The Auckland Rugby League are calling for a far-reaching review into the state of the game in this country due to "systemic issues" that have plagued the sport for years.

They want the scope of the 2017 World Cup review widened, to confront all of the issues plaguing the sport in New Zealand.

The review was triggered after the Kiwis' calamitous quarter-final exit to Fiji and has been conducted by lawyer Tim Castle and sports administrator Raelene Castle.

The findings are expected to be released by the middle of next month, but ARL chairman Cameron McGregor hopes it will look beyond the on-field failure.


"We have to be wary of treating the symptoms and not the root cause," McGregor told the Herald on Sunday.

"The World Cup was really disappointing and it is understandable that it needs to be investigated but there are much deeper concerns," he said.

The ARL and NZRL have had differences in the past, and it seems unfathomable there isn't an ARL representative on the New Zealand board, given the region is responsible for more than 60 per cent of the players in the country.

It has long been a source of agitation, as Auckland has a strong tradition of producing top league administrators, given the complexities of running the game in the city.

But McGregor isn't advocating a civil war. He wants to work together with the NZRL.

"The game hasn't been so low for a long time," said McGregor. "There is no money going into the grassroots of the game and not much being done to find new sources of revenue for the sport. And we are losing an incredible amount of players every year to Australia, because there are no pathways here."

The player drain to Australia, at a rate which McGregor terms as "unacceptably high", is a huge issue.

In 2013, New Zealand lost 859 players to Australia. In 2014, the figure was 843, and in 2015, 813 players went across the ditch chasing their league dreams.

Few make it to the holy grail of the NRL and most are signed with second or third tier clubs in cities and towns. Many don't return to New Zealand, leaving a massive gap in player numbers (and later coaches and administrators) in this country.

The ARL is advocating a return to a semi-professional national competition, modelled on the Lion Red Cup from the mid-1990s or the Bartercard Cup played during 2000-07. Both competitions provided a bridge between the amateur and professional games, and the number of players going overseas doubled the year after the Bartercard Cup ended.

The Lion Red Cup (1994-96) produced 30 players who went on to play for the Warriors, including Stacey Jones, Logan Swann, Jerry Seuseu and Joe Vagana, and plenty more who gained NRL and Super League contracts.

On a similar vein, 80 Bartercard Cup graduates ended up at NRL and Super League clubs, among them Simon Mannering, Manu Vatuvei, Lance Hohaia and Issac Luke.

Without such a competition, there is no vehicle to prepare players for professional careers. It means Australian clubs — from the NRL, to the New South Wales and Queensland Cups and below — will continue to target New Zealand players at increasingly younger ages, to get them into their systems.

"We would welcome the opportunity to work together to make the Kiwis strong again," said McGregor. "Underpinning the Warriors with a semi-professional competition would also be hugely beneficial to our game."

"I've got an open mind on the opportunities that we have to work together," said NZRL chairman Reon Edwards. "We have a good working relationship with the Auckland Rugby League. There is a lot to do, but we can do a lot more together."

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