My mixed feelings about the Rugby League World Cup

Mark Campbell Roar Guru

By Mark Campbell, Mark Campbell is a Roar Guru

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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.

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    The Crowd Says (163)

    • November 11th 2017 @ 7:08am
      Andrew said | November 11th 2017 @ 7:08am | ! Report

      Its not a proper Sporting World Cup. The Australian public aren’t dumb.
      Even with the ticket handouts for tonights game there will be empty seats galore.
      The public want top class competition not countries thrown together to manufacture a tournament.
      Bring in actual players from the participating countries and you may get some credibility..
      Queue Buster..

      • November 11th 2017 @ 9:24am
        Justin Kearney said | November 11th 2017 @ 9:24am | ! Report

        I take it your last two words were meant to be ‘Cue Buster …’. Still awaiting your friend request.

      • November 11th 2017 @ 10:00am
        Concerned Observet said | November 11th 2017 @ 10:00am | ! Report

        Glad you’re here as a voice of the nation Andrew. I never knew I had a problem with players from Australia using the rules to qualify for other countries because they have a legitimate familial link to it until you made your 43rd comment about it.

        Furthermore, I always deeply suspected that like you said; Australians don’t want more rugby league unless it’s being played by people who are directly from the country. It’s why, like you, I’ve steadfastly protested this competition from the start, by watching every game and then commenting on how I think it’s a farce.

        Keep fighting the good fight. Just remember, an ellipsis is … not the double full stop you’ve used. Wouldn’t want anyone to criticise you for it.

        • November 11th 2017 @ 10:02am
          Justin Kearney said | November 11th 2017 @ 10:02am | ! Report

          Lols. Many many lols!

        • November 11th 2017 @ 10:13am
          nerval said | November 11th 2017 @ 10:13am | ! Report

          “I never knew I had a problem with players from Australia using the rules to qualify for other countries because they have a legitimate familial link to it until you made your 43rd comment about it.”

          A devastatingly pointed response Concerned Observet. Bravo! It’s not merely the audacity of the likes of Andrew deigning to speak on behalf of all Australians – by his logic they must be brighter than the people of PNG and NZ – but the sheer wearying relentlessness of his contributions.

          Has there been a single article on the World Cup on the Roar that hasn’t had Andrew – and a couple of his best mates – first in line to trash it?

          • November 11th 2017 @ 1:43pm
            Fiji said | November 11th 2017 @ 1:43pm | ! Report

            Judging by the way they’re written, I think most of Andrew’s best mates appear to be Andrew under an alternate name.

            • November 11th 2017 @ 1:47pm
              Justin Kearney said | November 11th 2017 @ 1:47pm | ! Report

              Andrew is his current name. He is also maestro and tonybbb. This week he has had 2 other names at least. He is all over twitter doing this as well. He actively harasses twitter users who make positive comments about the RLWC. And he stalks people on other social media.

              • Roar Guru

                November 11th 2017 @ 2:33pm
                BigJ said | November 11th 2017 @ 2:33pm | ! Report

                This Andrew bloke and his alias’ is pretty sad. If you don’t like the World Cup then don’t watch it. I think it a fantastic opportunity for the league to showcase its best talent and give others not in the NRL a chance to get exposed in Australia. Not only this the economic benefits speak for themselves. To add to this a semi final in Darwin. How often would the people in the territory get the chance to see a World Cup fixture in any sport, never. Considering that the Nt has no national level sporting team and probably never will it’s once in a blue moon opportunity to see and meet world class players. I’m going to a meet and great of the players playing on Tuesday for the players of next Friday night’s game, what a fantastic opportunity to meet the players. I’ll let you know how it goes

              • November 11th 2017 @ 4:18pm
                tonyBBB said | November 11th 2017 @ 4:18pm | ! Report

                lose some weight before you get there.

