I’ve previously shared my thoughts on arrogance, and in my opinion, rugby league, a sport which could do with being anything but, is bloody full of it.
Take the Australians for example. They poach players from the Pacific Island countries for YEARS on end, then have the cheek to bemoan it when the same thing happens to them. Irony alert. Then there’s the fact no-one turned up to the World Cup games in Australia. And then there’s Origin. Players leave left, right and centre to put on the colours of New South Wales and Queensland, but if it’s for an international, then all hell breaks loose. The arrogance really does my sweed in and that’s exactly why I’ll celebrate just as hard as I did after Gareth O’Brien’s legendary drop-goal when an England or GB side finally takes that smug look off their face.
I guess for the average sports fan, that’s a firm introduction to rugby league, the sport that doesn’t, yes you heard me right, let it’s players go overseas for internationals—unless of course it’s in Australia.
While we all make our case that our game is the best in the world, it does a fine job of undermining us of that very statement. Frequently do I defend us, but to what goal? As every Tonga incredibly defeating New Zealand moment is shaded by the latest cocaine outburst, or reluctance to spread the game outside of it’s heartlands.
Rugby League has been presented with an incredible opportunity, arguably the biggest in history, to kick-start the game in North America—a continent of which neither rugby code shares a dominance. They have the World Cup in 2025 and we must build towards that. A chance to do just that has been suggested, with an England v Kiwis match in Denver on Origin weekend next year. But of course, due to it not been proposed at Campbelltown, it’s not exactly met with rapturous applause. Scandalous. But it firmly showcases the arrogance of Australia and the NRL competition, of which it considers itself the only relevant beneficiary.
NRL coaches have been famously reluctant to release their players to compete in international fixtures, and historically speaking we have been no better at times in Super League. But what really gets me abut this, and with the Kiwi side 95% NRL based, what is the big deal? There are no NRL games for this weekend in question so it’s not like they’ll be missing a competition fixture. They’ll be back for the next one, showing the reluctance is more outrageous than Fat Nige’s annual salary.
Rugby League can be so backwards at times. There is no wonder Maximus and the wax jacket Union boys are so far ahead as much as it annoys me to say it. We have the better product but we are run by a much of amateurs that I wouldn’t trust with a potato gun.
We can let players represent their countries, but only if it’s in Australia. We have a false pretence of wanting to be an international sport. Coaches use the travel excuse, but football players do exactly this. Willian, a afro-headed Chelsea player, recently travelled to Japan to play for Brazil and then lined up for his club side in England just a few days later. There’s no excuse. If we fail to follow suit then we are opening the door for those who are, i.e. rugby union. If we can’t open that door then what’s the point? Why did we just have a World Cup? If Australia won’t release it’s players to be selected for an international in the USA, then we are shooting ourselves in the foot.
This proposal is an NRL free weekend for gods sake. England this year, in May to be precise, travelled to Sydney for a match against Samoa, with many Super League clubs allowing their players to be a part of the squad, BUT with one major difference—they DID have a competition game that weekend.
Australia must play ball with the international game otherwise rugby league will NEVER globalise. Whether they will or not though is still up for debate.