V’landys to dine at White House in mission to win over US
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ALRC chairman Peter V’landys has received special approval from US President Joe Biden to attend the White House as a guest of Anthony Albanese.
The function has been organised by President Biden’s office specifically for Albanese, who flew to the US on Sunday evening for an official visit.
It’s understood Albanese’s representatives put forward V’landys’ name on a guest list that required direct approval from the highest office in the land.
The event will take place on the lawns of the White House, giving V’landys the rare opportunity to take rugby league directly to some of the heaviest hitters in US politics and business.
However, it’s understood President Joe Biden may not be in attendance, due to the escalating crisis in Gaza.
V’landys and NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo are in the US currently for a series of meetings, in a trip approved by the ARL Commission.
They will fly to Washington for the dinner, before heading straight to Las Vegas, where it’s understood they’ll hold a series of meetings, including with broadcasters and other stakeholders, in the lead-up to an official launch next month of the 2024 NRL season kick-off double header in Las Vegas.
V’landys is no stranger to encounters with powerful figures.
In 2022, the Racing NSW chairman dined with the late Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle while he was in the United Kingdom to attend the races at Royal Ascot.
The White House opportunity comes as the NRL plans a four-day charm offensive with some of their biggest stars in Los Angeles and Las Vegas next month as they look to put rugby league on the radar of American sports fans.
Clubs have been notified by the NRL of plans to head to the west coast on November 6 and requested to make some of their major stars available as head office sharpens their focus on Sin City once the Pacific Championship has come to an end.
This masthead understands that they plan to spend a day in Los Angeles and two days in Las Vegas meeting American media, their hope to garner the support of local sports fans in the lead-up to next year’s season-opening double header at Allegiant Stadium.
While their arrival in Las Vegas doesn’t coincide with an NFL game – the Raiders play just days prior to their touch down – Australian country singer Keith Urban will be playing at Planet Hollywood as part of his Las Vegas residency at that time.
Urban has a long-standing relationship with rugby league – he grew up in Queensland, featured at the 2016 grand final and only a few years back played a concert wearing a Maroons jersey that was presented to him by then-coach Kevin Walters.
As a teenager, Urban also penned an ode to the Queensland team. It is unknown whether the NRL plan to sound out Urban about helping them promote their cause next month, but he would certainly add some star power and recognition to the event.
The NRL has already sold in excess of 13,000 tickets for the two games, however, the vast majority of those having been snapped up by Australian fans. The challenge now is to get American sports buffs to buy into their plans, hence their desire to head to America in early-November armed with some of the game’s biggest names.
It is understood the likes to Latrell Mitchell, Cameron Murray, Tom Trbojevic, Daly Cherry-Evans, James Tedesco and Reece Walsh are on the NRL’s wishlist.
A second trip to the west coast of America has been tentatively scheduled for the end of November with key football staff from the four clubs involved – Manly, South Sydney, the Sydney Roosters and the Brisbane Broncos.
Of those clubs, all but the Sydney Roosters have secured a home base for their sojourn in America in February. Souths will be based in San Diego, Brisbane will prepare out of Los Angeles and the Sea Eagles will spend their time in Las Vegas.
The Roosters are still finalising their plans but are likely to base themselves in Los Angeles before heading to Vegas. The NRL has outlined plans to highlight the best of Australia in the lead-up to the games, their hope that Souths co-owner Russell Crowe and Manly super-fan Hugh Jackman can help their cause.
There are also plans afoot to have Tim Tszyu fight on the Friday night as part of a sporting extravaganza. Urban could also be asked whether he would be interested in helping the cause -–he will resume his residency in early-March, meaning the NRL could ask him to be involved in promoting the concept.
‘Not a vacation:’ How Manly will deal with Vegas temptations
– Dean Ritchie
Manly chairman Scott Penn will caution Sea Eagles players about the bright lights and temptations of Las Vegas, declaring: “This is a business trip, it’s not a vacation.”
Penn added: “Everything in moderation.”
NRL players from Manly, South Sydney, Sydney Roosters and Brisbane will converge on America early next year amid club reminders of their behavioural responsibilities.
Manly is the only club to spend their entire week in Las Vegas, the remaining three clubs will essentially be based in Los Angeles.
Penn – who splits his time living between Sydney and Brooklyn, New York – isn’t harbouring concerns about player conduct but still wanted to drill home the need for his team to avoid any potential off-field issues.
Las Vegas is universally known as Sin City.
Penn wants his players to enjoy and digest the experience of travelling to such a famous American city but still warns: “The reality is that they are there on business – this is not a vacation
“They are there to play a competition game therefore they need to treat it that way – it’s a business trip, not a pleasure trip.
“The players are all adults and we have really clear standards as a club and everyone knows they are stewards and ambassadors of the club.
“They are role models of the game. We’re not needing to tuck them in at night but they know what is expected of them.
“We want them to enjoy the experience so we’re not saying: ‘Don’t enjoy yourself’. They will be in a place renowned for having a good time and we want the players to enjoy the experience – just not take it too far.
“It’s common sense. We are saying respect your position, respect your role with the club and everything in moderation.
“We constantly talk about the expectations at the club and I’m sure ‘Seibs’ (head coach Anthony Seibold) will be really clear on the standards he is setting as a coach.
“And that includes the fact they are role models in the community and people model their behaviour off their behaviour. They have standards they need to mirror.”
Manly will nut out team-specific activities in Vegas with their head of security, Mick Malligan.
The NRL’s historic US double-header will be played on March 2 next year at Allegiant Stadium with Manly playing Souths and Brisbane confronting the Sydney Roosters.
A Manly contingent, including Seibold and CEO Tony Mestrov, will travel to Las Vegas next month to nail down the team’s training facilities.
“They will come over in a couple of weeks so we will use that as an opportunity to pump it up a bit more,” Penn said.
“The games have the potential to be massive. It will be a real festival of Australia. The important thing is that the teams are playing for points – it’s not just an exhibition game.
“That’s really important so people absolutely know it’s a competition game, not an exhibition match.
“It’s not dissimilar to what the NFL are doing now by sending a fair number of teams to London on a regular basis and that’s a great idea.”
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