It only goes to show that international rugby league isn’t taken seriously in Oz, which is a shame considering that the game’s perceived lack of international competition is a major weakness in the eyes of Aussie sports fans. Many, of course, see tennis, union and soccer in a better light than league.
In fact an interesting post on an Aussie website when the Kangaroos’ first Gillette Tri-Nations game was reportedly stopped from going out live went along the lines of so what? This is a game played only in one country.
Besides the obvious question of how a sport played in only one country could host a Tri-Nations tournament in the first place, that kind of attitude is a dangerous one to leave unanswered. It’s a pity that NRL clubs can’t see the link between improving the international game and the benefits to themselves in terms of fans, revenue and playing talent.
Perhaps the problem lies in that Australian rugby league is in a fairly comfortable position. The Kangaroos are the best in the world, attendances at NRL games are quite respectable and the State of Origin series is arguably the biggest sporting event in the country. Maybe then I’m wrong, and things couldn’t get much better for the NRL clubs.
So there lies the problem in persuading the clubs to put international football first. And that’s a real shame, because it could leave the much-hyped 2008 World Cup out in the cold somewhat. It could be that the glorious Australian centenary season could turn out as the ultimate damp squib, unless attitudes change, quick.
In the short term, it’s a terrible inconvenience that the game is cancelled – seeing as the RFL dreamt up the whole ‘Millennium Magic’ thing to ensure a free weekend in the fixture list. Okay, maybe that’s harsh. The Cardiff-based event could turn out to be a huge success in its own right.
But the fact remains that we have gone to some lengths to improve on last season’s event – which was a partial success with improvements certainly possible – only to have those efforts count for nought.
It seems that the RFL will now orchestrate a game against either a World XIII made up of engage Super League players or France. To be quite honest I don’t relish the prospect of either. Of the two ideas the former is probably the best, although any World XIII will lack togetherness and appear contrived.
France will certainly prove no contest for Great Britain. Despite the much-trumpeted appearance of Les Catalans Dragons into our league, the French national side has shown precisely no improvement for it. Consider the beatings handed down by Tonga and Samoa in the Federation Shield – a sixty or seventy points thrashing would be the cards.
As a side-note, I didn’t want to judge the effect of the Catalan side on the French side after just one season – that’s hardly reasonable. But if pundits are going to tell us that the Dragons have improved the standard of France, I feel that those claims should be refuted.
Perhaps the best solution would be for Great Britain to play against Papua New Guinea instead. I can’t guarantee that they’d perform any better than the French, but unlike France they haven’t been given much of a chance. Considering that PNG is the only country in the world with rugby league as its national sport, that they haven’t been given more opportunity to play Test matches is a crime.
With the likes of Marcus Bai, Stanley Gene and Makali Aizure plying their trade at English clubs, this venture is surely worth a try. All those players are at Yorkshire clubs, so the game would by necessity have to be played somewhere in the White Rose County – Headingley may be a good option.
The success or otherwise of the game will depend on how competitive the game is to serve its purpose as a warm-up for Great Britain, and on the size of the attendance. Hopefully the RFL will come to the best decision to ensure that both criteria are fulfilled.
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