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Scott Penn keen to build on American Eagles vision

Sea Eagles owner and chairman Scott Penn couldn't hide his sheer delight when Manly ran out onto Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday night.

For Penn had a strong vision of one day watching his beloved Sea Eagles play rugby league in America. The fact that Manly beat the South Sydney Rabbitohs at the same venue that only hosted the Super Bowl a fortnight earlier made it even more memorable.

Following the match that attracted over 40,000 fans, Penn spoke about his plans to further invest and grow the game internationally, including his desire to see the Sea Eagles return to America on a more regular basis.

Wayne Cousins: This has been a dream of yours Scott to have the Sea Eagles play in America for at least a decade or more. What did the match mean to you personally?

SP: I couldn’t be prouder that we were able to deliver the show that we wanted too. We have a phenomenal squad who all played for each other. We have got speed to burn and there is no substitute for speed. You combine that with the passion that they have, the culture that we have got at the Sea Eagles, the desire to win and what ‘Seibs’ has brought to the table in really just building that Manly mentality. We are going to have a good year.

Touchdown....Reuben Garrick produces his Gronk spike try celebration in Las Vegas
Touchdown....Reuben Garrick produces his Gronk spike try celebration in Las Vegas ©NRL Photos

WC: You’ve always said the people of America would love the passion of rugby league. Did you think those in the crowd witnessed that?

SP: Absolutely, I had 50 here at the game with me. My phone lit up with messages saying how much they enjoyed it, what an amazing atmosphere, just how fast the game was. They can’t believe they are playing without pads and helmets, and what a phenomenal sport it is.

WC: There is talk that you would love to see the Sea Eagles return more and more to America to promote the club and the game?

SP: Yes, absolutely. We are committed to this. It took a little bit of convincing in terms of internal stakeholders as it was a big commitment. I think everyone is on board. We can build on this. We are pushing to get an answer pretty quickly on whether we can be a long term team because we want to invest in it. We want to bring the boys over more regularly. We want to invest in an international fan base. We really want to build an American Eagles team.

WC: A case of striking while the iron is hot. You don’t want to waste this opportunity after what people saw on Saturday?

SP: We have to do it quickly. We can’t just rest on this. We need to make sure we put the foot down and take advantage of it. It’s about sitting down with Andrew (Abdo) and Peter (V’landys). I actually had breakfast with the President of the 49ers, Al Guido, (on game morning)..he is not only their president but he also owns a big sports marketing business. He is a phenomenal individual and he gets it. He knows what we need to do. I want to sit down with him and the NRL and really work out how we build for the future and how we really take this to the next level.

We didn’t have a lot of local sponsors for this event. We bought a lot from Australia and we had a great broadcast opportunity. We now need to see how we amplify that for the next time. The important thing to look at is how do we grow the fan base for our own clubs. We want to know whether we participate in this long term. We can make an investment in our member base. I’m on the ground here in the US so that makes it super convenient. We are here for the long term. This is really going to capture the imagination.

WC: Where is the best location then for this. Is it New York?

SP: We (the Penn family) obviously have a base in New York so that would be a logical starting point. But to be honest, it’s really getting into people’s homes, so we can create bases all around the country but first and foremost, we have got to get it on Fox, get regular broadcasts on Fox, and then we can look at where’s viewership is and target it.

WC: Finally, our Sea Eagles pre-game function held at Hard Rock Cafe on the Las Vegas strip was pretty well packed. And they say 'Manly fans don't travel?

SP: It’s a load of crap (laughs). I guess we promised them an experience and I think we delivered on it. I couldn’t be more thankful to everyone for trusting us. We knew what we were doing, we knew it was going to be a wonderful experience, and we knew we had the right team in place to tick off all the boxes. But it still required trust and I think everyone is going to go on a long flight home very happy.

Acknowledgement of Country

Manly Warringah Sea Eagles respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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