    • November 11th 2017 @ 7:21am
      Rugby365 said | November 11th 2017 @ 7:21am | ! Report

      It just seems like Australians don’t care for international game. Until it’s the pinnicle it will always been seen to many fans as a third rate comp behind origin and the NRL. Oh the administration for the game are shit house, but I guess you can’t expect much from a organisation where the only full time employee is the CEO

      • November 12th 2017 @ 4:28pm
        Chook said | November 12th 2017 @ 4:28pm | ! Report

        I would like to know what people see as a positive aspect of the RLWC. The only one that I can see is the promotional aspects. But as a spectacle I find it tedious. I have no desire to watch monstrous crickey score results. That’s why I have only watched a few games and no games featuring Australia who I would love to see get beat

        • Roar Guru

          November 12th 2017 @ 8:46pm
          Sleiman Azizi said | November 12th 2017 @ 8:46pm | ! Report

          Is that a serious question?

          • November 12th 2017 @ 8:50pm
            Chook said | November 12th 2017 @ 8:50pm | ! Report

            Since you feel the need to ask, don’t bother answering

            • Roar Guru

              November 12th 2017 @ 9:13pm
              Sleiman Azizi said | November 12th 2017 @ 9:13pm | ! Report

              It was a serious question.

              I don’t understand how anyone who is a fan of rugby league could ask that question in all seriousness.

              A positive aspect?

              Try commercial opportunities, administrative lessons, cultural exchanges, player and talent identification, playing styles assessment, broadening horizons, community engagement etc etc

              Sure, there are blowouts but what international tournament featuring a range of levels does not?

              • November 12th 2017 @ 9:23pm
                tonyBBB said | November 12th 2017 @ 9:23pm | ! Report

                Cultural exchanges between what? Paramatta, Auburn and Cairns? I mean, it’s not like many of the Italians and Americans fly back to their respective countries overseas after this tournament.

                The fact Darwin hosts the games shows how much the rest of the country cares about this mess.

                Playing styles? League is so one dimensional. Who cares.

                Stop being so delusional kebabface

              • November 12th 2017 @ 9:26pm
                Chook said | November 12th 2017 @ 9:26pm | ! Report

                Oh..thank you Sleiman for pointing out that the last 58 years have been a waste of my leisure time. I love it how this forum is strictly a platform for the games yes men and if anyone questions something they aren’t a fan.

                I have felt this of internationals since the 1980s.

              • Roar Guru

                November 12th 2017 @ 9:53pm
                Sleiman Azizi said | November 12th 2017 @ 9:53pm | ! Report

                Kebabface?

                Always interesting to watch the world move past people.

              • Roar Guru

                November 12th 2017 @ 10:01pm
                Sleiman Azizi said | November 12th 2017 @ 10:01pm | ! Report

                What did you question that made me a yes-man?

                The blowouts? They happen in the RFL and NRL too you know.

              • Roar Guru

                November 12th 2017 @ 10:16pm
                Sleiman Azizi said | November 12th 2017 @ 10:16pm | ! Report

                What did you question that made me a yes-man?

                The blowouts? Well, they happen in the RFL and NRL too.

                I did point out some of the positive aspects of a World Cup you know.

                It is so easy to hold league to some impossible standard and then complain or be disappointed when it doesn’t deliver.

                The group stages of a rugby league World Cup is always going to feature blowouts given the disparity in quality between the nations competing.

                So I honestly don’t understand the continual ‘negativity’ or sense of disappointment that permeates some comments.

                If looking at the cup as being half full makes me a yes man then so be it.

                I’ll cop that fair and square.

        • November 12th 2017 @ 10:18pm
          Chook said | November 12th 2017 @ 10:18pm | ! Report

          Rugby League is a spectator sport. Whatever else it is is not enhanced by this competition in my view. I have noticed that whoever broaches these topics gets jumped on by “Gurus”. Well if you have enjoyed the completion then I envy you your patience and self control.

          • Roar Guru

            November 12th 2017 @ 10:22pm
            Sleiman Azizi said | November 12th 2017 @ 10:22pm | ! Report

            It’s a Jedi thing Chook.

            I’d teach you but there’s enough Dark Side in the world as it is.

            • November 12th 2017 @ 10:30pm
              Chook said | November 12th 2017 @ 10:30pm | ! Report

              well mate don’t be so arrogant as to tell people whether they love something or not just because they don’t agree with you

              • Roar Guru

                November 12th 2017 @ 10:35pm
                Sleiman Azizi said | November 12th 2017 @ 10:35pm | ! Report

                I don’t like blowouts either Chook but there is an end game here for international league.

                But if you found my comment to be arrogant, apologies.. That wasn’t the spirit in how they were written. I’d rather they be seen as being ‘intensely surprised’ instead.

