Barely a week in to the New Year (New Year’s rugby league resolutions below, and the headlines were dominated by two stories that are so typically rugby league.
The tit-for-tat playing out in the media between Penrith and St Helens is a sideshow to the real issue.
And that is that the World Club Challenge is still not regarded as an important and permanent part of the sporting calendar.
Of course, it is understandable in the context of the global pandemic – but the fact that it appears to be a choice of either club is frustrating.
If rugby league can’t organise its only two professional leagues in the world to work together, then there’s little hope for it engaging many others across the globe.
Much like the World Cup, the trouble is increasingly becoming that the NRL does not need Super League or indeed the international game.
It is a thriving, top quality competition that can operate independently of the rest of the sport.
How the RFL, International Rugby League and the sport in general can persuade them otherwise remains to be seen.
Rugby league museum frustration
Whatever your thoughts on anything rugby league, the one thing you can’t deny is its heritage.
The actions of Kirklees Council in ripping up plans to house the new national museum at the George Hotel is a disgrace.
The fact we are now nine years on from when Mike Stephenson’s temporary exhibition was shut is another blight on the game.
The sport’s heritage should be celebrated and shouted from the roof tops at all occasions – not be anonymous and hidden away for the best part of a decade.
So Dieu merci to the French, who saved a frustrating first week of 2022 by confirming they will be hosting the 2025 World Cup.
A media briefing with the French Prime Minister on Tuesday promises to reveal more detail.
But it is a massive boost for the game – with two French sides in Super League and now a World Cup to look forward to, it could be the catalyst to a full-time professional competition across the Channel from 2026.
The detail will likely include more information on possible host cities, with debate around whether the final should take place in traditional rugby league heartland or head to Paris – which would still in itself provide some romanticism given PSG kicked off Super League back in 1996.
New Year’s rugby league resolutions
This first column of 2022 had me looking back at the equivalent from 2021.
In it was listed six hopes for rugby league in the New Year.
- A return to action and the return of fans
- A positive new TV deal
- Be proud of itself so others follow
- Play under the same laws worldwide
- A true World Cup legacy
- Embrace rugby league in France
Unfortunately, COVID put paid to the World Cup and the law situation remains a frustration.
While the new broadcast deal with Sky Sports was a significant cut, it was at least something, and news of a free-to-air deal with Channel 4, as well as Championship rights to Premier Sports, were positive.
The overwhelming top performing hope for 2021 was France.
Catalans reached a maiden Grand Final having scooped the league leaders’ shield, while Toulouse earned promotion to Super League.
France hosted a double-header test match with England, and its bid to host the World Cup was launched.
So, what about hopes for 2022?
Well, many of the hopes for 2021 can be rolled over.
Clearly a timely resolution to the proposed “re-alignment” of the RFL and Super League is vital, especially given the short nature of the new broadcast deal.
More long-term assurance over the make up of the professional game, and perhaps even a willingness to expand it further – ala Cornwall – now the reliance on central funding is much less.
Dealing with the diminishing player pool, in particular losing players to the game when they are cut from scholarships or academies.
What would you like to see from rugby league in 2022? Let us know in the comments below.