Sorry, but the Rugby League World Cup doesn’t mean anything to me

Chris Matthews-Darby Roar Pro

By Chris Matthews-Darby, Chris Matthews-Darby is a Roar Pro

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149 Have your say

    The 15th instalment of the Rugby League World Cup is just three weeks away and while diehard league fans will be keen to see the best players in the world, this writer fails to see the hype.

    Don’t get me wrong. I watched with awe as Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith and the Melbourne Storm clinch their first grand final win since 2012, and admired the resilience North Queensland showed to make their second decider in two years – this time without two of their best players and finishing the regular season with five losses in six games.

    But the Rugby League World Cup isn’t as exciting to me.

    There are a lot of reasons for this but let’s start with the most obvious.

    Australia are inevitably going to win their 11th title. The aforementioned Storm trio will be hard to beat. Dally M Halfback of the Year Michael Morgan, State of Origin’s best player Dane Gagai, Cameron Munster, Valentine Holmes, Darius Boyd, and Will Chambers are just a few big names that feature in the squad.

    New Zealand, the 2008 champions, and 2013 finalists, look strong on paper. Jordan Rapana, Jason Nightingale, and Adam Blair all had strong seasons, plus Shaun Johnson is always likely to thrill. However the majority of the squad haven’t had as good a season as their Australian rivals.

    The Kiwis haven’t beat Australia in five internationals dating back to May 2015, and other than two close matches, they have gone down 26-6, 34-8, and 30-12 in this year’s Anzac Test.

    And if you think England will threaten the Kangaroos, think again. As a nation, they have not beaten the Aussies in 22 years.

    Moving on to my next point. Unless you’ve been living under a rugby league rock, you would know New Zealand’s Jason Taumalolo and Australia’s Andrew Fifita have both opted to play for Tonga. Despite both representing their respective nations and country of birth in the 2013 World Cup.

    Jason Taumalolo North Queensland Cowboys NRL Rugby League Grand Final 2017

    (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

    If the players don’t want to represent their own nation, why should the fans get behind their country?

    Playing for your country should be what every athlete in the world aspires to. Some are luckier than others. But it makes a World Cup seem less important if players are switching allegiances for whatever reason.

    I understand that this is not the first time this has occurred and there are plenty of examples. Even New Zealand-born Felise Kaufusi is representing Australia. While Tonga are made stronger with the additions of Taumalolo and Fifita the credibility of the tournament has to be questioned. Players shouldn’t be able to switch countries so frequently.

    There are however positives to this, players will be able to play at the World Cup for a nation which is in their family ancestry such as Lebanon duo Robbie Farah and Tim Mannah, and it makes the smaller nations more competitive, but that brings me to my next point.

    Despite what league fanatics and commentators like to think. rugby league is not the best sport in the world, sure that’s a subjective opinion, but it’s hard to advertise the tournament as ‘the best players in the world are playing at the World Cup’ when those same best players in the world play in the NRL for 26 weeks.

    Plaudits should be given to the attempt to grow the game, but even rugby league fans will admit, there’s nothing appealing about seeing the likes of Lebanon, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Italy, and the United States play rugby league.

    Six teams automatically qualified for the tournament. Six of the 14 nations. World Cups should be earned, not given. Sure the hosts and previous winners deserve their place, but the others should be made to fight for their spot no matter how good they are.

    The likes of Spain, Brazil, Argentina, and the like only have to go through a gruelling, long qualifying campaign to progress to the FIFA World Cup. Even 2014 winners Germany have to earn their spot.

    That makes what they’re playing for seem more desirable and worth fighting for. Watching Australia smash Lebanon, France, and England after automatically qualifying won’t make a World Cup victory seem a huge accomplishment, like winning a World Cup should.

    Qualifying for a World Cup shouldn’t be a luxury afforded to a nation. It should be earned. Watching Australia inevitably breeze through the campaign won’t give me the sense of pride winning a World Cup should.

    As mentioned before, the Rugby League International Federation should be applauded for growing the game. But until the World Cup means something, I think the Four Nations will suffice.

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    The Crowd Says (149)

    • October 6th 2017 @ 4:06am
      Farqueue said | October 6th 2017 @ 4:06am | ! Report

      Why are you writing about rugby league when you dislike it so much.
      It’s not the best sport in the world?
      To you maybe…To me it is.
      Please tell me which sport is better and I will blast it.
      Only a couple of years ago NZ were ranked no 1.
      Who predicted NZ to win in 2008…No one.
      Maybe you would like a more even competition like rugby union where Ireland are ranked in top 5 but have beaten NZ once in a 100 years and that happened not long ago.
      Yeah we all know soccer is the no 1 sport in the world but it is so boring to watch. That’s in my opinion of course and we all know about opinions…They are like arse holes ….Everyone’s got one.