                May the Force be with you.

              • November 12th 2017 @ 10:38pm
                Maestro said | November 12th 2017 @ 10:38pm | ! Report

                Sutto did the work yesterday of bringing Tonga back into the game. Sham

              • Roar Guru

                November 13th 2017 @ 6:33am
                Sleiman Azizi said | November 13th 2017 @ 6:33am | ! Report

                You’re right.

                Sutton also scored Tonga’s tries and tackled for them too.

    • November 11th 2017 @ 8:32am
      Taurangaboy said | November 11th 2017 @ 8:32am | ! Report

      Time to merge Rugby and League. Imagine the great contests and players we’d see competing!!

      • November 11th 2017 @ 8:39am
        Mushi said | November 11th 2017 @ 8:39am | ! Report

        It would be sensational you know except for only one country really would have any incentive to do so…

      • Roar Guru

        November 11th 2017 @ 8:48am
        Edward Kelly said | November 11th 2017 @ 8:48am | ! Report

        But Union is so boring.

        • Roar Guru

          November 11th 2017 @ 9:07am
          Cadfael said | November 11th 2017 @ 9:07am | ! Report

          The same can be also said for league at times.

        • November 12th 2017 @ 3:00pm
          Pete said | November 12th 2017 @ 3:00pm | ! Report

          Oh but league can be so structured throw the ball around six plays and kick oh yes and the dodgy scrums

          • Roar Guru

            November 12th 2017 @ 9:14pm
            Sleiman Azizi said | November 12th 2017 @ 9:14pm | ! Report

            They’re not ‘scrums’ so I don’t know why people are so caught up on them.

          • November 13th 2017 @ 6:57pm
            Chook said | November 13th 2017 @ 6:57pm | ! Report

            They weren’t always. I think the game believed it should evolve due to the Farrugia incident

    • Roar Guru

      November 11th 2017 @ 9:16am
      Cadfael said | November 11th 2017 @ 9:16am | ! Report

      I have enjoyed watching some of the games particularly the PI games. What a shame next time they play they wwill probably be lining up to play SOO or mid season Aus v NZ. To me this has been great for the PI sides, International eligibility needs to be tightened and players must nominate to play for thir birth, heritage or residential status. This would allow players and their teams to develop as national entities. Will it happen? Of course not! SOO is king,

    • November 11th 2017 @ 9:20am
      scrum said | November 11th 2017 @ 9:20am | ! Report

      League is a far better TV game than live. The highly repetitious nature is not so obvious on TV but live because most sets go from 20 metre to 20 metre followed by a kick the complete view of the field makes the game very predictable. The average attendance for the NRL is around 15k whereas for AFL it is 35k. As a spectacle AFL is a much more enjoyable event live than on TV.

    • November 11th 2017 @ 9:20am
      sham said | November 11th 2017 @ 9:20am | ! Report

      Rugby League has a proud history particularly if you are genuinely supportive of the working class. On the other hand, it has always had a degree of provincialism in its heartland. When moves were first afoot to take rugby league to France it was opposed by many in Northern England — let’s just focus on our own little pocket. Luckily this provincial view was ignored and prior to WWII rugby league was stronger than union in France — I won’t retell what happened next suffice to say that league is still going in France and will hopefully get stronger.

      Unfortunately, many fans in Sydney and much of the Sydney media have a very what would best be described as narrow view. They just want to focus on the NRL and State of Origin. This position is a tad myopic and sad. As globalism accelerates the world gets smaller. Sure rugby league is not a massive sport internationally but it is a massive strategic advantage over AFL. To ignore that is just mad. As for rugby well its club competitions are not strong and its club competition in the UK is out-rated by the Super League so we should support the world club challenge not focus on the narrow interest of the NRL clubs. As for the NRL clubs the notion that they ‘pay’ the players is largely absurd — the vast bulk of the money comes from the NRL through the TV deals the clubs just pass that on.

      I am enjoying the World Cup but I also enjoy international rugby — the recent British and Irish Lions tour to NZ was outstanding but too many rugby internationals are so one-sided. There are few genuine contests. NZ almost never lose. In the past I would have watched the Wales, Australia match but Australia will almost certainly win. Without uncertainty sport loses its theatre.

