Moving forward from the 2017 World Cup

Mark Campbell Roar Pro

By , Mark Campbell is a Roar Pro

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    The 2017 Rugby League World Cup produced some remarkable moments that will live long in the minds of many fans.

    Who could forget the hymns of the Fijians, the passionate war cries of Tonga and Samoa? Also, some of the play was pure class. The Papuans showcased their skill and passion for the game while the Tongans reminded us all of why rugby league is so great.

    The final was worthy of the tournament. I was at the game, and I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. The game was an epic battle between two champions. In the end, some poor passes, some dropped ball and one miss tackle was all that separated the two teams.

    Although the result went Australia’s way, as most pundits and fans predicted the question that every fan, player and administrator should be asking is: where to from here?

    In 2018, there will be an international weekend. There will be no NRL or Super League on this weekend. Origin will be played on a Sunday night. At the end of the year, the Kiwis travel to England for a three-match series.

    This scheduling is heading in the right directions, but do you see the problem? Are there any matches at the end of the season for Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, Lebanon, Cook Islands and Papua New Guinea? Australia will play one Test. The sporadic nature of international rugby league is not good enough.

    Hopefully, the NRL takes the lead and organises more games for the so-called minnows.

    Otherwise, we will be arguing for the same thing in four years’ time.

    Tonga tall

    (NRLPhotos/Fional Goodall)

    Ideally, future World Cups will build on the success of this tournament. Television audiences were solid throughout the tournament, with Channel Seven regularly winning the timeslot. The BBC will broadcast the next tournament in Britain. This free-to-air coverage all bodes well for the international game.

    This coverage will open up the game to the broader public in Britain who do not have pay television and therefore have limited access to the sport of rugby league. Unfortunately for the game in Britain, it gets starved of publicity which hinders its development in the country.

    The next tournament will consist of 16 teams. I’m not sure how the teams will be selected. It would be nice if at least two American nations were included, considering that North America will host the 2025 World Cup. Including a team from the African continent with the rest comprised from the Asia-Pacific and Europe would give the tournament a real international feel.

    All in all, the process behind this World Cup has confirmed that rugby league is a growing sport internationally. Albeit slowly and despite opposition from individuals and organisations who wish to stop its progress and who also wish to see the game’s demise.

    One day it would be nice if the Rugby League World Cup was as big as rugby union’s. It might not happen in our lifetime, but with the National Rugby League’s help, the game should be aiming for it to happen – sooner rather than later.

    Overall, every step needs to be taken by the administrators to make the most of the positive of this World Cup. What is clear from this World Cup tournament is that the appetite for international rugby league is well and truly alive.