Stand alone rep weekend great, but where’s our Ashes?
Australia's Luke Lewis, left, is tackled by England's Michael Shenton during their Four Nations Final rugby league match. AP Photo/Jon Super)
The stand alone representative matches this week and recently released international rugby league calendar of post-world cup fixtures have mostly satisfied fans, except for one minor detail.
Where’s our bloody Ashes series?
For a generation of rugby league fans whose age ends in ‘teen’, the constant bleating by their elder peers for a return of rugby league’s Ashes series between Australia and Great Britain/England/Northern Union xiii must seem a bit like the annoying elderly uncle who is forever harassing the local newspaper demanding the re-introduction of national service and Blue Heelers.
And no, buddy with the flat-brim cap and mustard coloured yoga pants, for the hundredth time I’m not talking about cricket.
Look just google it alright?
The arguments against the concept are equally as exhausting:
“The season’s too long!”
“What about the Kiwis?”
“Australia always wins!’
Yeah, look all valid points, but, in rebuttal…
Now I admit my rose coloured view of the series is mostly due to impeccable timing.
By sheer chance I was too young to remember any of the awful 80s series where English rugby league, like most of England admittedly, took a flying leap onto the slag heap.
But the 90, 92, 94 series I remember like I remember waiting outside Wollongong showground to get Neil Pinncinelli’s autograph
Players like Ellery Hanley, Gary Schofield, Martin Offiah (pre Lee Oudenry debacle) and the green, green grass of Wembley at 3am in the morning.
Great series with twists, turns, stunning skill all played before big appreciative crowds.
Even the tentative 2001 and 2003 tournaments after the disappointing 2000 World Cup had some pretty good moments and really close games.
Don’t get me wrong, the four nations and tri-nations before it are good competitions, and the Kiwis in particular deserve their spot at the big kids table.
But the Ashes have history, something rugby league is starting to do a better job of milking.
A series once every four years (preferably badged as the GB Lions rather than England as in the four nations) would help keep the concept fresh for fans.
Currently there is a four nations scheduled for 2014 and 2016 (both in the southern hemisphere strangely) so 2015 is just begging for a three game Ashes series.
Ultimately though I feel fans from down here and up there can hit the keyboards all they want but the hopes for an Ashes series lie firmly with the white and reds.
Sure the RFL would be keen to play the series, but unless England (or at a stretch Wales, Scotland or Ireland) win the World cup or the 2014 four nations and assure a competitive series, then I can only see the ARL again wimping out and deeming 2015 a ‘rest year’ as they did in 2012.
So come on England, pull your finger out this world cup, give your home fans something to cheer about…and us another crack at the Ashes.
Chris Chard is a sports humour writer commenting on the often absurd nature of professional sport. A rugby league fan boy with a good blend of youth and experience taking things one week at a time, Chris has written for The Roar since 2011. Tweet him @Vic_Arious