Stage set for RLWC 2017 to help brew growth

maximus182 Roar Guru

By maximus182, maximus182 is a Roar Guru

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    Make no mistake, the clandestine decisions of Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita to defect from their countries of origin to play for their countries of heritage is a landmark moment for international rugby league.

    Both players will forego significant sums of money to play for the minnow rugby league nation of Tonga. Their decisions have the ability to influence future players to make decisions about their representative careers not solely based on money.

    Many will scoff at the influence now, citing both players’ dissatisfactions with their national team set-ups as the reason for their defections, but their transition has awoken interest in a tournament that has traditionally only ever been perceived as a battle between Australia, New Zealand and England.

    At the 2008 World Cup – also played in Australia – Jarryd Hayne played for Fiji at a time when the game had not made significant inroads with the island nation. You could argue that Hayne’s representation during that tournament helped propel interest in the smaller nations and highlight the opportunities of growing the game throughout the Pacific.

    Over the last 15 or so years, the amount of Polynesian players in the game has increased dramatically. This has helped not only New Zealand in becoming stronger through players who often move to the country at young age, but has seen a sharp development in Pacific nations.

    While the battles between Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and Papua New Guinea during the NRL midseason seemed more of a gimmick when first introduced, their capacity to attract genuine interest from a broader variety of rugby league fan is beginning to take hold.

    It is likely that in a few years, these matches will find an equal place among State of Origin matches, filling in the gaps of stand-alone weekends. The opportunity to incorporate Northern Hemisphere teams in a full-scale midyear break in domestic competitions is something that could be explored.

    The inclusion of the Papua New Guinea Hunters in the Queensland Cup has helped boost the depth and overall strength of the nation and can only be seen to improve the country’s footprint.

    It is also with great optimism that the introduction of the Toronto Wolfpack into England – via the third tier of the Rugby Football League – that hope of a revival of the sport can take hold in that part of the world.

    The administration involved in making their existence possible should be applauded for their bold risk to accept a cross-continent possibility. If the Wolfpack and perhaps another team can be introduced to the Rugby Football League and attract a new wave of interest to the game both in North America and Europe, the international game is only going to benefit.

    Furthermore, the Rugby League International Federation has made one of the best long-term decisions in quite some time. In 2025, the Rugby League World Cup will be played in North America.

    This gives the entire sport something to work towards. If improvements can be made in the payments of players to all nations in the tournament, not just the big three of Australia, England and New Zealand, then the potential to grow the game is wide open.

    North America is perhaps rugby league’s most underutilised source of talent identification, player development and game exposure, given the size of the population and love of sport in both the USA and Canada.

    It will require a commitment from all forms of administration in the game, but with the RLIF now having full-time employees and the game beginning to make even the smallest footprint in the area, it gives hope of strong, long-term growth.

    Detractors can shoot it down all they like, but unless people make decisions like Fifita and Tamaulolo to do something out of the norm and against the tide of money, the game will continue to exist in its insular form.


    NRL Photos/Grant Trouville

    Would Semi Radradra have ever played for Australia if there was the same $20,000 on the table to play for Fiji?

    With so many NRL players turning out for some of the smaller nations at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, interest in the tournament will perhaps be at its highest ever.

    The 2013 tournament in the United Kingdom saw huge interest from the English fans in the matches of the smaller nations. Played at some of the old-style, packed-in grounds to full-houses – and on the back of Andrew Voss’ talented commentary – these matches were exciting and appealing to fans in Australia.

    With matches being played right across Australia, New Zealand and in Papua New Guinea, the 2017 tournament has the potential to garner more interest.

    To Andrew Fifita, Jason Tamaulolo, Jarryd Hayne, Mitch Moses, Josh Papalii, James Segeyaro, Paul Vaughan, Robbie Farah, James Tedesco and anyone else turning out for a minnow nation, thank you.

    For you are contributing to the long-term growth of rugby league.

    People might not see it on the surface, but these decisions are helping a wider development of the greatest game of all.

