Once again, it’s been a while since I posted last. The new job has been taking up most of my time with lots of exciting new projects as well I have been interviewing for Professorships. But the Rugby League world continues on and a lot has happened in the last few weeks, but one of the most important and controversial issues once again involves the selection process of players for the international teams. But it not so much the selection that is the issue but the attitude many fans have taken with it… including fans of the international game. So today I want to make some commentary on several issues. It will be a long-ish post and I apologise in advance.
The ANZAC midyear test (Its not the ANZAC Day test for those of you wanting to be pedantic) was played with Australia grinding out a tough win 20-12 over the Kiwis in Auckland. A healthy crowd of over 35,000 came out to see them play. However the match was marred by some controversy beforehand. The Australian had once again done one of their poaching routines by getting James Tamou to switch to Australia and Feleti Mateo has also turned his back on Tonga and made himself available for NSW and Australia.
Now we all know what I think of all this, I have talked about selection and also the state of the international game to death, and I also have my Rugby League White Paper that people can read. But what I do want to comment about is the reactions from some fans about this. Its something I was worried was going to happen when some recent events came to fruition.
I am of course talking about the “Independent” Commission. I have read comments from people on forums and on articles that the “New Independent Commission needs to sort this out”. My reaction is WHAT THE?!
Since when is it the role of a domestic governing body to define what happens on the international level. Not unless it actually controls and undermines the international federation. Lets face it, we all know that is precisely what is going on. The RLIF is basically a puppet of the ARL/NRL … well ARLC now I guess. But that is the point, it shouldn’t be!
It should be an INDEPENDENT RLIF that dictates and enforces the selection criteria for international matches, not the ARLC, not the RFL not anyone else. They need to bide by what they are told by the RLIF. But we don’t have this do we. But its easy to see why Australia is always looking to poach and maintain their dominance. For some strange reason Australia has this obsession and delusional fear that if they do not win all the time then things will go pear shaped. We had similar fears in Cricket, and Australia is not dominant as they used to be and what has happened to the sport … nothing, its surviving if not thriving now that there finally is some competition. The same can happen for Rugby League, and should happen for Rugby League. The other is, State of Origin. The poaching needs to happen. If, as some people want, State of Origin becomes open to all comers with no enforcement that they need to play for Australia then the series become worthless and nothing better than the All-Stars match we now have at the beginning of the year. Country origin plays a major role in helping to poach players as well and I will make further comment on this bellow.
Either way, its not the role of the ARLC to tell who can and can’t play for a country, it’s their role to be told who can play for the country. Its now up to the RLIF to finally break the Antipodean shackles and truly become what it’s meant to be, the governing body of the sport. if not then the sport will wither and die a slow painful death despite all the good hard work that is being done.
Controversy has reared it’s head in Australia with the State of Origin. Game one is being played in Melbourne again. Ricky Stuart has come out once again complaining about the game being moved to Mexico. In the past the match has been used to try and promote Rugby League in different markets and when the Melbourne Storm was being set up it made some sense to do this. Ricky says that its a disadvantage to NSW since most of the Melbourne fans will be pro-Queensland… well that is not an issue for me. Enough NSW fans will travel down, now by my accounts State of Origin has been played 6 times in Melbourne with NSW and QLD winning 3 a piece. Its a no contest for me. In fact having a neutral venue in some ways makes sense. But this in not the point I want to make
This issues hides a much more fundamental and disturbing fact in Australian Rugby League. In 1998 the Melbourne Storm were formed and have been one of the more successful clubs in the last 14 years. So why are we not seeing more Victorian, born, raised and developed players in the NRL competition? You see, even though we still have the odd State of Origin game in Melbourne, by now I would have thought that we would have a State of Origin game in Melbourne every year. Why because we should have a Victorian State of Origin team by now.
To me its unfathomable, a travesty and a poor reflection of the sport in this country that in 100 years it has not really grown outside of the bounds of the East coast, in fact it probably has shrunk in that the other states used to have quite vibrant domestic competitions and used to host international teams regularly. Though there is an Australian Affiliated States competition, it is by no means treated with any of the same respect and with the new “commission” there is no guarantee that it will continue to happen, with the whole reorganisation of the sport in Australia it seems that all the other states outside of NSW and QLD have been left out.
Where as “other sports” seem to be trying to expand their sport in which ever way possible by growing local players and teams, it seems sadly that we still like to stick our heads in the sand. This needs to change… and soon. Either we need to start making the whole expansion of the sport a serious effort and start to have more teams come in or we get rid of the concept all together and concentrate on the internationals properly.
The annual City vs Country origin match was played in Mudgee in front of over 8000 fans. This has always been one of my favourite matches in the calendar year. Its a match that is, well so much fun to watch. For what ever reason its where you get to see some of the best plays come out. Carney’s 55 m drop goal attempt a few years back in Wollongong stands out in my mind, who tries that? And almost pulls it off, not only just going wide of the posts but still putting that ball 20 rows back into the stands. It was a massive kick and something we don’t see often. I loved it.
