Happy New Year to everyone! Yes I am back. Sorry for the long break, but several things came up all at once that needed my attention… like my job and my father visiting for a month where we embarked on a road trip across the Eastern United States managing to visit 21 states and one district in 4 weeks. It also gave me a chance to have a bit of a break, it has been a long year with much going on and had taken its toll which I needed to recharge. I think this has been sufficiently managed and so over the next week or two I will endeavour to get things back on track with Rugby League International Scores. Sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused anyone, but I am sure that you all are aware of some of the other great websites that are now up and running that are keeping news of what’s going on updated to the world.
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. A simplified statement of this physical law, but one that I think applies to Rugby league very well. There have been many reviews done of 2011 by various sites, so I am not sure there is any need to go into to great detail on this. Suffice to say that some of the major highlights and lowlights probably should be mentioned.
Off the bat the two big controversies that have happened this year were the splits in the USA and Italy. Teams and members in both countries were not happy with the way things were run. Claims of promises broken and not kept, lack of communication and poor management forced the hand of teams and groups to split into rival factions. Some progress has been made by the RLEF and RLIF in resolving the issues and this was and is ongoing through 2011 and 2012 so far. It still seems to be a waiting game to see where things will end up with FIRL/IRFL and the AMNRL/USARL.
In PNG, similar issues were afoot, where there were claims that the current board are not legally there. There was a to-ing and fro-ing from all factions there on having new board elections and then not having them, then going to court, not going to court. The RLIF finally had to step in and seems to have settled things down. In 2012 we await to see where things end up there. Remember this issue is what forced the resignation of Adrian Lam in 2010 and stopped NRL and ESL players from representing PNG in the 4 Nations.
On the flip side, however, we had the World Cup Qualifiers this year which saw 7 teams participate. In the Atlantic region the USA, Jamaica and South Africa competed at Campbell’s field in New Jersey. The USA saw success here, defeating both the Jamaicans and South Africans. They had a string team of imports that were able to out muscle a Rhinos team that was all domestic players. The Jamaicans, also with some strong imports did offer some greater resistance but in the end did not have enough in the tank and injuries to overcome the Tomahawks. In Europe Italy, Russia, Serbia and Lebanon also played for a spot in the World Cup. The Lebanese and Italians went in as the two favourites and it game down to their epic match to decide who it would be. After a draw and a better points differential it was the Italians that came away with the spot in the World Cup 2013.
But as always in Rugby League, things can never bee so simple and nice. These two teams winning of course brought up much debate in the Rugby League fan pages and blogs as well in some media circles. Namely, the two teams with the splits and not selecting players from the rival competitions sparked controversy as well as the fact that all both teams were basically stacked with imports with only 1-2 locals, should that be allowed? Now the rules basically state that yes they can, but the question stated to be asked, should this be changed.
Maybe with the change in the RLIF we will see this happen. 2011 saw a changing of the guard in the Rugby League International Federation. Colin Love finally left the organisation. Though overseeing a successful 2008 World Cup, by many he was seen to be an ineffective leader, not really doing much and not knowing much about what was happening in the sport world wide. Scott Carter from New Zealand has taken over and straight away we saw three positive developments come out. With the expansion of the sport in Asia and the Pacific, finally someone has had the sense to see that a Rugby League Asia-Pacific Federation was needed like in Europe (RLAPF). Though this is very new and not much has happened, we await with great anticipation to see how the sport in this region will develop with a new body to help govern and coordinate it. If the RLEF is anything to go by, it will be a huge success, if the right people are found. Second the structure if the RLIF has changed some what with now greater representation from all the nations in there. With Carter as Chairman, Richard Lewis has remained as his Deputy Chairman, David Gallop, John Numapo from PNG is representing the Asia-Pacific region and Nicolas Larrat from France represents European interests. Andrew Hill is the Secretary, which is where David Gallop was previously. Yes Australia/Asia and the Pacific still dominate, but at least there is movement there. This was not done with any pomp and fanfare. Third, a world wide audit of nations has begun, to make sure that countries are being run properly, things are above board and that there are no issues. This may help resolve issues in Italy and the USA as well as it will hopefully show which side is correct.
However of course Carters election was not without a reaction. This was not such an easy process to elect him with the British/Europeans not happy about it and threatening to walk out. Thankfully things were resolved. The Audit has not been welcomed by all countries. Though nothing official has been put out, on twitter and other sources, people are finding that this is not being welcomed in the USA especially.
A very bright spark in Rugby League this year saw the emergence of Canada as a potential new powerhouse in the sport. The hard work that these guys have put in see them now playing internationals on TV, with a good local domestic comp based around Toronto and a new one this year starting out West in Vancouver. They played all 3 of the world cup qualifiers with mixed success. They beat Jamaica and the USA, but also saw losses to South Africa and the USA away. Canada didn’t qualify for the World Cup Qualifiers because at the time of them being set Canada did not meet the required standards. However through this year many were asking if that should have been changed.