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    The Crowd Says (83)

    • October 7th 2017 @ 5:59am
      Go warriors said | October 7th 2017 @ 5:59am | ! Report

      Great article. Can’t wait for the world cup. People complain too much about the loose eligibility rules but at the end of the day it should make for an exciting competitive world cup.

      It will be interesting to see how RL looks like in Nth America by 2025. If there are 6 or so pro teams from the USA and Canada playing in the RFL you could expect them to field strong sides.

      The big 3 could turn into the big 7 NZ, Australia, England, Tonga, Samoa, USA and Canada.

      • Roar Guru

        October 7th 2017 @ 11:42pm
        maximus182 said | October 7th 2017 @ 11:42pm | ! Report

        Thanks Go Warriors,

        Love your thoughts on the big six. I know its so far away but I can’t help but think of the exciting possibilities it could bring.


      • October 8th 2017 @ 11:02am
        razamatazbaz01 said | October 8th 2017 @ 11:02am | ! Report

        Talk of a annual tournament between US, Canada, Jamaica, PNG, Tonga, Samoa and Fiji leading up to 2025 have been mentioned.

      • October 8th 2017 @ 5:00pm
        Fred said | October 8th 2017 @ 5:00pm | ! Report

        Don’t forget PNG and France – I reckon they’re two countries who can be very strong.
        Unfortunately for their chances at this World Cup, France has had terrible luck this year with injuries to many of their best players.

      • October 9th 2017 @ 8:40am
        Peter Phelps said | October 9th 2017 @ 8:40am | ! Report

        Looks like there might be another two American RL clubs in the English league before long. The owner of the Toronto Wolfpack is quoted as looking at Boston and Hamilton.

        • October 9th 2017 @ 10:13pm
          Fred said | October 9th 2017 @ 10:13pm | ! Report

          Had heard Hamilton – which would create a great rivalry with Toronto – but hadn’t heard Boston. Great news.

          I’ve also heard mention of a potential Montreal team – a French Canadian team would be interesting coming up against Catalans and Toulouse!

    • Roar Guru

      October 7th 2017 @ 6:20am
      Sleiman Azizi said | October 7th 2017 @ 6:20am | ! Report

      A lot of people assume that success in rugby league is the same as success for their team or club. They rarely seem to consider what is best for the code as a whole.

      What is happening around the world in terms of the internationalisation of the code is very encouraging.

      The Balkans Super League tournament features club teams from Serbia, Turkey, Bulgaira, Greece and Bosnia and Herzegovina competing in a kind of World Club Series.

      The RFL’s second division Championship now features teams from Canada, London and France making that division much more cosmopolitan than the Super League division.

      The PNG Hunters’ successful Grand Final winning season in the Queensland Cup and the continual push by Fiji to enter a team in the NSW Cup are further examples of the growing internationalisation of the code.

      • October 7th 2017 @ 8:15am
        Womblat said | October 7th 2017 @ 8:15am | ! Report

        Balkans League. I’d pay folding money to watch a game between two regions who have a soul-deep hatred going back thousands of years…

        And I bet the sport isn’t as sanitised and PC as it is here either. In fact, when it’s dead and buried and forgotten here, it’ll probably still be thriving over there.

        • Roar Guru

          October 7th 2017 @ 9:00pm
          Sleiman Azizi said | October 7th 2017 @ 9:00pm | ! Report

          It’s a really clever idea and I hope they do well with it.

          It spices up club football with an international flavour.

          Now, if only some NRL clubs could appreciate the potential value of competing with Super League clubs…

      • October 7th 2017 @ 10:28am
        KingCowboy said | October 7th 2017 @ 10:28am | ! Report

        Hey Sleiman, I get what you are saying mate but at the end of the day, I consider myself as a North Qlder first and foremost. I don’t really identify myself even as an Queenslander anymore because I could care less about people from Brisbane. In saying that, it should be a great World Cup and I hope Lolo kills it for Tonga!

      • Roar Guru

        October 7th 2017 @ 11:44pm
        maximus182 said | October 7th 2017 @ 11:44pm | ! Report

        Great insights there Sleiman Azizi,

        Have to say I’m surprised the NRL hasn’t fast-tracked a Fiji team into the NSW Cup, given the National Rugby Competition has just installed a Fijian team.

