Souths Cameron Murray

All four NRL teams playing in the 2024 season-opening doubleheader in Las Vegas this Saturday night are busy putting the finishing touches to their preparations.

The Rabbitohs, Roosters, Sea Eagles and Broncos are now well and truly acclimatized after arriving in southern California last week. The players spent most of their time during the week at training camps, but over the weekend, they got some time off and could take in some sightseeing around Los Angeles and San Diego, go to an LA Lakers NBA game and even squeeze in a bit of shopping.

However, now it’s down to business as they focus on the start of the rugby league season and the much coveted two points from a win in Round 1.

Rugby League Planet managed to catch up with some of the South Sydney players in San Diego to get their take on the part they’ll be playing in making NRL history in the United States.

“We all know that we’re over here to do a job,” says lock Cameron Murray. “We’ve talked about the challenges that we’ve got to face over here. Enjoying the culture and everything over here as well, but making sure that when it’s time to work, we’ll flip the switch and do what we came over here to do because we want to make it a worthwhile trip and go home with the two points.”

Murray says he and his teammates are approaching Saturday’s opening fixture against Manly just as they would any Round 1 match in Australia.

“I guess there’s a little bit of distraction getting around and there’s a little bit more to see and do around here, but like I said, when it comes down to it, we’re here to do a job so it’s business as usual for us,” he says.

As for the NRL exploring new territory by setting out on a five-year plan to try to get a slice of the American sporting market, Murray agrees it’s a bold move but not necessarily a surprise.

“I think it’s something that Peter V’landys (ARLC chairman) is known for, but I think we’ll just have to wait and see,” he adds. “Everyone’s enjoying the experience.

“It’s not every day you sit on a plane and go halfway across the world to play a game that you only dreamed of playing as a kid domestically in Australia, and if you narrow that down even more, it’s mostly just New South Wales and Queensland. So, to be out here on the global stage and representing what we do best is pretty special for us, and we’ve got to make sure that we grab the opportunity with both hands.”

Fellow lock Jai Arrow echos Murray’s thoughts on how exciting it is to showcase rugby league in the US. And he says it hasn’t been too hard to get his head around the whole point of this trip stateside.

“Obviously, we’ve had a week here and have had time to lay low,” he says. “We went to a basketball game and saw Lebron James play, which was a pretty special moment for myself. We’ve had time to relax and mellow down, but we understand that we’re here for work, and the work starts this week.

“We’ve got to try and get ourselves mentally and physically prepared for Round 1 over here in Las Vegas. So, it hasn’t been too hard, it’s been a really good experience that we’re relishing together and enjoying that experience.”

On the question of whether the NRL’s plan to win over American sports fans will be successful, Arrow says he thinks it’s very possible.

“I think the one thing Americans will love about our game is the physicality of it,” he continues. “They have football over here, and in ways, it’s similar with the contact and things like that. It’s a game that has a lot of collisions, and I think the Americans will really like that.

“Obviously, the NRL says they’ve got a five-year plan, and hopefully, at the end of that five years, it can be brought over here, and a competition can be played here on a professional level, which would be pretty cool.”

Arrow also sees beating Manly and getting those two competition points as being paramount.

“It’s huge,” he says. “You know, the way we finished last year, we want to start fast, we want to start well, and that’s our main priority, getting the two points on Saturday night.”

The Rabbitohs-Sea Eagles game will be the early fixture, with the Broncos facing off against the Roosters in the late game. Both matches will be televised in the US on FOX Sports 1.

Brian is a strong and effective communicator with more than 30 years’ experience in broadcast and electronic media. He has been writing for Rugby League Planet since 2012 and is frequently the first reporter to break news stories about the sport. He has been our North American correspondent reporting on news in the US, Canada and Jamaica covering everything from league standings to strategy analysis to breaking news on key trades to editorials and colourful features on athletes. He is now writing about rugby league on a broader scale to cover developments around the globe. An accomplished storyteller, Brian started his career in Australian radio, before moving to the United States. He is an experienced podcast host and producer and is also a successful TV commentator having done play-by-play and analysis for ESPN, FOX Sports and the Rugby League European Federation (RLEF) among others. Brian has his own YouTube channel @brianlowe5567 where he posts his interviews for Rugby League Planet. Be sure to check it out and subscribe.