Controversy in Oz Shows Big Problems with TGG

By Daniel Andruczyk

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.

State of Origin

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.

City Country Origin

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.

European Shield

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.

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)

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).

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).

Future Plans

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!


Daniel Andruczyk’s email:
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14 Responses to “Controversy in Oz Shows Big Problems with TGG”

  1. dragons4eva says:

    Good to hear from you again Druzik!

    As for the whole Tamou saga…the only reason it got big news was because both the NZRL and ARL were involved. Whilst with Mateo it completely slipped under the radar because he went from Tonga to Australia! Shows the care the media take outside of the big 3 i suppose!

    We really need an independent RLIF to sort this things out! Yes the ARLC has helped in numerous ways in the NRL but they can only do so much with the sport internationally!

  2. deluded pom? says:

    Unless the big three want the international game to grow then it’s just not going to happen. They think RL IS them. Is it now time to pull up the drawbridge and let them play each other ad infinitum and forget about international RL?

    • druzik says:

      Mmm that may be more true than you realise.

      • deluded pom? says:

        Care to expand on that dru?

      • druzik says:

        Well looking into my Crystal Ball, this is the future I see for International Rugby League, the signs are there with the way things are handles by the big 3 … well 2 really (Aus and NZ).

        In essence there will be a major split in the entire sport withing the next 5-10 year.

        The current situation where players continually get poached and the nations and international are treated as second class citizens will come to a head. The NRL will continue to do their own thing, and within Australia, what I can see happening is that states and clubs that are not within the NRL sphere will break away and go it alone. This will cause a massive shift in the RLIF. It will probably be demanded that a true international governing body be set up, one that overseas the sport.

        This will most probably spill into New Zealand’s lower ranks as well, so the Warriors will essentailly be isolated with the NRL. The “NRL” will essentially go it alone, which is fine, but the sport will start to mutate drastically into something else, Australian Rugby Rules (ARR) and will become like the NFL and AFL essentially.

        With the prospect of greater competition else where, the other nations in the PI and Europe will go with the new organisation. What we now know as the RLEF, by then will have dwarfed the RLIF and will become the new RLIF. It will have the base of money and sponsorship to be able to go it alone, as its starting to show now.

        England and the RFL, however I can see backing the new organisation. Even now its clear that they are on the most part reluctant to take on all the new rules and changes the NRL makes, and also the RFL and British Rugby league are much more willing to help develop the sport outside of their own country. Its easy to see this with things like the Pioneers and the recent Military tours and other matches that England cares more about international development than anyone else… this may change now that Lewis is gone, he was the main push for this in Europe.

        Back in the Pacific Rim, teams from the QLD and NSW cup will switch with Rugby League, along with some of the stronger clubs in the other states a true national competition of about 12-14 teams will be established and similarly in new zealnd. A club championships between the Aussie, NZ and PNG champions will pop up as well.

        There will still be cross code players, I don’t see an issue with that, they will want to initially earn a crust with the ARR, but over the years as the true Rugby League builds up a head of steam and money, more and more players will opt to stay with it. Why? well more and more professional and semi-professional comps will pop up around the world, so rather than everyone being stuck in one or two countries they will spread the talent through maybe 10 countries developing a more uniform competition. Also with the opportunity of playing internationals, something that the ARR by 5 years after the split will be sorely lacking, will keep players to stay on with Rugby League.

        With regular international tournaments, you will have have an end to the eligibility silliness, and playing for your country will have meaning again. A resurgence in English and French Rugby League will happen as well since they will have the two pro comps to start with, it will take a year or two for Australia to catch up and compete again.

        ARR will also continue to survive and thrive, I am not saying the NRL (i.e. ARR) will die, but it will mutate into something looking more and more like the NFL, since they will be striving for TV money and sponsors, they will start having more and more breaks and stopages for commercials. It won’t be completely like the NFL, but enough that it won’t be Rugby League.

        So, there will end up being 6 major Rugby derived codes in the world by 2027. That is the way I am seeing it. But anything can happen, it all could just as suddenly change, and thing can improve and the split wont happen. The next 5-10 years will be interesting indeed.

  3. deluded pom? says:

    That’s a huge call dru. I wasn’t quite expecting such a detailed response. Wouldn’t you envisage all the top players in the Pacific region being seduced by the money that the NRL would have in such a scenario? I don’t think the average Aussie fan would be that bothered if they lost the international game. You only have to look at AFL who still have huge attendances and press coverage even though they don’t have an international aspect to their sport that has any profile. I really believe that the average Bruce in the street doesn’t have any interest in RL outside of his/her own club or state.

    • druzik says:

      I thought your question wanted a detailed answer … you wanted me to expand on it 😉

      Like I said, there will be a lot of cross pollination between the two, even three rugby codes. But over time, Rugby league will become more and more competitive with ARR, especially when an excellent international competition is established.

