Rebrand the Rugby League World Cup – and ditch the Kangaroos

Ryan O'Connell Columnist

By Ryan O'Connell, Ryan O'Connell is a Roar Expert


106 Have your say

    In light of the reports that a hybrid game of rugby league and rugby union might be in the works again – this time between the Australian Kangaroos and the New Zealand All Blacks – I’d like to remind those behind the push for that game that they don’t have a mortgage on bad ideas.

    Anyone can have silly thoughts. Regular readers will surely support the notion that that I’m no exception – who could forget when I picked Souths to win the competition this year?

    Well, I’m not done yet, because my next crazy thought involves totally changing the way the Rugby League World Cup is run.

    Let me start by saying that this year’s edition has been very good. There’s been some great football, and also plenty of tension and stories.

    It’s hard to go past Tonga upsetting New Zealand as the pinnacle moment thus far, what with the narrative of Jason Taumalolo’s defection, the teams coming face-to-face (literally) during the Haka, and then some fantastic play in the actual game.

    Tonga Rugby League World Cup 2017

    Yet as thrilling as the football has been, I’d still be surprised if Australia doesn’t win the tournament easily, which will put a slight dampener on proceedings.

    The other issue is the constant criticism that it’s not a ‘proper’ World Cup, because the players aren’t really from the countries they’re playing for. My first reaction to hearing such opinions is usually: who cares? As long as the footy is good, does it matter?

    However, I do have something of a remedy for both of those supposed issues, and it involves rebranding the Rugby League World Cup to the ‘Rugby League Heritage Games’, and ditching the Kangaroos, to be replaced with an Indigenous team, made up of Aboriginal Australians and Torres Straight Islanders.

    The NRL All Star game has struggled for a place in the rugby league calendar, yet those who have represented the Indigenous All Stars have stated how important it is to them, and the pride they have in pulling on that jersey. It would be wise to listen to those comments, and place even greater importance on that representative team. Like, for example, having that team compete in a tournament, not a meaningless exhibition match.

    The Indigenous team would therefore represent the ‘heritage’ of Australia in the new format. Other players who would traditionally play for the Kangaroos would, in turn, play for a country with which they have heritage. It’s not too unlike what happens now, when players who don’t make the Kangaroos turn out for other nations.

    The difference would be, this new tournament would be upfront about what’s happening, and own it, with top NRL players being dispersed across the various teams. If necessary, each team would have a cap on how many NRL players they could select.

    The Heritage Games would prevent comparisons to the rugby union and football World Cups, not just because of the name change, but also by virtue of the tournament purposely being different in nature and construct. Its aim would still be to continue to grow the game, but there would be greater parity, along with complete transparency on the eligibility rules and the reasons for them.

    The obvious downside is that the Kangaroos should be the pinnacle for an Australian rugby league player, and we’d be robbing them of opportunities to earn that accolade. However, this tournament is only every four years. Tests against England and New Zealand should remain each year, along with the return of consistent Great Britain tours.

    The new tournament would be less of a World Cup, and more of an All Stars competition – but with a lot more meaning than your standard exhibition matches. It would be high quality, along with being differentiated from other sport’s representative tournaments.

    Bad idea?

    On the contrary, I’m actually starting to talk myself into it.

    Ryan O
    Ryan O'Connell

    Ryan is an ex-representative basketballer who shot too much, and a (very) medium pace bowler. He's been with The Roar as an expert since February 2011, has written for the Seven Network, and been a regular on ABC radio. Ryan tweets from @RyanOak.

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    The Crowd Says (106)

    • November 14th 2017 @ 6:08am
      lesterlike said | November 14th 2017 @ 6:08am | ! Report

      This idea would be even more of a farce than the existing tournament and frankly i think much of the existing criticism is coming from self important Australians that only think about their NRL club and Origin and couldn’t give a damn about fans of the game outside of that bubble.

      International Rugby League has been a proud part of the game for decades and the World Cup is important for forcing the giants to actually play the smaller regions of the Rugby League world like France and PNG.

    • November 14th 2017 @ 6:31am
      Ad-0 said | November 14th 2017 @ 6:31am | ! Report

      You’re talking about a sport which has a professional league in only 2 countries. So while I think your suggestion may be a solution for Australian fans, I don’t think it’s gonna fly with the English. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if they see it as more Australian hubris.

      • November 14th 2017 @ 1:08pm
        BleakCity said | November 14th 2017 @ 1:08pm | ! Report

        I assume by 2 you’re referring to Aust & England? I realise you’re making a generalisation but NZ & France obviously have professional teams – there are probably more. Didn’t the coal train sign to play in north America?

