‘Could be a zinga for World Cup’: RA chair says Eddie is in NRL’s ‘heads’ as star name dropped


Hamish McLennan believes Eddie Jones is in the heads of their rival code, after a poll was published by The Sydney Morning Herald playing down the new Wallaby coach’s chances of raiding talent.

The Herald on Wednesday published an exclusive poll playing down Jones’ threat to the NRL.

“Club bosses unconcerned by threat of Jones raid for talent,” the headline read.

The story came off the back of the Herald’s request to conduct a poll with all 34 NRL chief executives and chairmen about the game’s big subjects. Only 25 responded.

Top of the list was Jones’ threat to the NRL.

The Herald asked: ‘Do you believe Eddie Jones and the Australian Rugby Union are a threat to lure players away from the NRL?’

Unsurprisingly, 80 per cent responded they weren’t.

Curiously, 20 per cent did.

Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan believes Eddie Jones is in the “heads” of his rival code after a Herald poll asked questions to the NRL’s bosses about the Wallabies coach’s return. Photo: Matt King/Getty Images

It comes despite the NRL salary cap for 2023 is $12.1 million, which is more than double a Super Rugby franchise.

McLennan, who was instrumental in signing Jones on a five-year deal through to the home 2027 World Cup, laughed off the poll and said it was another sign of the NRL second guessing themselves.

“The fact they’re publishing surveys about Eddie Jones shows he’s already in their heads,” McLennan told The Roar.

“What a hoot. Twenty per cent are worried about him – that’s massive.”

The poll comes after Jones, who previously lured across to rugby headline acts Mat Rogers, Wendell Sailor and Lote Tuqiri ahead of the 2003 World Cup, dominated headlines throughout January and has regularly spoken of his desire to entice back some lost players to the XV-person game.

“There’s a definite priority in there, the first thing we want to do is retain all the talent in rugby then secondly we want to recruit back the guys who were in rugby and went to league,” Jones said in January.

A phone call from Eddie Jones to Max Jorgensen’s father helped secure the 18-year-old’s signature. Photo: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Even before returning home to Australia, Jones was pivotal in ensuring one of the most exciting young talents chose rugby over the NRL last year.

Boom Waratahs back Max Jorgensen, whose father, Peter, played for the Wallabies before a successful career in rugby league, was hotly pursued by the Roosters and Bulldogs, but a conversation between Jones and his Peter Jorgensen helped convince him that rugby was the right path to initially go down.

Jorgensen scored a double on debut for the Waratahs in front of 25,000 fans in Sydney last week.

Melbourne Storm forward Nelson Asofa-Solomona recently said he was considering whether to make a cross-code switch, while Roosters star Joseph Suaalii and Bulldogs captain Cameron Murray are on the hit list for Rugby Australia.

In an interview earlier this month, Jones told SEN that Murray would be a “fantastic 12”.

While Murray is signed through until 2025, McLennan said the NSW State of Origin star, who was an Australian Schoolboys star in rugby, was in their sights.

“Cameron Murray could be a zinga for the World Cup in Australia, which would be incomparable to anything he has done,” he said.

Newly appointed Wallabies coach Eddie Jones (C) poses alongside Rugby Australia Chairman Hamish McLennan (L) and CEO Andy Marinos (R) during his first press conference in Sydney. Photo: Matt King/Getty Images

Adding to the prospect of the Wallabies plotting a raid on the NRL is the fact Rugby Australia only offered Samu Kerevi – one of the world’s best inside centres – a short-term deal to return from Japan last month.

RA was cautious not to sign Kerevi on a long-term, multi-million deal because he is edging closer to 30 and is in the process of returning from an ACL injury.

But should Murray, 25, stay injury free, RA could well be building a war chest to go after the former rugby prodigy.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 11: Cameron Murray of the Rabbitohs makes a break during the NRL Elimination Final match between the Sydney Roosters and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Allianz Stadium on September 11, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Cameron Murray continues to draw attention from Rugby Australia. Photo: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

NRL chairman Peter V’landys has attempted to talk rugby down in recent months, mocking the game by saying players would be able to “take their mobile phone with them on the field because they’ve got 30 minutes to tweet, Instagram or TikTok”.

“We wish Eddie the best of luck, and I hope he’s got his mobile phone with him so he can fill that 30 minutes as well,” V’landys told AAP.

Jones, who enjoys a bit of banter, has since begun describing V’landys as the “horse guy”.

“I think he’s been probably sitting in TAB too much, I encourage him to get out of the TAB and go and watch some Super Rugby, I’ll invite him to a game,” Jones said.

“If we can play some good rugby, people will want to watch us play. And if we win, then we’ll be in a better position in the media … all the rugby league journalists want to be part of it,

“We might even get, what’s his name, the horse guy to a media conference. V’landys.

“So the task is relatively simple, but the process is the difficult part. Everyone knows what we want to do, I’ve heard guys who I’ve coached, they tell me their sons don’t watch rugby anymore.

“That happens when you’re not connected with your fans, and part of that is the winning process and part of that is how we conduct ourselves.

“There’s a clear message; we’ve got to try to become a team of the rugby community, and that’s hard in the professional era where you need to have good training camps, and you can’t spend the amount of time in the public as you used to, but we’re going to have to find a way to do that.”

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