9th February 2018, 12:29 | super_league
The 2017 Ladbrokes Challenge Cup finalists are happy to risk early-season disruption by taking part in the first Super League fixture to be staged outside Europe.
The move was the initiative of Wigan owner Ian Lenagan and rugby director Kris Radlinski and Hull’s executive director James Clark says his club jumped at the chance to join them on their pioneering venture.
“This is a landmark occasion for our sport and is generating significant national and regional media interest on both sides of the world, so that is the main benefit of the tour,” Clark said.
“The mainstream media seem intent on making comparisons to rugby union and the NRL so this has become another opportunity to showcase how forward-thinking and innovative we are in Super League.”
Clark says his club hope to boost player recruitment and are already starting to capitalise on commercial opportunities unearthed by the trip, which is part-funded by the New South Wales tourist board.
Wigan and Hull will stay on in Australia for a second week and play South Sydney and St George Illawarra respectively in a friendly double-header at the ANZ Stadium.
Saturday’s ground-breaking event comes as negotiations continue to take a Super League fixture to New York this summer as part of the push to expand rugby league in North America following the successful launch of Toronto.
“I believe this could be the first of many initiatives like this if it proves to be financially viable,” Clark added.
“Whether that be in Australia, Canada, America or even other European destinations, the opportunities are there.
“Advances in travel, logistics and communication are making the world a much smaller place and opening the door to many exciting opportunities to grow our sport on an international scale.”
The clubs estimate there could be as many as 5,000 Wigan and Hull fans at WIN Stadium and hope the locals will help lift the attendance towards their 2017 average of 13,660 and 11,459 respectively.
In conceding home advantage for the round-two fixture, Wigan have most to lose but coach Shaun Wane is fully behind the concept.
“I want to come to Wollongong a few more times,” he said. “I love the travelling and doing different things.
“It’s good for our young players to sample it in a club environment and they’re relishing it. It’s a great experience for them.
“I don’t know commercially how much it benefits us as a club but we try to make it interesting for players who come to Wigan and do things differently like playing Catalans in London.”
Wigan’s Kent-born forward Tony Clubb insists the players are focused on the job at hand but is able to see the wider picture.
“We’ve had a lot of media attention and it lets a lot of the NRL clubs take a look at you and realise that there isn’t a massive gap,” he said.
“We’re on the other side of the world but we’re treating it as a regular game. Nothing changes from our point of view, we’ve come here to get the two points.”
Meanwhile, Catalans Dragons will seek to get their campaign up and running when they host St Helens in Perpignan on Saturday.
The Dragons are without prop Sam Moa after he picked up a two-match ban for a late tackle during their opening 40-12 defeat at Widnes Vikings.