Governing body believed to have signed back-rower up to deal that will see him promote Super League and sponsors
MIKE MCMEEKEN is the latest player to sign up to one of rugby league’s central ‘ambassadorial’ contracts.
The Castleford back-rower is believed to have put pen to paper on a deal with the Rugby Football League, which will see him paid about £25,000-a-year for promotional work for the competition and its sponsors.
McMeeken, who has broken into the England squad and is in line for a World Cup place, joins Leeds’ Kallum Watkins and St Helens’ Jonny Lomax in receiving the contract.
And after being born in Basingstoke and raised in Fleet, Hampshire, it represents a remarkable rise from an area where rugby league is virtually unknown.
The 23-year-old signed a new two-year deal at Castleford at the beginning of the month and the ambassadorial deal is thought to have come on the back of that.
McMeeken and Castleford head to France today for the next stage in their quest for the Super League title.
And sources have told SunSport the Tigers have indicated they may be willing to host a World Club Challenge or World Club Series game at Wheldon Road next year.
Previously, they have shied away from putting their hands up to host one of Australia’s top sides because of their aging stadium, which will be replaced in three years’ time.
But it is now believed they have said they would be happy to hold a game at their home ground, even though they would have to put up a bind of about £200,000 to cover travel costs.
If Daryl Powell’s men go on to win the title, they would face the NRL champions in the World Club Challenge.
But as talks over whether there will be one or two other games in the World Club Series, Cas have indicated they would want to host one of those.
Several Castleford players are likely to be in the running for a place in Wayne Bennett’s World Cup squad.
And downing the former England boss would be another mark on the road towards Australia in the Autumn.
But Steve McNamara can already see the similarities between his job in Perpignan and when he took charge of the national side.
When McNamara took over, there was a danger that international rugby league and England would become an afterthought to Super League and players.
But in his five years, he developed a ‘two team mentality’ and injected much more importance into the national team.
He was let go after winning a Test series against New Zealand in 2015, after previously being seconds from the 2013 World Cup Final and reaching the 2011 Four Nations Final.
And as he tries to keep Catalans up, he feels a similar job is needed.
McNamara said: “When I took over the England programme, it wasn’t about improving the team.
“The team had to improve its performances on the field but it was about the overall England programme, and what we were providing in our set up, from the youngest player at 16 to players who were retiring at 33 or 34.
“We quite clearly at the point I took over were not providing them with the best performance environment or the best facilities for them to perform to their best.
“So we tried to take the programme forward and take the players along with us – it will be the same here.”
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