Recent talk that the World Club Challenge will be expanded is interesting to me, simply because the calls to expand it are not coming from Australia. They are all from Great Britain. Because of this, I try to keep up to speed on what people are saying about the concept and looking for some sort of concrete evidence that an expanded World Club Challenge will actually happen.
Last night I came across this article written by Neil Barraclough, who tends to have the same attitude of “I’ll believe it when I see it” that I have on this whole subject. One thing that stood out for me in his article was a quote by Leeds Rhinos Chief Executive Gary Hetherington.
“People often describe Australians as insular, but we’re encouraging them to become more global in their vision for the sport”
It is not surprising to hear a comment like this made by an English Rugby League administrator. These people are self entitled and speak above their standing in the game all the time.
As the Chief Executive of one of the few solvent Rugby League clubs in Great Britain, Hetherington is very typical of the types of attitudes you get within the game in Great Britain. For now, they are winning, and that always means the sun shines out of his arse. Forget the fact that winning in Super League simply means buying success. Forget that the quality of the competition is so poor that you only have to beat one or two other teams to call yourself a “champion”.
Look past the fact that most of Great Britain doesn’t give a damn about Rugby League and that most of what we see coming out of the Rugby Football League is smoke and mirrors trying to distract all and sundry from the obvious fact that Rugby League in Great Britain is pretty close to its final death rattle.
The fact is, if it wasn’t for Australia and New Zealand, Rugby League would not exist any more.
Now, this is going to upset the British, but that doesn’t worry me. The days of the Great Britain being relevant at all in this game are long gone. When the game in Great Britain finally does die, it won’t have any effect anywhere else the game is currently played. You see, Great Britain doesn’t realize that is the case. They still feel like they run the game, when that hasn’t been the case for generations.
While the likes of Hetherington deride Australia as insular, just take a look at Rugby League in England itself.
There is a very good reason why the sport has failed to expand in any meaningful way in the last 118 years. In 2013 you don’t have to go very far at all to find someone who will tell you that Rugby League shouldn’t have a team in London. Not a minority of people, the majority will tell you this.
They will then attack the media for not giving Rugby League the coverage it supposedly deserves. National television networks and newspapers simply must be out of their minds to not carry the news coming out of Widnes, Wakefield, Castleford, Wigan and the various other tiny little towns in nothern England. Surely the nation is on the edge of its seats for clashed between Bradford and Hull or Warrington and St Helens.
They wonder why multinational companies do not want anything to do with a competition that only has a few games broadcast every weekend on pay television out of these small towns mentioned. They put it down to some sort of bias against the game, because as you know, CEO’s across England have waited all their life to strangle the game of Rugby League of funding.
Looking past the fact that a number of Super League clubs have gone bust in recent years, it is pretty obvious the government is also looking to finish the game off. The recent funding cut by Sport England is a sign that the government simply doesn’t want to spend millions of dollars on a game played across the nation, and by that I mean in small parts of the nation.
The southerners are soft. Why even take the game to them? They are not needed!
Also, Soccer and Rugby Union, lets not forget them. Two sports going out of their ways to destroy Rugby League at every chance they can get. I’m pretty suspicious of Darts as well to tell you the truth…
In 1980 the top Rugby League competition in Australia was based solely in Sydney. The Penrith Panthers were a frontier team. Since 1980 the top flight competition in Australia has added Canberra, Brisbane, Melbourne, Newcastle, Townsville, the Gold Coast and even a team in Auckland New Zealand. There have also been ill fated expansions to Adelaide and Perth during that time, but look for the Australian Rugby League to head back to those cities some time soon and get the job done right.
During that same time, the Rugby Football League have expanded the top flight competition to London, who are still with us today, southern France, who survive thanks to being self sufficient, Paris which is obviously no longer with us and Cardiff/Wrexham who are also no longer with us.
In fact if you brought someone from 1895 into 2013 who was at the original meeting in which the decision was made to form Rugby League, I’m sure they would look at the teams involved and feel pretty sad about the whole thing. Rugby League in Great Britain has simply failed to expand at all.
While Australian and New Zealand clubs scout the Pacific Islands, holding coaching clinics and playing games in regional centers and areas where there are no top flight teams, when was the last time we saw English teams do something similar? When was the last time we saw a Super League game played in Birmingham for instance? What does Dublin have to do to see a game of Super League? Will there be a single Super League game played in Wales this year? Is Scotland too far to travel?
As “insular Australians” expand this game as best as they can, not only across Australia, but into other countries, what is England even doing to expand the game in England?
While the English have spent over a century twiddling their thumbs and making accusations about the rest of the world, the likes of Australia, New Zealand, France, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, the Untied State, Papua New Guinea, the Cook Islands and Lebanon have simply got on with the job.
The last time we held a World Cup in England, it was such a financial disaster that the game in Great Britain really never recovered. Put that up against the 2008 World Cup which was an outstanding success and memorable for the way it allowed Rugby League communities to celebrate our game as one.
You see, that is something English Rugby League types simply don’t understand. For the rest of the world, it isn’t Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji….we are not all separate and against each other. We are one community. We all love this game and we play this game together. We don’t run out onto the field waving flags and chest beating about the little town we come from. We are team mates. We are brothers.
That is not part of Great Britain’s Rugby League culture. They see the incredible multicultural mix of NRL talent and boast that it is a sign of weakness in the Australian game. They completely dismiss New Zealand at every opportunity, and the Pacific Islands…they might as well not exist. You never hear the English speaking of Rugby League in the United States despite the fact Australia sends development teams there and even played a test against the United States not that long ago.
You always have to be careful when you describe an entire country as insular. Especially one you are trying to convince to go out of its way and play games against a small selection of your northern England based teams to fight for a trophy that means nothing to anyone outside of northern England. Much like the rest of the Rugby League playing world, Australia does not needs England at all. We are happy to provide it with charity in sending over one of our sides every year and touring the country many times more than Great Britain has in the last 20 years, but that charity can only go so far. Especially in the face of insults and petty, insular attitude from officials that run small clubs in northern England.
At the end of the day, Rugby League in Great Britain is all about ego’s. People in Great Britain need to be careful that those ego’s do not get in the way of their own games survival. After all, it is going to come to a point where all the smoke and mirrors the Rugby Football League can conjure up will not save the game from its imminent demise.
When that moment arrives, people like Gary Hetherington had better hope that us insular Australia’s are willing to come to the rescue once again.
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
Jan 30, 2023 0