Asia also has provided a bright spark, with the sport now starting up in many of the Asian countries. The Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, India, Pakistan to name a few. They Join Japan now who have been playing for a while and struggling on their own. This should help them somewhat as well. In Malaysia, Thailand and China there is also some movement in getting the sport up and running.
One of the massive controversies in International Rugby League circles this year has been the Uate-gate. This is the Fijian flyer, Akuila Uate who swapped allegiances to Australia, so that he can play State of Origin. This was basically a money move for him, turning his back on Fiji which he has represented within the world cup period between 2008-2013. Now that he has played for NSW and Australia this makes him completely ineligible for Fiji on 2013 if he is not chosen by Australia. This led on to other players in Australia and the UK which did similar things. Chase Stanley and Anthony Minichello sparked similar debated on weather they should be allowed to switch and play for England and Italy respectively. If Uate is not allowed to play for Fiji, then this year Minichello MUST not be allowed to play for NSW/Australia and Stanley MUST be allowed to play for New Zealand if called upon. We wait and see but we all have memories of the RLIF and their lack of enforcing rules.
This year offers some great promise. And as every year we hope and pray that Rugby League will get its act together. In some respects this seems like it will happen, in others, sadly, it seems like same old, same old.
The AMNRL in the USA have launched a bold initiative, buoyed on by their World Cup Success, they have announced that they have new domestic teams joining the competition. No word on what they what to do with the USARL, if they will at all talk to them or not to resolve issues. The Donnybrook cup will make a reappearance, though not the Colonial Cup. This seems a bit strange since domestically its the strongest competition they have next to Jamaica. The USA have chosen to play Tonga, Cook Islands and Japan. The Japanese game seems odd since the Japanese have basically no money to travel and well, though despite their great intensions and effort probably don’t offer much of a challenge for the USA. Unless there is a developmental aspect that the USA are going to be helping Japan with, I am not entirely sure of the point on this game. I hope it does happen though, it would be great to see a few of my Japanese friends again. One of the most curious developments here is the US Sevens Cup. Sevens… no one is playing sevens any more. 9’s is Rugby Leagues official shortened version so why not have a nines tournament?
Russia and Canada will be playing a game. Victor Sapozhnikov has been very busy on Facebook and other media trying to promote and also get sponsorship for this tour. This will be a two game tour in August, and should be able to provide some good opposition for both nations. It will be curious to see how these matches are played though, Russia has launched a bid to find players with Russian heritage and experience to play for them, one hopes that they will not be going down the path of so many nations where they just stack their national team with imports and no locals, this does nothing for the development of the game domestically. The Russians have also been invited by the USA to tour, and again this is all dependent on the financial state. The Russians also will have a dedicated 9’s team, that they will have to go round to various tournaments in Europe.
Of course, the bullying tactics of the NRL have had to show themselves once again. At the end of the year there will be no international matches played by the Aussies. Aside from the annual mid year test and the PNG friendly the RLPA in Australia has forced the hand and stopped any matches being played. So the tour by England has been cancelled or will be changed at leats. In a year, before the world cup where Rugby league should be showing its international face as much as it can, particularly with its premier 3-4 teams. its not. It will be sitting on its hands. This is something where the new RLIF should have stepped however along with the New Zealand/ Cook Islands farce of last year, has two blotches next to its name in my books.
The RLEF as always provides some light, they have now a two year domestic schedule with their European Cup, Shield and Bowl tournaments, nations keep expanding and growing in Europe. The RLEF is now finding it won funding sources such that its not entirely dependent on England or France which is great. This is the model that is needed and I have argued for a long time.
International Rugby League, No, Rugby league is now at a cross roads as a sport in the world. It sits has options where to go, some will lead it up a new glorious path others will keep it as a small minor sport. Rugby league needs people that will work with each other, not individually for their own purposes. We can’t have anyone wanting to do things because its “their baby” or they feel they are owed something in the sport. Rugby league belongs to everyone, not just one person or a few. All nations need to now work together to promote and grow the sport, they need to realise that the eligibility rules need to be changed to help the smaller nations, not strengthen the strong ones. We as a sport and as fans of the sport, this year need to rise above all else and show our love for the sport, we need to stop attacking our own sport and promote and help it. We need to encourage meaningful internationals, we need to have fans demand that the sport id played fair across the board, not have three different sets of rules that advantage just one or two nations.
We all need to make sure we take the right path. We do this, then we will never have to worry about other sports like Union, ALF or soccer having shots at us again. Lets make 2012 the turning year for the sport where we emerge from this cocoon a glorious and magnificent sport.
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