Maurice Lindsay has hailed the 2013 Rugby League World Cup as the best ever as fans prepare to take in the last match of a thrilling tournament.
Lindsay, who was architect of the 1995 World Cup, believes the current competition has helped to reduce stereotypes about rugby league and reposition the sport in the public’s mind.
Lindsay said: “A lot of people have seen that it’s no longer the Eddie Waring days for rugby league. It’s no longer just a northern game. It’s a truly international game with a lot of fabulous players playing the sport.
“The public has bought into it. It reminds me of 1995, but this one has been better all round. In 1995 the public bought into this freshness of players they’d never seen – they were just used to watching the likes of Leeds, Bradford and St Helens. This time the South Sea Islanders have been brilliant, but they’re not on their own – what about America? They’ve been breathtaking.”
“On a positive note, the tournament has been exciting, exhilarating and the public have bought into it in a big, big way. The attendances have been great and the TV figures have been great.
“The proof of the pudding is always in the eating, and Saturday’s final is a sell-out even though England are not in it. The country is turning out to see what they know are some of the best athletes in the world. It’s an enormous tribute to the sport.”
Now Lindsay believes rugby league in the UK must catapult itself forward using the momentum generated by the World Cup.
He said: “Somehow we’ve got to find a way of harnessing the success of the World Cup to produce more world-class athletes and more players like Sam Tomkins. They are out there; we just need to get them.
“Some of the clubs do a great job already – Wigan, Leeds and others have fabulous youth departments. There is money in the game, the television fees are larger than they’ve ever been and attendances have been good, so the World Cup should stimulate us.”