My mixed feelings about the Rugby League World Cup

Mark Campbell Roar Rookie

By , Mark Campbell is a Roar Rookie

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    So far the excitement generated from the Rugby League World Cup could be best described as mixed.

    Right now, we are in the mix of the final round robin stage of the tournament with some teams ready for the quarter-finals, while others have their bags packed to head for the airport after their next game.

    However, it hasn’t been the games themselves that I have mixed feelings about, it has been the buzz that the tournament has generated.

    Let me explain. The games in Papua New Guinea have been sensational. The atmosphere and the passion of the fans have made these games must-watch events. I consider the Papua New Guinea versus Ireland game to be the match of the tournament so far.

    Also, the games in New Zealand have also showcased what is so great about our sport. Tribalism and passion were at its best when the Tongans and Samoans faced each other with their traditional war cries.

    I still get the chills going down my spine, and the hair on my body stand with anticipation each time I watch the replay.

    I have also very much enjoyed listening to the Fijian hymn before their games. I just wish that bigger crowds were there to witness their passion. The lack of crowds in the Australian venues has been what I feel have been the letdown for this tournament.

    Only just over ten thousand people attended the Lebanon versus England game in Sydney. Yet, there are at least a couple of hundred thousand people of Lebanese ethnicity living in Sydney and who love their rugby league.

    Robbie Farah Lebanon Rugby League World Cup 2017

    (NRLPhotos / Gregg Porteous)

    What have the organisers done to promote the games? Why the small crowds? Is it publicity? Is it cost? Is it a lack of interest? Is it a combination of these issues?

    I question if it is interest, due to the fact that the television audiences have been rock solid. The high television ratings have been the case across many of the games, so apparently, people are interested in watching the tournament.

    In a previous post (the Cold War of Australian Sport) I highlighted many reasons why Sydney fans stay away from rugby league sporting events, but for this tournament especially the games in Sydney, I thought the crowds could reach close the 30k mark for both contests.

    Moreover, even the opening game in Melbourne was not a sell-out. Further to this, the crowds in Townsville have not been flash. Although, I thought the crowds for the games in Cairns were good, overall the vibe and atmosphere at the Australian venues have been disappointing.

    If anyone knows the reason why the crowds and atmosphere have been weak in Australia, I would surely like to know.

    Despite the sparse Australian crowds, I am still as happy as a surfer on a deserted beach with an epic set rolling in with the quality of rugby league on display. I do not doubt that the quarter-finals will throw up some exciting matches.

    I have a sneaky feeling that Papua New Guinea may put in a serious effort against England. Fiji and Tonga both look threatening, while Samoa, although beaten twice could still produce something substantial. New Zealand should always be aiming for the title, and Australia is no doubt seeking glory.

    In spite of my doubts and reservations, I think rugby league will come out the winner after the tournaments conclusion. I am confident the vibe around the tournament will improve and believe that the next few weeks will provide rugby league and sports fans with the great and memorable moments we desire.