One of the big things that came out of the 2013 Rugby League World Cup was the clear message that supporters of the game were giving administrators. Give us more international Rugby League.
Heading into this weekend, plenty of people were saying the Australia vs New Zealand test match was a waste of time. Even worse things were said about the Samoa vs Fiji Four Nations qualification game.
Coming out of this weekend I think it is fair to say that most people would tell you they once again want to see more international football.
With the way the Rugby League season is currently set up, it’s hard to fit international Rugby League in anywhere. It is easy for people to say “let’s play less club games” but the fact is those clubs games have to say. They generate too much money to get rid of them any time soon.
Right now we have one weekend that has the Australia vs New Zealand test, and a test between two Pacific Islands nations. Surely there is scope to add more games to this one free representative weekend. Surely there is enough international teams to fill out this weekend with enough football to almost match the number of games we see over an NRL round.
First of all, let’s get it out of the way that Australia will most likely always play New Zealand on the Friday night. That is what broadcasters wants and at the end of the day it’s the money they pay the game that pays the bills.
Over Saturday and Sunday you could have any combination of Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga playing one another and end up with two very good contests. On top of this I think it would be fantastic to see the United States taking on Cook Islands. Those two teams are pretty evenly matched and I think being if they could play on another on a yearly basis it would help both nations develop further.
Where you played these games would be interesting. For the most part you would have to play them in the right time slots for broadcasters. Broadcasters also wouldn’t want to pay more than they usually do to broadcast a club game meaning playing a game in PNG or other Pacific Islands nations is out of the question.
We have to make it as easy as possible to play this game. The least amount of travel and expenses the game can get away with. That is why we see the Pacific Test played each year in Penrith.
I think playing these games in Australia and New Zealand would work great. If you play them in the rights areas with the right marketing you will get people turning up to watch these games.
There has been a few times this season the Penrith Panthers haven’t got 9,000 through the gates. That Samoa taking on Fiji was able to draw that crowd says a lot about the thirst people have to watch international competition.
While we all love watching our clubs run around, and State Of Origin is awesome, the international game adds something that neither of those formats of the game can provide. When you watch two countries line up and sing their national anthems, you see them ripping in for 80 minutes, and you know that this game really means something to so many people in different parts of the world, in my opinion you can’t beat that.
So let’s hope the administrators of the game give us more international Rugby League. It’s what the supporters want!