The NRL says the standalone representative weekend is here to stay.
Head of football Todd Greenberg says the the game’s governing body is committed to supporting representative football over the long-term, despite calls for the window to be axed and claims a lack of NRL action gave a free kick to rivals on the same weekend as the A-League grand final.
“You have to be committed to rep football if you are going to be genuine about it,” Greenberg told AAP.
“And the (ARL) commission is very genuine about rep football.
“We want to make sure when people come into rugby league they aspire to play for their city, their state, their country – and to do that you need to be genuine about rep footy.
“You can’t be any more genuine about it than taking a whole weekend out of our NRL competition to showcase games like City-Country.”
Friday’s Test between the Kangaroos and the Kiwis drew more than a million viewers across Australia and New Zealand.
Dubbo’s City-Country clash drew 9627 spectators and Greenberg said Saturday’s international at Penrith between Fiji and Samoa was summed up by the passion of the fans.
“Anyone who was there at Penrith will tell you about the passion attached to those two teams and we have to grow that,” Greenberg said.
“Everyone within the game was really impressed with the (TV) numbers from Friday night. It again highlights people want to watch rep football.
“Those things don’t grow if they are just one-offs, you have to commit to them for a period of time.
“It is like the Anzac Day event when the Roosters play the Dragons that has been going for over a decade. It is a really mature event. It takes time to build it. You have to continue to put it in your schedule.”
For the second year in a row, the rep weekend fell at the same time as the A-League decider, with no NRL games competing for viewers.
But Greenberg said that didn’t concern him.
“We don’t really worry ourselves about what the other codes are doing; we worry about what we are doing,” he said.