions are the Australia-based NRL and the England-based Super League. Players wear no helmets and little protective gear.

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