FOR all the – extremely justified – claims that the British game takes international competition more seriously than rugby league in Australia does, we have something this weekend that you don’t.
It’s a weekend with no club football at all, with a focus on representative games.
This is something that many of us lobbied for, for many years. When it was first introduced, last year, it looked for a while like it would only last one season.
But the entire, then-new, ARL Commission went to Eden Park for the trans-Tasman Test and then chairman John Grant backed up for City-Country at Mudgee in rural NSW on the Sunday.
I certainly wouldn’t be cancelling something that got me my first overseas trip in a new job, would you?
There was a major step forward, if you support the international development of the game, this year when satellite (in Oz they use a mixture of satellite and cable for pay Tv, actually) broadcaster Fox asked for a game to add to the under 20s State of Origin game they showed last year.
What they wanted, and have got, is a full international between Tonga and Samoa. The plan is for two other island countries to compete next year. The ARLC is underwriting the fixture to the tune of A$200,000.
For those of us who have thought the Australian authorities could have done more in the past to help the development of the game in the Pacific, this is a wonderful leap forward.
But to my way of thinking, there is a logical conclusion to this evolution. We need to pause club rugby league worldwide and play a full round of internationals, as soccer does.
I know some players may not arrive until two or three days before their games and won’t be back at their clubs until the middle of the following week – but it’s a great opportunity for the RLIF to start generating some real income from Tv rights.
Which begs the question: is the RLIF getting a levy for the rights paid by television companies for Australia-New Zealand and Tonga-Samoa? I certainly hope so.
MY copy of Rugby League World arrived in the post yesterday. In it, I posed to Australian authorities the question: if someone plays Origin this year but misses the Australian World Cup team, can they turn out for another country in the World Cup?
The answer is yes: if they have not changed countries once already since the previous World Cup. That rules out Feleti Mateo, who has never represented any country other than Tonga but must watch this weekend while a Tongan team full of those who have represented Australia and New Zealand takes the field at Penrith.
Anthony Minichiello seems to be the wildcard here. He represented New South Wales and Italy in 2011 and was considered by New South Wales again last year.
IT’S been a terrible week for the game, with Jake Kedzlie, the grandson of Australia halfback Tom Raudonikis, dying after being struck in the side of the head in a junior match.
And then yesterday, we lost the recently retired Queensland Rugby League managing director Ross Livemore.
Ross was one of those administrators with an eye for a bit of show business and an appreciation for colourful publicity. We did not always agree but I found him unstintingly helpful and entertaining.
He’ll be sorely missed.
I ran into Tom Raudonkis leaving the League Central museum before Sunday’s big Heritage Round match next door at the SCG.
After offering my condolences, he said: “It’s good to have good friends”. Times like these, we need them.
THANKS to those who defended my honour last time around when someone had a go at me for being a meddling Aussie.