COMMENT: The World Club Challenge

By STEVE MASCORD

PETER Doust is many things but he’s no loose cannon. In fact, the St George Illawarra chief executive is such a diplomat that sometimes it’s hard to figure out the message behind his carefully chosen words.

I can’t recall Dousty criticising the NRL too often all the time he’s been involved in Saints or the joint venture Dragons – which is why we should all be listening to what he says about the World Club Challenge. “When I went to the NRL to discuss the whole subject with them, they said ‘well, whatever you reckon’. They said ‘if you don’t want to go, you don’t have to’,” Doust said in the lead-up to Monday morning’s match.

“They didn’t have a great deal of experience in it. They haven’t taken much interest in it, either, for that number of years, which I think they should. It seems to have been (organised on the run) and I don’t think that’s good for the game.”

The World Club Challenge, esteemed reader, is at a crossroads.

Don’t be fooled by the full house at DW Stadium that you saw on television or the champagne being sprayed around at fulltime. I have covered every WCC decider since 1994 and I can tell you that the interest the match now generates outside of the British club involved – and certainly outside rugby league – in the UK has never been lower.

Or, to quote respected journalist Dave Hadfield (known to long-time RLW readers as George Dunkerly): “This is the worst promoted World Club Challenge, including the 1987 game which the Rugby Football League actually wanted to stop being played!”

Dave and I were the only newspaper journalists at the Friday media conference with the coaches. Just one agency man and a local TV hack and that’s it. Not one UK rugby league writer attended any of the Dragons’ open training sessions in London – not only because they all live in the north of England but also because their sports desks weren’t sufficiently interested.

Everyone points the finger at someone else for this. In England they reckon the Dragons screwed the RFL financially and stayed away from the game’’s heartlands all week. The Dragons say the NRL left them holding the baby. No doubt the NRL would – with justification – blame the other two parties.

Personally I don’t care who’s to blame. I want it fixed. I want it to be the same exciting fixture it was when 54,220 fans saw Wigan beat Brisbane at ANZ Stadium in ‘94

The first thing that has to happen is that the NRL has to make competing in it compulsory. The NRL must negotiate with the RFL over it, not leave it for a club to hold authorities to ransom and demand so much cash up front that the prize money has to be slashed in half.

The next thing that must happen is that the date and venue should be announced WITHIN A WEEK of the respective grand finals being played. Organising this game seems to be no-one’s job!

We should also seriously pursue tenders from neutral cities interested in hosting the WCC – but they should take on the risk associated with not knowing who’s involved. Make them commit before they know who’s in it. It should be in Australia (or New Zealand!) every second year.

But here’s the bottom line: if the World Club Challenge is not compulsory, or if it’s not outside England or if it’s not extended to more teams in 2012, let’s not bother holding it at all. It’s terrible seeing a great idea die such a slow, painful death.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

 

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Comments

  1. The thing your forgetting is, you play this fixture in Australia or New Zealand, make the SL team turn up 7 days earlier, they would get slaughtered and that would be the end if this fixture anyway. 1997 all over again. No one cares about thus game because it means nothing. Everyone knows the best teams in the world compete to find who’s the very best. They all play in the NRL.

  2. Brendan Crabb says:

    Agree completely that it should take place in Australia every second year- it must only be the NRL’s lack of interest in the whole concept that has enabled England to maintain a stranglehold on hosting it. I remember the ’94 game and used to watch it every year as a kid- have largely lost interest now and the above is probably a major reason why.

    On another topic, Steve- how do you rate Manly’s chances this year?

  3. Dwayne Stern says:

    The only people that care about this game in its present form are the folks at the RFL who perceive it as a way of filling their coffers. All other parties – the NRL, the ESL, the teams involved, make very little, if anything, from the WCC. Now – the RFL has set a precedent by giving the Dragons more money.That, of course, has cut into the RFL’s profits and they have maligned the Dragons for what they perceive as extortion. Never mind the fact the Dragons would have been better served to have stayed at home and prepared for the coming season and instead travelled halfway around the world. I think you’re right Mr. Mascord – the current WCC format is dead in the water. Mr. Crowe’s idea, on the other hand, has some merit. Of course, that would cut the poor folks at the RFL out of the loop, and we wouldn’t want that, would we.

