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Will rugby league ever become a global sport?

Benji Marshall. (AAP Image/Tony Phillips)
Roar Pro
15th October, 2013
374
5776 Reads

Countless erudite philosophers have for centuries attempted to predict the future on the basis of often rational theories and philosophies.

Few have done so successfully, as unexpected variables intervene and send history down an entirely different thoroughfare.

So will anyone take a stab at what rugby league is destined for over the course of this century?

Will it expand in Europe and Africa, competing with football or ‘the world game’ as it is commonly called? Will we ever see it at the Olympics?

Or will it simply remain a Tasman based power code, with Mother England chiming in politely to remind us that they were its founders?

The upcoming World Cup may give us an indication.

As it currently stands, football is rightfully dubbed the world game. Its universal appeal is unequivocal, enticing billions of people to their lounge rooms, while its largest competition is as hotly contested as can be.

We then have sports such as cricket, hockey, rugby union, basketball and basketball that all attract millions of viewers – firstly for the appeal of the sport in general, but then for the tightness of the competition in their respective international tournaments.

Should rugby league be striving to broaden its following to replicate these other sports? Or will it forever be content with its current standing?

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The modern NRL is brilliant, and one of the reasons that so many Australians cherish it is because by the midway stage of the season over half of the 16 teams are still genuine title contenders.

This is redolent of the football World Cup, in which punters are left scratching their heads at the knockout stage, given that nearly every remaining side posses the cattle to go all the way.

Let’s face it – the closer the competition, the higher the stakes of excitement.

Could we somehow translate this quality of struggle into the international scene?

We may see some truly spirited performances from teams like Italy and Tonga at this World Cup, due to the bulk of these sides coming from the NRL.

But one gets the feeling that if we were to make this game universal – in the proper sense of the word, meaning the World Cup isn’t an embellishment of a series that concerns three teams primarily with the others filling up the tournament programs – we would need to develop higher profile competitions abroad.

The African continent is an untapped resource and should be investigated. A number of nations within it contain sportsmen that excel in any physical activity.

Much like the case of Indigenous Australians, Maoris and Pacific islanders, rugby league can provide them with a fulfilling alternative to their often impoverished lives. It appears to be a win-win situation.

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Oh, and by the way – Australia by 13 over New Zealand at Old Trafford on November 30.