The World Club Series has come and gone and has left English fans wondering if it is worth bothering with next year and, at a superficial level, I can see where the naysayers are coming from.
On the surface, it’s not a good concept. We’ve tried a World Club Series for two years in a row and the English teams have lost every game. This year, media outlets are running out of ways to describe how bad the defeats were and it does raise the question, is it worth doing?
As much as it pains me to say it, I think as a sport, we need it. We need to see our teams test themselves against the best in the world because it gives us an idea of what level we are at. It just so happens that at the minute, we are severely lacking in almost every aspect.
If you look at just the 2016 series as a case study, it makes for bad reading. However, just look at all the lessons that are there to be learnt. With every defeat comes a chance to improve and this is no different.
Patience seems to be key to the Australian sides’ tactics and they don’t try and force a score on every possession, however watching our sides attack it seemed like they felt that if they didn’t score on that drive they wouldn’t have another chance to – safe to say that tactic didn’t work.
Another issue is, teams go into the games on the back of reports stating that they can’t match the Australian teams and must try something special. Surely then, we should be studying what the Australian teams do and implementing it into Super League? If it is good enough for Super League but not for the NRL then we are never going to compete.
I think the key here is that we cannot brush these results under the carpet and just ‘try again next year’, as a sport we need to acknowledge that to be the best we have to learn to beat the best, and figuring out where we went wrong in this series will go a long way to helping us understand that.
It will also do wonders for the international game, a lot of our players have had the benefit of NRL experience and now, England have the most successful Australian coach of all time in Wayne Bennett. He was a part of the World Club Series this year as Head Coach of Brisbane and he no doubt had both his club and country caps on.
This next comment may not win me many friends but I believe that Stevo made a lot of sense by saying that we need a ‘culture change’. I think the best thing that we can do in this situation is to change the way that we teach younger players. For too long we have seen one up rugby and focused on big players, it’s slowly creeping in now, but we need to focus on finding a new breed of more creative player that can generate something from nothing and really add excitement to our game.
NRL sides do seem to be taking the World Club Series more seriously than the one off World Club Challenges of old. However, besides a warm up game and bragging rights – what do they get from the experience? Super League gets to test itself against NRL competition and UK fans get to see the best teams from Australia play live, but I really struggle to see how it benefits Australian sides. If they suddenly realise that they don’t get much from it, will that be the end of the competition?
As it stands, the competition comes just after the start of the Super League season, which already brings with it it’s own issues; injuries to key players like Wigan’s Michael McIlorum being a prime example. I don’t think you could then ship off three teams from Super League to the other side of the world, play what is effectively a friendly and then send them home expecting them to be refreshed and back to their Super League season (a competition that matters more) the week after.
The defeat in this series isn’t going to go away any time soon. The English teams scored a collective 28 points whilst their Australian counterparts racked up 118. It may not be next year, it may not be the year after but I think if the teams learn from these experiences and don’t just treat it as a one off game, then we could eventually get on level terms.
The first, and possibly most important, lesson we can learn from our Australian cousins is that patience is indeed a virtue.
Follow Daniel Roberts on Twitter @DannyRoberts74