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NRL CEO Andrew Abdo has revealed that the addition of a women’s Test between Australia and England and a Super League fixture at Vegas 2025 is part of a long-term strategy to grow the game globally.

And, Abdo said, the inclusion of the four NRL teams - the Panthers, Sharks, Raiders and Warriors - will help take the game to new markets and could lead to links with famous NFL and NBA franchises.

The Panthers and Sharks will meet in a Sydney derby, with the Raiders and Warriors being the other NRL match-up in an historic quadruple header featuring Super League giants Wigan and Warrington and a women’s Test between Australia and England.

“This is the sequel, and we wanted to make sure that the sequel is bigger and better, so we have four fixtures - not two - and we thought very carefully and worked with all of the clubs to get this configuration right,” Abdo said.

Abdo announces a Bigger, Bolder, and Better Festival of Rugby League in Las Vegas for 2025

“The exciting thing is we're offering four new clubs, and their fan bases and their members, an opportunity to experience what we got to experience in 2024, which was a magnificent event.

“Now we're adding a women's international with the Jillaroos against England, plus a Super League fixture.

“I’m not aware of any previous occasion where we've had premiership points up for grabs in Super League and in the NRL at the same time, so we're going to have rugby league fans from all over the world coming to see something unique.”

The matches are scheduled so that viewers in England can watch Wigan and Warrington play on Saturday night, while the NRL fixtures and Jillaroos Test will be in Sunday afternoon timeslots for Australian and New Zealand audiences.

While the Super League clash will ensure even more English fans cross the Atlantic than did for this year historic NRL season opener, the Warriors will add a Kiwi flavour as teams from three nations play in a fourth, the United States.

“It’s a credit to our chairman, Peter V’landys, who is always thinking about ways in which we can grow rugby league - not just the NRL competition, but globally,” Abdo said.

“If you think about the logistics that have to go into this, in terms of time zones, in terms of the field, and in terms of a quadruple header with both competitions playing live rounds for points, and an international women's game, in an American stadium set up for Gridiron, there were a fair number of challenges.

“But the Super League clubs have been terrific, as have Super League, and we're very excited now to do something for the first time ever that is strategically important for us, for the growth of the game in America and the growth of the game in the UK and in Europe.

“By bringing Super League in, we've got the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere engaged and united in our long-term goal for the expansion of rugby league.

“That's not just the NRL competition, that's the NRLW, that's Super League and that's everything that we offer fans.”

Among the attractions of the Canberra Raiders being part of the 2025 Vegas offering is the fact they share a nickname with the Las Vegas Raiders, who play out of Allegiant Stadium, so are likely to have local support.

However, the Viking Clap is set to be rivalled by chants of “Up the Wahs”, and the Warriors also share a synergy with Golden State Warriors, the San Francisco NBA team.

Don Furner speaks on Las Vegas Announcement

“The commission made it clear that this is a long-term commitment to America, which meant that we want to provide all the clubs the opportunity over the next few years of getting to experience this,” Abdo said.

“I'm really pleased with where we've landed, with an opportunity for the first time ever to have the Warriors play against the Raiders in that opening fixture, which opens up two new markets for us - the ACT and New Zealand.

“Then we've got the Sydney derby between the Penrith Panthers and the Cronulla Sharks, so they're both great fixtures.

“I want to commend and thank the clubs for the work that they've put into their proposals on how they can help us really make this a great experience, not only for their fans here in Australia and New Zealand to travel and experience this, but importantly, how we are going to showcase our sport to a massive global market, particularly in America.

“Obviously, we have the Las Vegas Raiders and we've got the Canberra Raiders, and we've got the Golden State Warriors and we've got the New Zealand Warriors.

“There's an opportunity for the clubs to work with franchises in America across multiple sports, develop partnerships and think about ways we can get those fans in America to lean in and to start to follow the NRL.

“That's exciting for us and that's part of our long-term strategy.”

With no women’s contact sport in the United States to compare to the NRLW, Abdo said the Test between the Jillaroos and England, which will be the penultimate match on th bill, was likely to captivate American audiences.

“I think it's an opportunity in two markets for us,” he said.

“Our existing fans, who follow rugby league, are going to be intrigued and excited to see Australia take on England, as that hasn't happened for a number of years [since 2017], and this is an enticing rivalry ahead of the Ashes tour later in the year.

“To have those teams play in Las Vegas has never been done before, and the second target market is showcasing our female athletes to new audiences, particularly American fans.

“I don't think they would have seen female sport played at the level of speed, stamina, skill and intensity of our female rugby league players, so there is an opportunity to win new fans.”

An exit poll of fans in the 40,746 crowd at Allegiant Stadium for this year's Roosters-Broncos, Sea Eagles-Rabbitohs double-header found that 31 per cent had never been to an NRL match before.

Of those polled, 27 per cent were US natives, five per cent had travelled from Canada and six per cent were British.

“I'm excited to see English fans descending on Las Vegas, but as we saw in 2024, we had rugby league fans from up to 20 countries making the trip to America," Abdo said.

“There are a lot of English, Australian and New Zealand expatriates living in America so this is their opportunity to get a flavour of rugby league, a sport that they know and love.”


Acknowledgement of Country

Penrith Panthers players and staff respect and honour the traditional custodians of the land and pay our respects to their elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.