    • October 7th 2017 @ 7:04am
      Terry Tavita said | October 7th 2017 @ 7:04am | ! Report

      the rlwc in the US in 8 years will be an extremely hard sell..unless it rides the coattails of rugby union and it’s somewhat sizeable player/fan base there, it wont fill up a single stadium..those yanks can be very ignorant of sports deemed non-traditional there..

      • Roar Guru

        October 7th 2017 @ 11:46pm
        maximus182 said | October 7th 2017 @ 11:46pm | ! Report

        You present a fair and quite possibly realistic assessment there Terry, but with 8 years to plan for it. Surely that’s enough time to develop a strategic set of actions that can help fill stands for a month-long tournament.

        • October 8th 2017 @ 12:49pm
          Terry Tavita said | October 8th 2017 @ 12:49pm | ! Report

          8 years is not enough time to grow a sport that barely exists in such a huge country..

          • October 8th 2017 @ 4:47pm
            Fred said | October 8th 2017 @ 4:47pm | ! Report

            There is a thriving rugby league competition in the US already.

            I’ve been following the Jacksonville Axemen for years.

            And we’ve seen from the success of Toronto the appetite for the greatest game in Canada.

            The annual matches between Canada, the US and Jamaica are a great spectacle that draw thousands of fans.

            • October 8th 2017 @ 7:40pm
              terry tavita said | October 8th 2017 @ 7:40pm | ! Report

              if rugby league wants to have a successful world cup 202s they need to do more than just the little-known axemen and the woldpack..they need to think smartand think union is trying to break into the american mkt by appealing to the huge celtic and anglo-saxon communities in the US by sending the Irish and next year the Scots to play test matches in the US..nbc this week signed a long-term deal to air six nations matches on prime time league should look at a similar set up..

              • October 8th 2017 @ 9:16pm
                Fred said | October 8th 2017 @ 9:16pm | ! Report

                The Axemem are just one of many teams in the US national league.

                PS the 6 nations is one of the slowest, most boring things I’ve seen – why would Americans bother watching that?

    • October 7th 2017 @ 8:15am
      Justin Kearney said | October 7th 2017 @ 8:15am | ! Report

      Great article maximus. The tournament needed a shot in the arm publicity wise and these decisions by fifita and others were timely. Very much looking forward to some top quality football devoid of the hype of the nrl.

      • Roar Guru

        October 7th 2017 @ 11:47pm
        maximus182 said | October 7th 2017 @ 11:47pm | ! Report

        Cheers Justin,

        Mate couldn’t agree more. Earlier talk during the NRL season about possible strike action against the World Cup worried me. It was nuts anyway as the NRL doesn’t even control or profit form the tournament directly I believe.

    • October 7th 2017 @ 9:23am
      Birdy said | October 7th 2017 @ 9:23am | ! Report

      Good article Maximus.
      Also good to see ch7 getting the broadcast rights for the tournament.
      With ch10 being sold off and looking for premium content it all has to look good for RL.
      I also share your optimism for the PI nations being capable of holding tournaments with stand alone SOO weekends giving the NRL well deserved breaks with less disturbance to club footy.
      Friday night lang park
      PNG V Samoa
      Saturday night ANZ Sydney
      Tonga V Fiji
      NSW V Qld double header
      Sunday Perth (Melbourne Adelaide)
      NZ Maori V Indigenous all stars.

      • Roar Guru

        October 7th 2017 @ 11:50pm
        maximus182 said | October 7th 2017 @ 11:50pm | ! Report

        Love the enthusiasm Birdy,

        Including the Indigenous All Stars would be difficult given so many play in SOO, but great plan.

        Off topic – but I’ve always thought a cracking set of exhibition games would be NZ vs. QLD & ENG vs. NSW…

    • October 7th 2017 @ 9:26am
      Pickett said | October 7th 2017 @ 9:26am | ! Report

      Great article

      • Roar Guru

        October 7th 2017 @ 11:50pm
        maximus182 said | October 7th 2017 @ 11:50pm | ! Report

        Appreciate it Pickett.


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