This week the rugby league world was rocked by some seismic news when it was announced that neither the Australia nor New Zealand would be competing in this year’s World Cup.
Their decision has thrown the World Cup itself into question and has prompted many to worry about the international game moving forward.
It was undoubtedly a damaging decision and the question remains: what do we do now?
Plenty have suggested that we should move on with the World Cup as planned replacing the two reluctant sides with other nations like the USA. This would come with the added benefit of promoting expansion into new nations by giving them the platform of a World Cup appearance. Moreover, many have suggested that this would prompt Australians to play for other nations. This would enhance the chances of a team like Samoa winning the tournament. A good example would be James Tedesco. Arguably the best player in the world, he could wind up playing for Italy giving them a shot at World Cup glory when none existed before.
However, even this would have its own problems. By all accounts NRL clubs could push against such a move refusing to release their players for the tournament. Not only would this stop teams like Italy from poaching the wasted Australian stars, but it would be quite damaging to teams like Tonga who rely heavily on NRL talent already. Ultimately, if the NRL went with this power play they could deprive the tournament of the players it needs to function.
Thus, it seems like any potential solution would come with its own problems to the extent at which it could be argued that none of them are viable potentially leaving us with one option: postpone the tournament.
If the Kangaroos and Kiwis stick to their decision, we may have to postpone the tournament. Now this might not be the world-shattering event some believe it is. It could enable a safer tournament with little to no worries of cancellations due to the virus. It would also ensure the biggest stars still take centre stage and give the tournament the adequate size it needs to be taken seriously. Without Australia and New Zealand, the World Cup wouldn’t be the same and postponing it could be the only way to ensure they feature.
I understand the football World Cup will take place right after ours potentially taking the shine and focus away from our tournament. However, we could use the hype and excitement ahead of the football to our advantage. Moreover, if we conjure up a decent sized gap between our final and their opening game, then I feel the problem would be significantly ameliorated.
No matter what we do, it is making the best of a bad situation one that can only truly be resolved by Australia and New Zealand. If they fail to do what many believe they should then we must understand that postponement is a realistic and sensible option.