League: NZRL move to red card Anzac tests

By Michael Brown

Next year's Anzac test against Australia in Sydney will be the last between the two sides.

The New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) and a host of Kiwis coaches have long argued that the Kiwis are hugely disadvantaged when playing tests in the middle of the NRL and UK Super League seasons because they can't access all of their players.

Realising this situation is unlikely to change, given the power NRL clubs wield, the NZRL have called time on the Anzac test.

"We have an obligation to play Australia in Sydney on May 9 next year, because it is their centenary test, and we will fulfil it, but that will be the last one," NZRL director of football Graham Lowe said.

Lowe and NZRL chairman Andrew Chalmers met with Geoff Carr two weeks ago, when the Australian Rugby League chief executive agreed the move was in the best interests of all parties. It still needs to be signed off by both boards but that is seen as a formality.

Carr said his board were sympathetic. "The concerns Andrew has raised are legitimate ones because New Zealand can't get the best team on the paddock," he said. "The ARL board appreciate that and can see the merits of Andrew's proposal."

Chalmers had earlier proposed shifting the Anzac test to July and also adding a game against Great Britain two weeks previously while Australia was involved in its State of Origin.

He and Kiwis coach Brian McClennan had also pushed for players to be released from their clubs the weekend before a test.

Lowe said they had investigated a number of options, including playing the test in an Origin window, but none worked.

"It's disappointing but everyone agrees this is the best thing to do, because there's no use flogging a dead horse," he said.

Although Anzac tests enjoy good TV ratings and have been lucrative financially for the NZRL, particularly when they are played in Brisbane, the Kiwis have been on the end of some heavy defeats since the first one was played in 1997.

They were beaten 30-6 in Brisbane in April and thumped 50-12 last year when they went in as Tri Nations champions. They were also hammered 56-0 in 2000.

The Kiwis have won only once, the 22-16 defeat of Australia at North Harbour Stadium in 1998, which is also the only time the game has been played in this country.

The onus now is on end-of-year tests, and Chalmers is optimistic an international calendar will be adopted. He's hoping it can be set five years in advance and will present his case when he heads to next month's international board meeting.

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