But multiple sources with knowledge of the delicate negotiations have told the Herald the concept could already be dead in the water.
Sources have said the public airing of the proposal before both parties had got anywhere close to signing a deal will put the match in jeopardy, with concerns about how NZR will now respond to a backlash from the rugby-mad nation, given it is highly protective of the All Blacks’ brand.
On the Australian side of the ledger, sources within League Central were not pleased to see the proposal made public given it was far from nailed down.
While senior NRL and ARLC figures have held discussions with Lonergan and NZR in the last two months, the Herald has learned clubs were blindsided by news of a potential clash being organised for December 5.
That will prove problematic as Kangaroos players would, under annual leave entitlements, then not return to preseason training until January 30.
Proposals for hybrid cross-code clashes from promoters are not new but have rarely got far, with difficulty in dreaming up a fair balance between the rules of the 13 and 15-man games, and with both codes wary of the damage that would be done by losing.
The reason New Zealand agreed to take a second look this time is due to the unprecedented financial stress of the COVID-19 pandemic.
NZR pulls the large majority of their revenue each year from All Blacks Tests, and though there will be as many as four Bledisloe Cup Tests and potentially a Rugby Championship, the Kiwis will suffer a multi-million dollar shortfall in 2020 due lucrative inbound July Tests being cancelled and with a European tour in November also certain to be scrubbed.
Sources with knowledge of the Kangaroos-All Blacks proposal say the forecasted turnover for the match would be above $15 million and a healthy profit could be taken after costs were subtracted.
“We must be very clear that our priority is for the All Blacks to play international rugby for the remainder of the year and we’ve talked about the uncertainty around that,” NZR boss Mark Robinson said.
“But we’ve had the option put to us of this hybrid game with the Kangaroos. It’s one of many different scenarios in a unique year like this that we are considering with being innovative and having a focus on trying to consider revenue-generating ideas at this time given the financial climate that we’re in.”
Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan told the Herald he was not concerned about the All Blacks taking on the “other” Australian team.
“I’m not going to lose sleep over it,” McLennan said. “If it happens it happens. We have bigger fish to fry.”
New Zealand Rugby League boss Greg Peters says if the Kangaroos are going to play any team at the end of the year, it should be the Kiwis – not the All Blacks.
Peters was in charge of SANZAAR back in 2013 when a Kangaroos and Wallabies hybrid game was floated, and just as he was sceptical back then, was not expecting the latest cross-code clash to proceed.
“If the Kangaroos play anybody, we want them to play the Kiwis, which has always been an annual event,” Peters told the Herald.
“Given the [COVID] challenges this season has already presented and the late finish to the NRL competition, we didn’t think any Tests against the Kangaroos would be possible.
“I’ve heard the [hybrid] concept pitched before and it’s never got up. It would take a lot of work to get off the ground.”
Sam is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.
Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.