New international league boss Scott Carter says he will seek an urgent meeting with NRL clubs to get the test match calendar back on the rails.
With the 2012 calendar still blank because Australia is reluctant to play much test football because of NRL club protests, Carter says sorting out the fixture list is his first priority.
Carter was elected last week as chairman of the Rugby League International Federation, the first Kiwi to hold the role.
His election caused ructions at the RLIF's annual meeting in Auckland, with the English delegation walking out after he beat their nominee, Richard Lewis, to the post.
"There was a lot of debate over whether the chairman should be from the hemisphere where the world cup is being held [in England, 2013] and it is fair to say there were differing views and ultimately, the English did leave the meeting at one stage, but we reconvened later on to continue the discussion," Carter told the Sunday Star-Times.
Carter said the meeting didn't have time to discuss the game's two key issues: international fixtures and player eligibility rules. Asked if that was because time was instead spent debating the chairmanship, he said: "Unfortunately, yes."
He says his immediate priority is attempting to establish a long-term, rolling, eight-year test calendar to avoid arguments with clubs over test matches. Carter said he wanted to talk to the NRL clubs: "It's something that doesn't appear to have been done in recent times, trying to find common ground where everyone understands the importance of the international game ... and a window that works for clubs as well as nations. I think getting [NRL club] input is really important."
Carter says there will be test football at the end of 2012, where no Four Nations is scheduled, and that's still likely to involve a tour by England. The issue is Australia have agreed with their clubs to make 2012 a "light" year and while they are contractually obliged to play one October test, don't want to play any more. A clean weekend for the May Anzac test also remains "up in the air".
But Carter is writing a plan for changing league's often-criticised eligibility rules which allow players to repeatedly nation hop. "I'm cautiously optimistic this board will actually tackle two of the most pressing issues and most vexing issues facing international rugby league – player eligibility and a cohesive international calendar," he said. "We want to get to grips with it, and dare I say it, the style I will bring of a modern governance model should help address both those issues."
- Sunday Star Times