Like any Englishman, the moment that the Super League season came to its climax I was hushed into a quiet confidence that this might be our year. England may go and retrieve a trophy that not many Englishmen seem to be able to retrieve.
Cricket, football and rugby union, all sports that were made in England and perfected abroad. The mere thought of it sends shivers down the spine.
However, for rugby league, the international game is the least of our problems. England have a team capable of competing with the best, but that has come over a period of time where the team have had to switch identities to keep up. Gone are the day of packs that include Peacock, Morley and Farrell; instead we have a front line dominated by NRL ‘stars’.
The difference between the two top divisions in world rugby is separating by the season, and with the NRL’s new lucrative deal to help increase wage, the assumption is that the depth in quality can only be deepened.
The way this World Cup has gone, seems to say that, it will be only England giving Australia a challenge and even if the wall of white managed to do the unthinkable and lift the trophy Down Under, what impact will it have on the English game?
Australia, although world powerhouses and enjoyable to watch, become the centre of problems with the domestic game. There seems to be a complete lack of respect for the English game amongst Australian press that leads to this arrogance within the fans of the sport. You can almost guarantee that the big names of the NRL will not be making their way over to Leeds, Wigan and Wakefield. This almost gives the Australian’s a free reign to ‘buy out’ any player if value to the Super League.
By luck or clever organising for all but the first game, Australia have been allowed a ‘free ride’ to the final and it’s given the Australian press a lot of time to look around. Speculation even grew before Tonga’s semi-final against England that Ben Murdoch-Masila may be gaining interest from a few NRL clubs, despite just signing a contract with the Warrington Wolves starting next season. “Super league star” Garry Lo is also being looked at despite not yet playing his first Super League season with the Castleford Tigers. The Australian press involved failed to mention the latter points about both players in their articles.
The final example I would use is Jermaine McGillvary’s nomination for the golden boot. Although Jermaine is a fantastic player, a few great matches in an England shirt cannot hide the fact he was noticed this season in Super League, despite probably been one of the better players at his club.
The world recognition of this event can only be good for global audiences, merchandise sales and the possibility of expansion in the international game. The World Cup can become a fierce competition in years to come, but for club rugby league, it could mean that nothing but the NRL matters, and getting there is the goal of every player. There needs to be a solution, in line with the RLIF, to give upcoming countries a chance of expansion. The likes of the USA and Lebanon need to be financed domestically, if we ever wish to see a World Cup, of the standard of the FIFA World Cup.
It has to start Down Under, with the Australian game opening up its attractive brand to the rest of the world, in keeping with a strict international ruling on wage and structure.