      This RLWC has had its blow outs but with the way players are choosing to play with teams that align with their cultural heritage we are seeing more genuine contests. I am really looking forward to the NZ-Tonga match. As for the Wallabies around a third of the team were born oversees. It would be better for rugby if the Fijian backline that plays for Australia played for Fiji but that won’t happen.

      • November 11th 2017 @ 10:51am
        Rob9 said | November 11th 2017 @ 10:51am | ! Report

        How you can say there are few ‘genuine contests’ in international rugby and in the same breath praise this RLWC for theirs is beyond me. Wales seem to struggle against us but a look through the recent results will tell you they’re genuine contests with no more than a converted try splitting us on most occasions. We’ve just beaten the AB’s who were also lucky to get away with a 1 point win over the Boks in their recent Cape Town encounter. Talking of the Boks, we were unable to be separated over our 2 2017 Rugby Championship fixtures. This Spring tour we will also play Scotland who beat us on Australian soil in June and try telling those at Twickenham next weekend when number 2 in the world comes up against number 3 that they won’t be watching a ‘genuine contest’. I could go on but you should have started to get a sense of what an absurd comment that was.

        Also Super League out-rates the Premiership (not by much), yet it’s TV deal is smaller. And the Premierships average attendance is almost twice that of the Super League’s. So again, suggesting rugby’s club competitions are ‘small’ may have some merit but you’re not exactly talking about a juggernaut in comparison when referring to the Super League.

        • November 11th 2017 @ 11:32am
          sham said | November 11th 2017 @ 11:32am | ! Report

          There are too few genuine contests in both international league and rugby. I really enjoyed the British Lions tour to NZ as the result was uncertain. In a large proportion of rugby tests the result is not uncertain. Sure that is not always the case. With league I went to see the France, Lebanon game which was good to watch but I had zero interest in watching Australia smash France. I have enjoyed quite a few of the RLWC games but I don’t watch them if I think that they are likely to be blow outs.

          I actually want to see Wales do better against Australia in rugby and I am disappointing that France is not doing as well as it was. I want to see the All Blacks get beaten more often by the same token seeing the Kangaroos win all the time has no interest for me either.

          My point is that this RLWC has more genuine contests than previous ones that is all.

          • November 11th 2017 @ 1:19pm
            Rob9 said | November 11th 2017 @ 1:19pm | ! Report

            “My point is that this RLWC has more genuine contests than previous ones that is all.”

            I haven’t followed the RLWC long enough to make a call on that but I suspect you’re right- this does seem to be more competitive than my memory serves me from previous editions.

            But suggesting there are too few contests in international rugby or that landscapes across both international rugby codes is comparable isn’t an accurate reflection of the reality.

            As well as the results listed above, the 6 Nations is far from a fore drawn conclusion. England are going through a dominant period at the moment but all (bar Italy) can knock off another on their day. England’s huge winning streak was obviously bought to an end this year by Ireland in the 6 Nations while the Irish went down to Scotland and Wales at the same tournament.

            France is obviously not at their best at the moment but can still spring a suprise in typical French fashion and the home nations recent results against southern hemisphere competition suggests there’s not a lot between the two hemispheres at this point in time

            There’s always the argument that the AB’s are head and shoulders above the rest and that probably rings true, although England have proven themselves a worthy contender and that gap seems to be closing somewhat. But as mentioned, two of their Rugby Championship competitors have seriously pushed or beaten them this year, Ireland beat them last year and when they finally meet England next it will be a cracker.

            I think the argument of the Kangaroos and AB’s being equally dominant over their relevant codes holds some weight. The difference is, the chasing pack in rugby has far more depth than it does in rugby league- hence the AB’s being beaten more recently and by more opponents.

            • November 12th 2017 @ 2:16pm
              Christov said | November 12th 2017 @ 2:16pm | ! Report

              on SL crowds check the 2017 figures. makes sydney nrl attendance look great. RL is small time in the UK. i hope it keeps getting bigger and better but lets not kid ourselves, we are small time in the scheme of things, and that is ok

      • November 11th 2017 @ 1:26pm
        Peeeko said | November 11th 2017 @ 1:26pm | ! Report

        Sydney has one game between two foreign countries yet you want to blame Sydney

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