4 Ways to Fix International Rugby League – Part 1

By Daniel Andruczyk

First things first. Sunday saw Wales play their first game in the rugbyleague.com European Nations Cup. They Were able to overcome a spirited Serbian team 88-8 at Smederevo’s famed fortress Stadium. The win put them into second place just behind Ireland who they take on in next weeks clash at Pontypridd.


2008 saw the pinnacle of Rugby League come to fruition with the Rugby League World Cup held in Australia. The highly successful tournament was seen as a re-birth of the sport on the international stage. Teams not usually known for their rugby league stepped up to the plate to deliver some spectacular games and results. Scotland with their first ever world cup win against Fiji, Ireland seemingly doing the impossible and winning their group to go to the semi-qualifier against Fiji, Fiji making the semis against Australia. But who could forget the great New Zealand victory in the final. It looked like the Aussies will romp it home early on but the Kiwis rallied and then showed their talent to win quite comfortably in the end.

The World Cup finally generated profit for the fledgling Rugby League International Federation (RLIF), a $5 million war chest it was called. However the tournament exposed yet again many of the sport draw backs and what seems an unwillingness by the sports administrators to do anything about it. The question thus is what is the best way to use the money to help improve and boost the international game. What actual improvements need to be made! Over the next several days I will go through my ideas on how to fix the sport internationally. There are 4 simple things I feel that need to be done and I’ll discuss each in some depth.

So lets begin.

1. Unifying the Rules

I think there are many fans that do not realise that currently there are 3 different sets of rules or rugby league being used around the world! First there is the NRL, with two referees and 10 interchanges dominating. The rest of the world for their domestic games use the standard rules and then there are the international rules for rugby league.

In the end the details do not really matter, but one common set has to be established and applied to everyone by the Rugby League International Federation. No other sport that I know of has different sets of rules for different occasions. No one sport, aside from rugby league, that I know of is so dominated and almost bullied by one country into doing what it wants. Yes Australia and the NRL, I speak of you. Each year all you hear or see is how to change the NRL into something else, something other than what the rest of the world plays. What is wrong with what you have? Many people talk about rugby league being a sport that is not scared to try radical things, but sometimes the radical thing is not to do anything at all. I think that there are many people that have lost sight of this.

The other problem I find is that the NRL is so big and media dominated that it almost shows contempt for anyone else that plays the sport. You just have to read the “Journalists” in the newspapers and listen to the commentators on TV and radio to realise that aside from their precious NRL they know very, very little about rugby league as a whole and what goes on outside of Queensland and New South Wales. The rule changes effectively are driven by them without a care for anyone else.

Last weekend we started to see evidence of this where the Australians complained about English referee Steve Ganson and his interpretations. To me, having watched lots of Super League over the years just saw a Super League official referee like he would at home. The Australians are used to something completely different now and I felt were slow to adapt to the single referee and to a large degree also the Kiwis. With Ganson appointed for the Wigan match, will the English be at an advantage?

Also when you think about it, the Australians with their two referees and 10 interchange are different to the current international rules and the rules used by other domestic competitions. So does this mean that Australian Referees technically do not meet the proper requirements? Should we have only English, French and rest of world referees?

So, the first fix is: have the RLIF establish one set of rules for everyone to abide by throughout the world from the NRL to the Bank of Beirut Championships. Lets give the whole world an common and even playing field to work from.

2. Eligibility rules

Anyone who loves and follows international rugby league know the frustration of the player eligibility rules. In short they are nothing short of the best joke going round. Understand though the issue is not the grandparent rule itself or the fact that a player is eligible for multiple countries. The issue is that the rules are not enforced. I am sorry but what genius came up with the current rules where we have players like Jarryd Hayne and Michael Jennings representing two different countries in two years, or Fuifui Moimoi going to court to try and swap countries just because he doesn’t want to be in one or the other. Rugby League is littered with these cross country players and it not on. In other sports there is absolutely no way a player could do what these players have done.

Now, many people will say that there are not enough players to represent these countries. I say what planet are you on? There are plenty of home grown and heritage players plying their trade around the world to play for any country. I am not going to specifically single out any one country here as all countries are guilty of breaking the rules, but they break the rules only because the RLIF allow them too.

On the RLIS forum many posters rightly point out that many of the Pacific Islanders are eligible for not only New Zealand but also say Tonga or Samoa, I agree, I have no issue with that, all I want if for them to choose one country and stick with it. The incentive or the discouragement has to be there for them not to want to swap, or think very hard about which country they want to play for. The resident and heritage rules for player eligibility are actually OK. I have no problem with them. All I want though is that they are enforced and players not allowed to swap nations as they please.

So fix number two is: When a player chooses a nation and plays a test for that nation they are locked in for a minimum of 4 years from the date of that match, no if’s, no buts. It doesn’t matter when that match is; World Cup, Pacific Nations Cup or Euro Bowl. If you want to swap nations you wait it out for four years without playing any other internationals. If this means you miss out on a World Cup … well so be it.

Thursday Part 2 of ”4 Ways to Fix International Rugby League”

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