Manly’s $20m American dream
Manly have escalated plans for a historic team in New York despite a whopping start-up cost of $20 million.
Rugby League International Federation chief executive Nigel Wood was a special guest of Sea Eagles majority owner Scott Penn in the Brookvale Oval chairman's lounge last Saturday night.
Wood has agreed to help Penn contact the relevant and influential figures in America and England who are behind the push for a New York team.
While in its formative stages, the plan would be for New York to enter the English Super League competition.
Penn also stated he would work toward playing an NRL game in New York in the coming years with the help of Hollywood stars and rugby league tragics Russell Crowe (Souths co-owner) and Hugh Jackman (Manly fan).
"The US is a natural expansion opportunity, in terms of, at least, interest in the game," Penn said. "It is still a way away but the interest is certainly there and it's genuine.
"Definitely, everyone I speak to in the US, is interested in rugby league. The gladiatorial nature and similarities to NFL, they like the idea of it.
"It would cost a lot, a big number ($20 million). It's a start-up, but the interest is definitely there.
"We would be interested in having it as a feeder club for Manly, not necessarily owning the New York club outright but participate it in some way.
"As a feeder club, we could use our talent to potentially swap players and get experience.
"There's no reason why in the future we couldn't have some of our players, when they hit the back end of their contracts, head over there. I would love to have options.
"We would love to be involved in a game in the future over there. Whether it is having Hugh, being a long-time supporter of Manly, and Russell, being involved with Souths, a Manly-Souths game would be fun.
"It would be good to see if we can bring something like that together. It would be a great expansion opportunity for the NRL to get its teeth into the US. Whether that's feasible financially is another story."
Manly might not seek to be sole franchise owner, but rather be part of a consortium to share costs.
There would be a push for the club to be known as the New York Sea Eagles but there could be some resistance from two NFL franchises with similar names, the Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles.
Penn spends a considerable time of the year based in New York due to his business interests.
He watched Manly beat Canterbury at Lottoland last weekend but will head back to the US this weekend.
"We had Nigel Wood at the Canterbury game," Penn said. "He sat next to me in the chairman's lounge.
"We were speaking about it and he is going to connect me with those interested in New York. He has the connections.
"There have been other people looking at similar things and making approaches to Super League.
"We will certainly have dialogue with them at some stage. I know Todd (Greenberg) is interested in exploring playing a few games over there.
"I also wouldn't rule out the NRL having a sub-league in the US. That would be interesting."
Penn was delighted at Manly's success this season under returning coach Des Hasler.
"I couldn't be any more delighted with the resilience and attitude the entire squad is showing," he said.