      • October 6th 2017 @ 9:42am
        Peter Phelps said | October 6th 2017 @ 9:42am | ! Report

        I was about to write something similar. It is very sad that Chris doesn’t enjoy an elite international competition featuring the very best athletes in the sport, Gets to see the emergence of new nations vying on the world stage for the highest honours. He doesn’t see as I do, a real chance for England causing more than 1 upset in the world order or Tonga and PNG surprising everyone with their pure guts, bravery and effort overcoming what they perhaps lack in the finer rugby league skills.

        I am a RL purist in that I enjoy the sport because to me it is the best sport in the world. I gave up on soccor in my teens when I watched 6 hrs of World Cup Football and never saw a single goal scored. Biggest in the world yes but its like watching paint dry.

        Its very very sad that Chris doesn’t see any joy in it but if this is the case then can I suggest he gives up writing about Rugby League and leaves that to those that enjoy it.

      • October 6th 2017 @ 2:05pm
        Albo said | October 6th 2017 @ 2:05pm | ! Report

        The Rugby League World Cup might not mean anything to author Chris, but It sure means plenty to a lot of other people. Whilst I am not particularly phased who wins the tournament, and of course Australia must be near specials to do so again, but I am most excited about seeing the improvements made by other nations since the last World Cup. In many cases the national pride adds an extra dimension to the players performances no matter the nation. It really is a celebration of our game , more so than any high expectation of it being any wide open competition. So what ? Here are some of the reasons I will love this World Cup tournament :

        1. We get another month of footy this year featuring the games’ best talent.
        2. The NRL footy off season is therefore reduced by a month or so. Yay !
        3. We get to see some really competitive matches especially between many of the Pacific Island nations in particular, where culture and passion is always a highlight.
        4. We get to see the massive improvements in skill levels amongst these teams with so many players now competing at the NRL level of competition.
        5. There are sure to be an upset or two along the way . It could be a big year for one of the lesser fancied nations come semi finals time ?
        6. We will likely get a good old Aussie v Great Britain clash at some point of the finals time ?
        7. Fans get plenty of options to see matches live across many Australian & NZ cities, and Port Moresby PNQ ( which will likely be packed out).
        8. Plenty of TV coverage on Fox or FTA and beamed locally and overseas to further promote our favourite code.

      • October 6th 2017 @ 7:25pm
        terrence said | October 6th 2017 @ 7:25pm | ! Report

        And Chris, your non-importance in general, globally, means most people that most people don’t care about you.

        But your not the only one.

        PS. Chris, for a young lady who doesn’t care, gee, you know a lot about the 2017 Rugby League World Cup and its history.

        PPS: I hope you and your partner enjoy watching the great games together (especially now Tonga has gone all poachy on NZ players and Fat-fifa , can’t wait for the NZ/Tonga match, but add in NZ/Somoa and Somoa/Tonga. Put them in your diary, strap in, and enjoy the night with your partner and friends on the couch as all hell breaks loose on the field.

    • October 6th 2017 @ 4:56am
      Oto shark said | October 6th 2017 @ 4:56am | ! Report

      OK if you feel that way, but i can’t wait for Tonga vs Nz in Hamilton ,got a sober driver and a van ready , can’t wait.

    • October 6th 2017 @ 5:04am
      Go warriors said | October 6th 2017 @ 5:04am | ! Report

      Chris I take it you are not much of a RL fan. While the eligibility maybe an issue. It sets up for an enthralling tournament. What RL fan would not want to watch this Tongan team clash with Samoa and the Kiwis. These will be mouthwatering battles. Tonga with the team they have if they gel could beat anyone.

      The Kangaroos are not invinceable and can be beaten just like they have lost many tournaments in the last decade.

      • October 6th 2017 @ 5:41am
        Andre said | October 6th 2017 @ 5:41am | ! Report

        Not sure what the writer is trying to get at

    • October 6th 2017 @ 5:39am
      Andre said | October 6th 2017 @ 5:39am | ! Report

      Chris not quite sure your making sense. You are questioning why the likes of NZ and Aus are automatic teams as if they wouldn’t be there in the first place , you yourself highlighted the gulf in skill levels.

      Plus It’s quite insulting for you to cross out all other heritages for the sake of it . People with these backgrounds are more then excited to watch these games and can’t wait – the new eligibility rules allows them to play for their HOME COUNTRY also makes it more competitive – you expect Tedesco to just sit And watch because he missed the Aus team ? This is where the rl world game is at at the moment and it’s the best we can do so instead of tearing it down as it is growing how about you promote it !

    • October 6th 2017 @ 6:09am
      terry tavita said | October 6th 2017 @ 6:09am | ! Report

      sorry you feel that way but..go samoa!!!

    • October 6th 2017 @ 6:27am
      Mike from tari said | October 6th 2017 @ 6:27am | ! Report

      I guess you’ll just be watching cricket, soccer or basketball.

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