        • November 14th 2017 @ 4:45pm
          Fred said | November 14th 2017 @ 4:45pm | ! Report

          Yes Coal Train signed for Toronto, a professional team, with New York, Hamilton, Montreal and Boston to follow in North America.

          And yes Toulouse, Catalans and the Warriors are obviously professional teams, with two semi-pro teams in Wales, and numerous semi-pro teams in France’s domestic comp. You can also add the PNG Hunters to the list.

          • November 15th 2017 @ 12:10am
            Honest Max said | November 15th 2017 @ 12:10am | ! Report

            Wowsers. League is like, super global. It’s not the joke I thought it was.

            • Columnist

              November 15th 2017 @ 6:48am
              Ryan O'Connell said | November 15th 2017 @ 6:48am | ! Report

              Please, if you’re going to be sarcastic, the rule is you have to state your preferred sport, so the sarcasm can be returned.

              Those are the rules. I don’t make them, but I do follow them.

              Come on, what is it? If you’re an AFL fan, surely you can’t be claiming League is a joke because it’s not “global”? Please don’t tell me you’re a Union fan in Australia, and calling League a joke?

              C’mon. Live up to your name ‘honest’ Max!

            • November 15th 2017 @ 12:29pm
              Stu said | November 15th 2017 @ 12:29pm | ! Report

              Certainly not super global like Rugby where Germany is ranked #25 in the world and the powerhouse that is Uruguay is #19.

              Raise your hands if you’ve watched Germany play rugby?

              As per Ryan’s rule – I’m a league fan

              • November 15th 2017 @ 12:57pm
                potatojuice said | November 15th 2017 @ 12:57pm | ! Report

                Raise your hands if you’ve watched Germany play rugby?

                Absolutely brilliant response showing the little brain power you have. Poor Stu hasn’t left his comfortable blue collar suburbs of Sydney.

                Over 110 Rugby Union clubs and 12 000 domestic players in Germany. Munich just recently hosted a very successful Oktobefest Sevens.

                Their national team attracts crowds just under 10 000 for their World Cup qualifiers. Majority of the players are born and bred Germans and play their domestic Rugby in Germany.

              • November 15th 2017 @ 1:49pm
                mushi said | November 15th 2017 @ 1:49pm | ! Report

                Nice burn PJ… jsut a couple of minor points.

                First – Nothing you’ve posted suggests an abundance of visitors to the roar are going to be raising their hands in response to Stu if the national team is getting under 10k from an 80m+ population in the Est time zone.

                Now I haven’t done the research but I’m going to assume the old ven diagram has little crossover with roar commentators and the under 10k people that attended the last German national game… which was Stu’s point.

                Two – wow 12 thousand people play. So round it to a basis point of the population. Roughly in line the rampant takeover of American football in Australia but doubling the mighty power house of European Handball down under.

                Three – Stu was responding to a sarcastic quip following discussion of professional teams. You make no reference to professional teams in Germany, from what I can see there is one and in reality it’s semi-pro.

                So perhaps before sledging people’s brain power present something at least marginally defensible. Because this effort was England sledging early at the last cricket world cup.

    • November 14th 2017 @ 6:31am
      Gurudoright said | November 14th 2017 @ 6:31am | ! Report

      I’m not sure whether this article is a wind up or not but it is going to be interesting to see how many of the people who blow up about the proposal in the article, think that there is nothing wrong with the current system and the way ancestry works at this WC. I’ve got the popcorn ready.

    • November 14th 2017 @ 6:50am
      Justin Kearney said | November 14th 2017 @ 6:50am | ! Report

      The heritage world cup? An idea nearly as silly as the all blacks playing the kangaroos. February can’t come around soon enough.

    • November 14th 2017 @ 7:02am
      Oto shark said | November 14th 2017 @ 7:02am | ! Report

      I personally enjoy the skill shown by the Aussie team, and also the fact Tonga beat Nz in a world cup meant that much more for their fans than just another game or another tournament. A pacific nations tournament would be good, with Torres and indigenous teams, then have a European comp. Then have the top 4 from each play a tournament, but you still got to have a world cup. Even for lesser teams it means a lot to represent your country in a world cup. Don’t know if there is room on the calender for most NRL players though.

    • November 14th 2017 @ 7:13am
      Andrew said | November 14th 2017 @ 7:13am | ! Report

      My great great great grandparents came to Australia with the third fleet 200 years ago. Who do I play for?

