The Rugby League Ashes series goes back 101 years and to the very heart of the establishment of Rugby League in Australia.
For 90 years it was the pinacle of the game. It was THE proving ground. It was where greats become legends, where former greats realised the game had passed them by. It was the cutting edge of the sport and ever contest shaped the way for every level of the game that was to be played over the next few years.
When former greats talk about the game, they always end up talking about The Ashes. It was what the entire game focus everything around.
Even in my lifetime, it has meant something. In 1994, the last true Kangaroo Tour, the entire season was dominated by the Ashes series. Who would make the tour, who would be left out, who would take on Great Britain, it is something I miss about the game today.
Australia has dominated the Ashes series for decades at a time. So has Great Britain. You were just a good club player until you showed you were up to Ashes football.
You name any of the greats of the game from Australia or Great Britain before the 1990’s, they become greats in Ashes series.
Today the Australian Rugby League made the decision to put this most precious Rugby League trophy up for grabs in a one off game that is part of the Four Nations competition at the end of the year.
They have devalued one of the most precious peices of Rugby League history. A trophy players ended their careers to play in not will just be a punch line on the run through to the Four Nations Final.
So devalued have the Ashes become that they will be on the line next month. No build up, here you go, have a shot at them. 80 minutes is all it will come down to for 101 years of the history of our game.
Its a disgrace.
There is no way the game wins from this at all.
After the Cricket Ashes series, which was of the poorest quality I can remember, Rugby Leagues answer is to rid its coat tails, devalue its own Ashes series and make the casual supporter this we use the Ashes series as some gimick to draw in a couple of thousand extra fans through the gate.
If Australia wins, ho hum. If England wins, well they won a single game and really, if thats all it takes to win the Ashes, who cares.
I love my international Rugby League, but tell me, who really cares all that much about the trophy Australia and New Zealand play off for in their own off mid season test?
One game, trophy on the line. New Zealand lose, they don’t care. Australia wins, its good, but in the grand scheme of things its just a one off game.
That is now what the Ashes has become, what a sad story for what was once the most prestigeous trophy in all of Rugby League.
As an Australian there are only two International trophies I give a stuff about.
The World Cup and The Ashes.
The Tri Nations and now Four Nations is a marketing tool all about making money and nothing else. It has about as much history as a packet of microwave noodles.
What this all comes down to is the respect and reverance International Rugby League is held in.
Right now, International Rugby League is seen as a bit of a joke by your common sporting fan, and I can’t blame them at all. Why should anyone respect the International game when the people that run the game don’t think much of it?
When our administrators can just make one of the great trophies in sport just a throw in for another series, does anyone think that will bring crdibility to the game?
Does anyone think we will get credibility for the game when our oldest competitions are tossed up on the whim of someone wearing a suit?
Its a disgrace and just another reason why the Internional Game is completely screwed. The people running this sport have no feeling what so ever for tradition, respect, the publics view of the game or all the hard work that was put in by those before them.
As a supporter of the International game I will not even consider this farce as a chance to win or lose the Ashes. I have more respect for the game than that. I’m sicked that this is what our game has come down to.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com