      I think you will find that more NRL fans care about internationals than you realise in Australia. The issue is that things are just run so shoddily and symbolically that they really see no point in it. When there is a point then they will come back to it. Australian fans are very much sunny weather types.

      If they see a more traditional Rugby League, one they remember, and many do, they will go to it. There is a call for much of the NRL silliness at the moment to be scaled back and to go back to a more traditional type game from the 90’s. That’s when Rugby League was in its Hey Day and really exciting all around. Currently everyone calls the NRL a bore-fest… though its still 100x better than Union or AFL.

      You also have to remember that AFL and RL come from different lines. AFL from the onset was only ever played in Australia and that IS ALL their fans have ever grown up with. Rugby League is NOT AN Australian sport and so always had an international element to it, one that will always be there no matter what, true fans will demand.

      Despite what my post predicted… I can see the ARR eventually wanting to come back to Rugby league and have the international component, there will be a reconciliation of sorts, but by then they will have to abide by the RLIF rules and not go and make their own… if they do they will be able to be kicked out if need be. The RLIF will not be dependent and held by the ball sack by one all powerful country/organisation.

  4. deluded pom? says:

    It’s not as if the Kangaroos play a heap of international games though is it? They play a couple against NZ and maybe two tops against England and possibly a game against a 4N qualifier. Take this season when they will play two games(?) Don’t Australians see the bigger picture whereby Australia winning ALL the time (or virtually all the time) isn’t good for the sport but from an English perspective they try to make sure everything they can possibly influence is in their own favour thus continuing the endless cycle. It’s OK saying the Poms need to get up to speed but the fact is that the nation with the most resources appear to do their utmost to make sure the status quo prevails.

    • druzik says:

      Well the Kangaroos in a way should not be used as the promotion tool, they should be the reward for teams to play. There are plenty of other ways to promote the sport, the main is through tournaments, Nations need to play as many other nations as they can.

      However its a bit unfair to completely say that Australia does not promote the sport. The Australian Affiliated states, NSW and QLD Country teams and various student and Uni teams tour around the world regularly, playing not just the regular 3-4 nations but also places like the Pi’s and SA and Europe.

      The issue is the promotion of these matches, the media, unless its NRL, does not care about it and the fans will only know what is fed to them. The changes start in the Media.

      Your last line there is completely true however… fully agree with that.

      • deluded pom? says:

        I wasn’t suggesting the Kangaroos should be used to promote the game but I was trying to say that if they (the Kangaroos) continue to only play England and New Zealand outside of a WC then pulling up the drawbridge on the rest of the international community would have little if any impact in Australia. Again I’m not denegrating the work Australian country teams and the affilated states and students do worldwide but the game of RL is now over one hundred years old in Australia and there seems to be only a huge focus on two states. I know the game is played in the rest of Australia to some standard but there’s very little progress to an outsider in developing the game in the other states. SoO is and always will be about two states and two states only. There’s plenty of criticism on the game here in the UK about the lack of a national footprint but I reckon our footprint is easily comparable to the one RL has in Australia. It appears to me that the relevant authorities in Australia are only really concerned with the health of the game in Queensland and New South Wales.

  5. Sharky077 says:

    Excellent aricle druzik , I find alot of what youve stated a great insite into the problems RL faces both abroad and in Australia. Having read today in the courier mail Leagues want for extra advertisements lenghtening the game from 90-95 minutes televising fitting a further twelve ads per telecast, highlighting a further NFL style product averaging the break up of scrums, goal kick restarts, tries, drop outs etc. of 25-30 second delays. Its all heading where you are suggesting, you only have to look at the inroads AFL has made in NSW and QLD alone in the last 10 years its a disgrace that these governing bodies have let the grass roots, CRL right through NSW and QLD cup .
    The international game is a joke and always has been , the biggest success i feel would come out of building the PI region with the percentage of islanders playing the game at record numbers in the NRL . The Rugby league purist does love the International game and would be greatly dissapointed at the fact its is dismally predictable. Keep your feeds going they are great i will pass on this site and everything you have posted is insiteful and concerning .

    • druzik says:

      Thanks Sharky077, I assume a fellow Cronulla fan? Looking like a great year so far.

      Yes I saw the article … I am telling you the NRL is becoming a completely different sport which will completely split the game in Australia and the world.

      The international game I would not say has always been a joke, it really in the last 15 years, the Super League war is what did the damage, and in many respects we have not recovered from that.

  6. deluded pom? says:

    We already have forwards who rarely play a full eighty minutes and get regular rests on the bench. The extra ad breaks will give them even more time to recover taking the attritional aspect of the game even further away. I want to see crafty, nippy halfbacks taking on a tiring defence but that’s becoming an even more remote possiblity if we allow more ad breaks. The NRL has recently been criricised from within about the conservatism of the play which is apparently bordering on boring (relatively speaking.) If the NRL goes down the Channel 9 avenue then I can only see the NRL becoming even more difficult to watch. Will that then turn fans off?

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