However, alas, is seems that this will be the last year for the match, if all the media reports are to be believed. It will be sad to see it go… but then thinking about it on the drive home last week (14 hours in the car from Champaign to Princeton) it got thinking, what do we really get with CCO? Where does it really sit in the grand scheme of things of the sport growing internationally.
It dawned on my, like my calls to get rid of State of Origin in its current form, City Country Origin also needs to change. In reality it has been used as a way to entice and pull in players that would otherwise represent their countries and finally give us a decent international competition. We are so worried about the expansion of AFL and Union in Australia, we don’t utilise our biggest asset. That asset is the fact we have such a large Pacific Island population playing our game where they could form stronger team internationally.
If we had 5-6 internationally strong teams, and play on a regular basis against teams like Australia, New Zealand and England and others, then that would be the greatest way to ensure the future of the sport in the country. It would help the local competitions as well, the exposure and increase in sponsorship from not only playing but also winning against top teams would ensure the sport continues to grow domestically in Australia and also around the world.
The Euro Shield is almost upon us again. This is the annual 2nd Tier competition on the European Mainland. This year it switches to a new bi-annual tournament, that is its played home and away over two years between Italy, Russia, Serbia and Germany. It will most probably be full of domestic players, with the foreign imports not available due to playing commitments. However, as you will see from the three squads released so far they are quite strong with Germany having some of their Aussie based players as well as all 4 Keinhorst brothers playing again. This means that Germany will be a more formidable opponent than in previous years to the others.
RUSSIA TRAIN-ON SQUAD
Kosirev Vladimir, Petchinkin Sergey, Pligin Alexandr, Tolstov Victor, Samuylov Alexandr (MGPU, Rostov-on-Don), Esin Grigory, Sakharov Maksim (Nevskaya Zastava, St Petersburg), Grigoryan Artem, Odnosumov Vladimir, Zdobnikov Andrey (RBC Red Arrow), Chuprin Denis, Chuprin Igor, Darinskiy Andrey, Fedchuk Vadim, Gazaryan Aram, Gorikov Alexey, Gotsulyak Vladimir, Volkov Alexey, (Storm), Bulanov Rustam, Burlutskiy Mikhail, Gaponov Sergey, Grigorev Anatoly, Konstantinov Sergey, Lysokon Aleksandr, Nikolaev Alexey, Ososkov Eduard, Safronov Roman, Sevostianov Andrey, Suchkov Maksim, Vlasyuk Vladimir (Vereya RLFC)
SERBIAN TRAIN-ON SQUAD
Nenad Radević, Aleksandar Sič, Lazar Živković, Miloš Zogović (Car Lazar), Dimitris Dajč, Danilo Delić, Stefan Nedeljković, Stefan Nikolić, Stevan Stevanović, Ivan Šušnjara, Milan Šušnjara, Radovan Tajsić, Vuk Tvrdišić, Nikša Unković, Dalibor Vukanović (capt.) (Dorćol), Soni Radovanović (vicecapt.) (Lescure-Arthes XIII), Nemanja Božić, Miloš Djurković, Pero Madžarević, Slaviša Zekić (Radnički Nova Pazova), Miloš Ćalić, Vladislav Dedić, Vojislav Dedić, Ivan Djordjević, Zoran Pešić, Nebojša Živanović (Red Star Belgrade).
GERMANY TRAIN ON SQUAD
Christoph Huber (Bad Reihenhall), Sebastian Roczyn, Sebastian Heilmann, Lucas Marin (Baden Pirates) Angelo Hall, Jacob Handy, Thomas Isaak, Artur Schein, Max Schoengen , Sebastian Vermaat (Calbach Racoons), Ben Behr-Heyder, Liam Doughton, Fabrice Fehlemann, Max Froeshner, Kyrill Goncharov, Nico Koch, (Cologne), Mawuli Amefia, Bene Rehm (Heidelberg) Dan Stocks (Hemel Stags), Nick Keinhorst, Kristian Keinhorst (Leeds Akkies), Jimmy Keinhorst (Leeds Rhinos), Markus Keinhorst (Meraloma RUFC), Christian Gabriel (Nurnberg), Damien Seibold (Rockhampton Brothers), Andrew Hoggins (Southampton Spitfires), Joshua Danzey (Sunshine Coast Sea Eagles).
So in a few weeks I will be in Europe for a couple weeks again. I will be hoping to meet up with a few of the movers and shakers in European Rugby League. I also will be heading back to Lodz in Poland to see how things are going with Lukasz and the boys. There are some big plans afoot there and I hope that when I come back I will be able to make some announcements of the future of the sport in Poland!
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