Australian rugby league starts season in Vegas with more US plans. NRL AUSTRALIA

The National Rugby League (NRL) of Australia kicks off its 2024 season with an inaugural match in Las Vegas on 2 March, with the aim of significantly increasing the sport's presence on American soil. There are also ambitions to create a proposed 10-team North American league, which is likely to be backed by the NRL.

The NRL will launch in Las Vegas for the 2024 season with games to be played at Allegiant Stadium, home of the NFL's Las Vegas Raiders and site of the Super Bowl three weeks ago. The League, which has never brought its season matches to the US, has signed a five-year deal to play 10 games at the Raiders' stadium. Actor Russell Crowe's South Sydney Rabbitohs will open the Vegas season against the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles. This is followed by the Sydney Roosters taking on the Brisbane Broncos, who were beaten by three-time defending champions the Penrith Panthers in last year's Grand Final. "To be part of something that will go down in the history of our game and to be able to walk out of Allegiant Stadium where the Super Bowl was played is pretty surreal," Sea Eagles winger Jason Saab said.

NRL officials are keen to expand the sport beyond Australia. They believe the energetic and physical style of play will appeal to American football fans, even without the protective gear commonly used in the US game. "This is not just about an event and then going home. We're committed to growth and have taken a long-term strategic view of this project. This is about growing our fan base in the US and developing a following throughout the season and over time," NRL Chief Executive Officer Andrew Abdo told Forbes. As well as organising games, there are plans for the possible creation of a 10-team North American league, which could be supported by the NRL. This initiative aims to facilitate the growth of the sport in the US markets.

"It's nice that the owner of my current club is pushing for an American opportunity and it's an easy transition for me. If Scott Penn wants to make it happen, I'm happy," 35-year-old Sea Eagles halfback Cherry-Evans told the NRL website. "America is where you go to make it, and I think it's exciting what the NRL is doing. I really believe the NRL can get a global audience if they stay the course," former player Daniel Patrick told the league's website. Steve Scanlan, the head of Rugby League America, told News Corp that discussions had begun with the NRL about working together. "We don't necessarily expect the NRL to invest financially, but if we could have co-branding and form a partnership with the NRL, it could be an untapped gold mine," he concluded.