“Peter who?” — That was the cheeky response from Rugby Australia boss Hamish McLennan when he was prodded about NRL boss Peter V’landys and his remarks targeting the rival code.

The war being led by Rugby Australia has had the Australian Rugby League Commission chair’s hackles up of late amid escalating tensions between the two.

Although much of the talk has been about union bosses approaching league players, McLennan said he has fielded several calls from NRL stars.

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Aiding that effort is an $8.2 million surplus announced by Rugby Australia on Wednesday, marking a massive turnaround for the governing body after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Just two years ago, the organisation found itself $27.1 million in the hole and staring down the barrel of grim “amateur” future.

The uptick has some questioning how that money might be spent.

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CEO Andy Marinos said much of it will be invested in the sport, particularly grassroots and the women’s game – not necessarily on poaching NRL players.

“I wouldn’t overstate what happens with the money but there are a lot of league players that have reached out to us,” McLennan said.

“They like the idea of playing league and we’re the first to say league is a great game, but they want something different with rugby union.

“There are actually quite a few people that want to come back and we’ll just see in due course whether it’s right for them and for us.”

Sydney Roosters star Joseph Suaalii was the first to make the jump and Nelson Asofa-Solomona of Melbourne Storm fame came close to switching sides.

Penrith Panthers captain Nathan Cleary and Brisbane Broncos star Payne Haas have also been shoulder tapped. 

McLennan described the codes as being on an “even keel” off the back of their profit announcement.

He downplayed talks of a “raid” on the NRL, instead eyeing a handful of prodigious talents union had lost to league.

McLennan isn’t afraid to offend anyone, even its died-in-the-wool stalwarts who might take umbrage with trying to pillage the rival code.

Equally, he’s keen to set the Wallabies up for the future with an eye on the 2025 British & Irish Lions and then the 2027 World Cup – both taking place on Australian soil.

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“Some rugby diehards hate it,” he said.

“We just see that we have lost a lot of very good union players to league over the years and they’ve been poaching our talent pool.

“They squeal when we take one or two of them back. We’ve been very strategic. It’s a free market. It’s good for the players. As Eddie [Jones] said, there’s only five per cent of players that actually have the skills to do both. 

“You look at a guy like Suaalii, he’s a great amount of natural talent. We’re taking a long-term view with the Lions and Rugby World Cup. He loves sevens. We’ve got a highly differentiated offering. 

“Everyone is going a bit bananas about it but there will only be a handful of players we’d like to pull back. We may not be right for everyone but we do think there’s a real role for those players who have played union before who are playing league. 

“We’ll get a few of them back that we think can make a difference.”

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Rugby league boss Peter V’landys is prepared to take the NRL grand final to Melbourne this year, sending a warning to the NSW government to pay up for the event.

The NRL decider has been played in Sydney in all but one year since 1908 – when the 2021 grand final was moved to Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium due to COVID-19 restrictions.

V’landys threatened to move last year’s decider before ultimately keeping it in Sydney, but said the NSW government would have “to get the chequebook out” to keep the grand final again this year.

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The Australian Rugby League Commission chairman told The Age and Sydney Morning Herald that the prospect of the grand final being played at the MCG “could be an option for us”.

V’landys’ comments came after Visit Victoria CEO Brendan McClements suggested the state was keen to add to its list of showpiece sporting events.

McClements made it clear that Victoria is eyeing this year’s NRL grand final as well as key matches in the 2027 Rugby World Cup.

”Peter (V’landys) also said recently: ‘I haven’t got a deal for the NRL grand final.’ It’s a purely commercial decision. Our phone hasn’t rung,” he said at the SportNXT conference in Melbourne.

“I have got 35,000 more seats for Peter. In a purely commercial decision, that is $4-5 million waiting for him. So, I would like to talk to Peter at some stage about that.”

Victoria is no stranger to hosting key rugby league fixtures, having hosted multiple State of Origin clashes over the years, the most recent being the 2018 series opener which NSW won 22-12.

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