It’s Wayne Bennetts fault. He doesn’t understand the history behind the Great Britain Lions. He doesn’t watch Super League. His selections have left a lot to be desired. He has to go. Wayne Bennett is the reason that Great Britain is having such a disastrous Lions tour.
Because it can’t be Great Britain’s fault….right?
It was the 1970’s when Great Britain could last claim to be the best Rugby League playing nation in the world. In the 1980’s Great Britain was still fairly strong, but it was clear Australia has moved quite a bit ahead of them. In the 1990’s Australia was dominant over Great Britain, but the Lions made a contest of it. As the millennium ticked over Great Britain was well behind Australia, posting record losses at home, and away, while watching New Zealand clearly pass them. Now as we close out the 2010’s Great Britain can’t win a game on tour, is clearly behind New Zealand, has been passed by Tonga, and isn’t even in the same stratosphere as Australia.
It is Wayne Bennetts fault.
You see this is the mindset of British Rugby League. They never accept their own failure. They always look to blame something else for the fact that British Rugby League has been in a slow decline for well over 40 years.
That the combined strength of England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland still could not form a full squad of players without drafting in three Australian born players says it all.
There is a myth now starting to form that the selection of the squad is to blame. That Great Britain didn’t select the players they should have. The sad fact is that there are no superstars waiting in the wings for Great Britain. There are no breakout stars that were left at home. Great Britain selected just about the best players they had available for the 2019 Lions tour. At best the players they left at home are question marks. There is no guarantee they are up to test level, let alone being able to make any significant difference to the results the Lions have “achieved” in 2019.
There is a great parallel with the Australian Kangaroos team that lost to Tonga a few weeks ago. Australia picked their best players available. There were no excuses for their loss, Tonga was just better. Australia didn’t have some superstar waiting in the wings. They didn’t have some weird squad they selected. Australia put its best foot forward against Tonga and lost fair and square. That result has to be accepted, and looking forward Australia needs to improve to beat Tonga.
Great Britain doesn’t have that same mindset. Just excuses.
Sam Burgess has just retired. James Graham is 34. Josh Hodgson is 30. Ryan Hall is 31. Chris Hill is 32. Jermaine McGillvary is 31. Elliott Whitehead is 30. Gareth Widdop is 30. These player have been the base upon which British Rugby League has built test teams over the last 8 years. Where is the next generation? Where are the good youngsters who are knocking on the door and looking to take over from this group?
Rugby League in Great Britain is in a dire position in terms of player development right now. There are no exciting youngsters coming through. Britain hasn’t produce a truly world class halfback since Bobby Goulding. The one standoff they have produced of any quality since the early 90’s has been Gareth Widdop, who came through the Australian Rugby League development system.
Instead of looking to address any of these issues, British Rugby League will blame the Aussie coach. They’ll look past the dwindling talent pool the coach had to choose from, they’ll look past the fact he couldn’t even name a full squad of actual British players, they’ll look past the fact the coach has done the best he could with the few resources he had at his disposal, they’ll just look to sack him and pretend that the next coach will come up with different results with even worse players to choose from.
Until British Rugby League has a complete review of the structures within the entire sport, until the junior development pathways are streamlined, until coaching standards at all levels are improved and until talent scouting is improved, British Rugby League will continue its long decline into irrelevancy.
We are now at a stage where islands in the Pacific Ocean are producing many times more elite players in Rugby League than all of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales are. As other nations improve, British Rugby League is steadily going backwards. The results are there for all to see. The decline can not be ignore.
Still, watch Great Britain ignore it. They’ll sack the coach, bring in the next guy, talk about the revolution he will supposedly lead, then sack him when the results don’t follow.
Rinse and repeat. Its the sad cycle that continues British Rugby Leagues decline.
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