      • November 14th 2017 @ 7:18am
        Gurudoright said | November 14th 2017 @ 7:18am | ! Report

        Wow!!!!! You only ever had one descendant come from oversea. I think that puts you into the indigenous team

        • November 14th 2017 @ 9:28am
          clipper said | November 14th 2017 @ 9:28am | ! Report

          He did use the plural and I assume they came from more than one sea away.
          My solution, which would be as valid as whatever scheme they use now, is to allow a person to chose a country based on their favourite tipple or food. Anyone partial to Guinness could play for Ireland, Pasta lovers could go with Italy, Deep fried Mars bar fanciers would fit in to Scotland, etc etc.

          • Roar Rookie

            November 14th 2017 @ 7:17pm
            William Dalton Davis said | November 14th 2017 @ 7:17pm | ! Report

            What about those of us with multiple partialities? I for one enjoy the American double bacon cheeseburger, however simply can’t go past the German Schniti.

            • November 15th 2017 @ 1:13pm
              clipper said | November 15th 2017 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

              That’s a good point, and one that’s easily solved. One cup you could play for American, the next Germany – sorta like they do now!

      • November 14th 2017 @ 7:46am
        Cathar Treize said | November 14th 2017 @ 7:46am | ! Report

        Manu’s Island hopefully

      • November 14th 2017 @ 8:50am
        Fred said | November 14th 2017 @ 8:50am | ! Report

        Were your great great grandparents sentenced to transportation for being serial pests?

      • November 14th 2017 @ 9:14am
        Jeff Morris said | November 14th 2017 @ 9:14am | ! Report

        England. English players could perhaps play for Italy, Denmark or France depending on whether their ancestors crossed over during the Roman, Viking, or Norman period, which would make room for all the English heritage players now making up their national team.

      • Roar Guru

        November 14th 2017 @ 9:37am
        Sleiman Azizi said | November 14th 2017 @ 9:37am | ! Report

        International eligibility rules – for all sports – limit eligibility to your grandparents, your citizenship or residency.

        Thanks for playing.

        • November 14th 2017 @ 9:41am
          Jeff Morris said | November 14th 2017 @ 9:41am | ! Report

          I’m sure there are sports where its not based on grandparents (would have to check that). Is there something special about grandparents? While my comment was a bit of a joke, I like the idea of where one primarily spent their formative years learning the game rather then citizenship and certainly rather than heritage toward a country someone may have no personal connections to. JMO.

          • Roar Guru

            November 14th 2017 @ 9:13pm
            Sleiman Azizi said | November 14th 2017 @ 9:13pm | ! Report

            Fair enough but then you’d be going against the entire world when it came to international eligibility.

            There really is nothing wrong at all with rugby league’s eligibility rules. They limit eligibility to a grandparent, citizenship or residency, just like all other sports.

            The only difference is how often one can switch but philosophically, if you are eligible, there is no reason other than logistical and administrative ones, why a player shouldn’t be allowed to switch.

            But I accept that those logistical and administrative reasons are important in a practical sense.

          • November 15th 2017 @ 7:59am
            mushi said | November 15th 2017 @ 7:59am | ! Report

            “I like the idea of where one primarily spent their formative years learning the game rather then citizenship and certainly rather than heritage toward a country someone may have no personal connections to.“

            There are reams upon reams of peer reviewed academic studies showing that a large portion of people identify with more than one “nation” especially where they have minority based heritage.

            This attachment isn’t just generated in a vacuum by the person in you’re arrogantly trying to overrule from afar it’s actually also a conditioned response from the treatment of their “home nation” where their “unconnected” heritage is used as a defining feature. Typically as a society we’ll continue to label people based on heritage which further forces them to identify with that heritage even if they’ve never set foot in the country.

            • Roar Guru

              November 15th 2017 @ 2:44pm
              Sleiman Azizi said | November 15th 2017 @ 2:44pm | ! Report

              Don’t bring research or logic into the discussion mushi.

              It goes against the grain!

      • November 14th 2017 @ 8:46pm
        Mike Julz said | November 14th 2017 @ 8:46pm | ! Report


      • November 15th 2017 @ 5:04am
        Concerned observer said | November 15th 2017 @ 5:04am | ! Report

        Glad to see you’re back Andrew, it’s been a long 3 and a half hours since one of your other accounts posted a comment, the content of which is often so innocuous and unstimulating they’re being trialled as a general anaesthetic in various hospitals.

        The answer is course, the Indigenous team. Not for any strong reason but it’s the only one available to you. I’m not sure how you’d go though because on the one hand I’m sure it’s fulfilled some dream you might have, but, on the other hand, you’d be one of those evil Australians playing in a team that’s not Australia.

        I admit, it’s a dilema and I’m really not sure how to solve it. However, I would look forward to watching you try to simultaenously balance playing the game, loudly proclaiming your distinterest in the game and posting pithy little comments on every article related to the world cup.

        But I’m sure your three accounts can work something out.