League World Cup less hyped than Lebanese sausage

Matt Cleary Columnist

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    Maybe it’s because the games are on Channel Seven.

    Outside of the Melbourne Cup, the sum total of programs I’d watch in a year on Channel Seven is zero with a bullet – it’s full of gibbering, dead-eyed professional posers coiffed like pro preachers – it’s television that makes you ever more stupid the longer you look at it.

    Maybe it’s living in Sydney which is hosting just two Rugby League World Cup games because the events mob didn’t bid very hard for games because they had other things to spend money on, like… I don’t know. Things. That train to the race track, say, or some more roads.

    Maybe it’s cricket season and you wonder if Glenn Maxwell will bat six, or three, or eight, and why they continue to pick Glenn Maxwell. I like the man but he can’t bat three for Australia in Test cricket, there should be a law.

    Maybe it’s because I have to come up with a column about England and there’s only so many times you can crack gags about a dud Joe Root and how Stuie Broad looks like that evil kid Malfoy from Harry Potter.

    Maybe it’s the middle of the Spring Racing Carnival (oh, Johannes Vermeer, my babies gots to eat).

    Maybe the Australian Open golf’s on soon and I just got a start in the Pro-Am on the Wednesday and the Emirates Marquee on the Thursday, and not to brag, ha, much, but I have thought of little else since.

    And maybe a few other things. Insert your own here, the forum’s floor is yours.

    James Tedesco Italy Rugby League World Cup 2017

    (NRL Photos / Scott Davis)

    Whatever it is, from this fat faux-leather couch on these our Lord Mr Lillee’s northern beaches, so muted is the ‘feel’ of this rugby league World Cup that it’s like… casual league watchers could fair dinkum be forgiven for wondering if the blessed thing is even on.

    I know it’s on. I’ve watched the odd game.

    But you know what I mean. Do you know what I mean? Genuine question.

    I’ve been consuming my usual diet of sport on Fox Sports News, the ABC and SBS. Little bit of Nine.

    And… I dunno. Maybe it’s just me. But it’s been a dry old argument, hasn’t it? It’s mute. And moot. Maybe not moot. I don’t think that word fits in here.

    But the World Cup’s just… it’s not getting a whole lotta press, is it?

    Not to say the footy hasn’t been pretty good.

    The Poms were pretty good against Australia, and with a bit of luck might’ve snuck off with it.

    They’ve got some players, the Poms. That winger Mcgillvary? Like him. Good that Sammy Burgess will be back. Really like Widdop, Graham. Quite like the Poms.

    Billy Slater makes a break

    (AAP Image/David Crosling)

    The French, too, in relative terms, were pretty good against Australia despite it seeming they gave away 20 kilograms and a head per man. And it might sound counter-intuitive but 52-6 wasn’t as bad a blow-out as feared.

    Lebanon versus England was good, there’s plenty of feeling among the men under that Cedars crest, they look like they’re playing for each other. Liking Lebanon.

    Papua New Guinea versus Ireland in Port Moresby was cracking sports theatre. The Fijians singing in the sheds and pre-game, the harmonies of these giant men named after body-guards, beautiful stuff.

    And Tonga-Samoa, the respective cultural challenges, followed by all the boys forming a circle and taking a knee. Top stuff.

    But… I dunno. It’s all a bit… mute, isn’t it? It’s like the promotions people or PR types aren’t getting messages out. Like the players aren’t being put forward or chased for comment.

    Maybe rival media – Nine, Ten, dear sweet SBS – don’t want to give any leg-up to a competitive rival.

    Maybe Fox is miffed Channel Seven aren’t sharing like they always seem to with Nine in league.

    I fair dinkum sat on the couch watching Fox Sports News all Thursday night, and the only ‘World Cup’ news was Cooper Cronk wishing the Socceroos well in the qualifier against Honduras.

    There’s one Fox footy panel show. In footy season it’s like there’s 30.

    Matt Moylan’s move to the Sharks got a bit. That annual exercise in voyeurism, All Blacks versus Kangaroos in a hybrid game, got another minute or so. (If that ever happens I’ll walk to Cronulla.)

    But the World Cup… nothin’.

    I’m no David Gyngell or Kerry Stokes or ghost of the great Goanna, but surely if you want to get people watching the thing – and for a television station you’d assume that’s their prime indeed only reason for existence – shouldn’t it be on all the time? Or at least a lot?

    Cooper Cronk

    (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

    The Big Bash League in the summer, that sucker’s on every night. That’s the beauty of it. Come prime time in summer you pop the top off a tinnie and sit back and get entertained.

    Channel Nine makes you think summer is cricket. Those people are experts at drumming up interest.

    But the Rugby League World Cup is on intermittently on Seven’s digital channel 7Mate which is 188 on the Fox machine, and I struggled to find it. And when I did I turned it on Thursday night at 8:30 and there was Tommy Lee Jones in Captain America.

    Content is king, they say, and Channel Seven’s league content in prime time Thursday night was Captain America.

    Then in the ads there was a ‘Seven Sports Update’ – feasting on the nation’s love of the punt – which mentioned Pinot winning the Oaks, an oft-concussed St Kilda player riding a mountain bike, and Timmy Cahill jogging lightly on his ankle in Honduras.

    Rugby League World Cup? Not a Lebanese sausage.

    Anyway. I dunno. Maybe it’ll get sexy soon. Maybe England versus New Zealand, Tonga versus New Zealand, Lebanon versus Australia will pump the nads and have the media – and through them we the nation – excited.

    But it’s all a bit… what’s that word the kids were using on the Twitter for a bit?

    So far it’s all a bit myeah. Or meh. One of them.

    Matt Cleary
    Matt Cleary

    Matt Cleary is a sports writer from Sydney. He enjoys golf, footy and Four Pines Pale Ale, and spends as much time as conscience allows at Long Reef GC. Tweet him @journomatcleary, or read him at his website.