The 2013 Rugby League World Cup kicks off in a few weeks time and it should be a fantastic tournament that brings people together from many different parts of the world. It should be a moment in which Rugby League celebrates the real work that has been put in to get Rugby League established in different parts of the world in the face of backlash from Rugby Union authorities and confusion by general sports fans that can’t really be bothered learning the difference between the two rugby codes.
Instead of being a proud moment for the game, the 2013 Rugby League World Cup will be extremely embarrassing. It will show how short sighted Rugby League administrators are. It put on show the way that self interest dictates how coaches of international teams operate. It will also expose the ridiculous eligibility rules that Rugby League can blame no one else for for adopting.
Many of the team competing at the 2013 World Cup have no connection what so ever to the nations they claim to be representing. Its not that Rugby League isn’t played in these nations, because every signly country that will take part in the World Cup does have a domestic club competition full of players born and raised in those countries. It simply comes down to governing bodies turning their backs on these home grown players and selecting any Aussie, Kiwi or Englishman they can find that qualifies for their team under the games ridiculous eligibility rules.
How stupid are the eligibility rules that Rugby League uses? Put it this way…there can be no question I am an Australian. I was born in Penrith, I was raised in western Sydney. In my entire life I have spent a total of 4 months outside of Australia…not too long at all. Under the current eligibility rules Rugby League uses I qualify for 4 different countries. Two of these countries I have never even been to! How ridiculous is that?
Many of the players that will take part in the World Cup will turn out for nations that their grandparents were born in. Why? It makes no sense!
There are people that claim the eligibility rules are a good thing for the World Cup. That it will makes games more competitive. That it will help some nations develop. That it will generate publicity that the World Cup desperately needs.
I always find it strange that anyone could suggest that having an old Aussie, Kiwi or Pom rock on up to play for a nation they are never even been to is a good thing. They turn up for a month, pretend they are from a different country, then they go back home. They no influence what so ever on Rugby League in the country they pretend they are from.
Some suggest that these players pass on experience to players that are actually born or raised in “emerging nations”. They’d bloody well want to, they are taking all of the international experience that born and raised players should be getting themselves! I have a theory though that if you want to pass of advice or lessons about Rugby League to other players…become a coach. Don’t take their place in a side so they can’t play the game!
The idea that these make believe international teams have any impact in the media back “home” is just silly. I live in Australia and I know how little regard our media has for the international game. If Australia was being represented by a bunch of Italians there would be nothing but ridicule. No one would take the side seriously. So what makes anyone think that Italians would take their national side seriously if it was filled with a bunch of Australians? It doesn’t makes sense. If anything it borders on arrogance!
Will games be more competitive? Yeah, they probably will. Does the ends justify the means? I don’t think they do.
Rugby League can play make believe all it likes in regards to international football, but in doing so it doesn’t get anywhere.
It is not just “emerging nations” that do this either. If Australia only picked players born and raised in Australia it wouldn’t take too many injuries for them to be fielding a lineup that would be very beatable. Hell, take James Tamou out of the Australian forward pack and all of a sudden Australia looks like a side that is a bit short of good front rowers. As it stands Australia will probably have to rely on Paul Gallen playing up front in games anyway!
Take James Tamou and make him play for his nation of birth, New Zealand, and the Kiwi’s strength up front is nothing short of scary!
People think that strict eligibility rules would see international Rugby League turn into a farce full of one sided score lines and uncompetitive games. If that is where the game is at right now, we need to accept it! We need to stop pretending. The international game will not move forward until that happens.
When we get to see a real team of born and raised Italian players taking on a real team of born and raised Irish players, then Rugby League will start going places. We will see those nations take an interest in their national teams. Will they be competitive with the likes of Australia and New Zealand? No, of course not. Are they competitive now in the couple of games they may get to play against these countries every decade under the current eligibility rules? No. So why are we still playing make believe if we end up with the same results anyway?
The National Rugby League is pushing the development of players from Australia, New Zealand and most importantly, pacific islands nations such as Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and the Cook Islands. There are players from these pacific islands nations that are outstanding first grade footballers in the NRL. As more of these players get their chance to play a high level of professional Rugby League their national teams will prosper on the field. That will only happen if these players are now allowed to be drafted into Australia and New Zealands international teams through ridiculous eligibility rules though. It will also only happen if these teams get more games against Australia and New Zealand.
So long as Rugby League administrators allow this scatter gun approach to the international game, no one will take it seriously. If Rugby League can’t take international football seriously, why should it expect anyone else to take it seriously?
So we will all sit back and watch the 2013 Rugby League World Cup. We will see players born and raised in suburbs around us playing make believe they are from somewhere else. We will see uncompetitive games, we will see people pretending that the whole world is tuning in, and we will see either Australia or New Zealand win the tournament. Then everyone will go home and we will have to start all over again.
If you think that is a good thing for Rugby League you need to stop pretending as well….
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
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