  4. the only way to play this game is at the end of the season with the same playing staff instead of as a curtain raiser to the next season with new players added for the new season.
    a 2 week gap between the grand final and a wcc game should be enough and if its play in england one year and australia/nz the next then thers no argument on the traveling side of it.
    im sure grounds could be reserved for the game before the grand finals as the english clubs could in the main play on there own grounds or a nearby ground with capacity as theres now a fair number of them. im sure a suitable ground in either sydney or qld could be provisionaly booked with a backup ground if nesersary .
    you get the benefit of it been in season as the internationals would start the week after . the weather would be better especially in england. most of all you have the excitment of the grand final still in peoples minds .

    • But we already tried it and it didn’t work! Players ‘lost their passports’ in the post-premiership haze. It took players out of national team camp. We have a completely useless pre-season and a growing international season – why stuff up one instead of bolstering another?

      • Dwayne Stern says:

        After the Grand Finals is the only time the NRL and ESL seasons line up. It makes sense to play the WCC then just for that reason. Your concerns Mr. Mascord – passports – have someone from the two visiting countries GF teams collect them prior to the Grand Final and put them in a safe place. Players out of national team camp – so; (more about that later). Completely useless pre-season/growing international season – Nothing will change the fact that the pre-season is useless, witness the fact that many players and executives expressed that sentiment this pre-season, some wanting to abolish the pre-season and play games that mean something right off the bat. It is only the very anal that want/need pre-season to prepare. And finally – an expanded WCC in the international season could replace the Four Nations tournament, which has become a waste of time in its own right.

      • International rugby league is our sport’s only chance to get national publicity and attract big sponsors in the UK. International rugby league is older than the sport itself in Australia and giving it the heave-ho to prop up a fixture that is struggling a little at the moment would be staggeringly reckless and ill-conceived.

  5. Dwayne Stern says:

    An expanded WCC played in Las Vegas or Dubai or some other vacation destination would attract more sponsors and generate more revenue than a one-off game played in the north of England. There would be eight competitive teams (four ESL, four NRL) making for a highly entertaining tournament. Those facts alone would make things more attractive to sponsors than the current WCC and the Four Nations combined.
    Let’s look at Russell Crowe’s proposal. The teams that would have played in an expanded WCC last October would have been Gold Coast, St. George-Illawara, Sydney, and Wests from Australia. Their counterparts would have been Leeds, Wigan, Huddersfield and St. Helen’s from England.
    While the Titans may not have much of a history it would be an excellent opportunity to publicize that area as a vacation destination in its on right. The Dragons may be the most recognized team in rugby league. The Roosters, with all of their connections to business, would be a huge sponsorship opportunity and Wests have the best player in the world – that would have to mean something in revenue dollars.
    On the other side of the coin – the Rhinos, Warriors and Saints could rival the Dragons in brand recognition while the Giants are no slouches on the pitch.
    These eight teams together in one location would be a PR person’s dream. Only idiots could screw up what would be a sports gold mine. There is money to be made and publicity to be had. It would be the perfect scenario on a regular basis. Take a year out for the World Cup, fine, but Crowe’s proposal is the only thing that makes sense in rugby league right now if the goal is to generate publicity and money.

  6. C.T.SANDERS says:

    Play it in America or Asia every year.We have had a gutsful of it all.A waste of time but so is the NSW Cup.

  7. C.T.SANDERS says:

    And why is the 4 Nations a waste of time Dwayne Stern?It made a $1.3 million profit in 2010.How much profit do the NRL and Sl Clubs make for the game that filters back down to the grassroots Dwayne?Sweet FA.That’s what I call a waste of time.
    International Football is what the game is all about.

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