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Expand World Club Challenge: Leeds boss

By John Marsh 24/02/2010 12:09:01 PM Comments (0)

Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington has demanded the NRL and Rugby Football League be "more proactive" and expand the World Club Challenge to six teams from next year.

After describing Sunday's clash with Melbourne as the most important in the Rhinos' recent history and offering players the entire STG50,000 ($A86,700) winners' pot, Hetherington says it's time for the respective leagues to treat the WCC concept with the same respect.

"My understanding is that this is the final year of a three-year contract between the RFL and the NRL to play the game here in England at this time of year," said Hetherington, who first floated the six-team idea in 2008.

"Now is the time to develop it further. I know it is on the agenda and I know it has been discussed with a number of NRL club chief executives to expand it.

"The Champions' League in soccer and the Heineken Cup in rugby union have shown the potential for proper international club competitions."

Hetherington's proposal involves the third-placed sides from each hemisphere playing on a Friday night in the UK next February, with the second-placed sides meeting on Saturday and the top teams on Sunday.

The Super League would pause for an entire weekend - instead of using the split round which currently operates - and there would be a prize to the league which won the best-of-three as well as the normal "world champion" title on the line in the final match.

"The NRL and the RFL need to be more proactive in promoting things like this," he said.

"This property would develop its own sponsorship and television rights income and eventually become valuable enough so that places like Singapore or Dubai or cities in Australia could bid for it."

Rhinos utility Greg Eastwood said Hetherington called the players together recently and offered them the whole WCC prize pool if they win at Elland Road on Sunday. That's around A$5200 per man.

"Gary had a chat to the boys and went through the bonuses, about what the club would give us," Eastwood told Rugby League Week.

"It's good money - but we've got to win first."

The former Brisbane and Bulldogs star said the focus on the match in the Leeds camp was so intense that it might have distracted them from their domestic campaign.

"(Coach) Brian McClennan, all he's been talking about since I got here is Melbourne and what we're going to do against them," he said.

"That's good in a way but on the other hand, maybe it's possible to focus too much on Melbourne and let our guard down and we have lost against Wakefield and Castleford."

In team news, Melbourne prop Jeff Lima has erased any doubts over hamstring and foot injuries by training fully in London before the Storm travelled to Leeds by train late on Tuesday.

Rory Kostjysn and Gareth Widdop are believed to be fighting it out for one Melbourne bench spot.

Leeds have a number of injury doubts, headed by centre Brett Delaney (hamstring) and winger Scott Donald (shoulder).

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