THE recent L’Equipe story on rugby union’s collusion with the Vichy government and the impact on French rugby league rammed home a big point to me about our game’s weaknesses.
That is, our lack of awareness in the rugby league “first world” about what is happening in the rugby league “second world” and especially the “third world”. While most of the readers of this column would have been aware of what occured during the Second World War in France, the vast majority of Australian fans were not.
They knew absolutely nothing about it.
Since this is column number 13, I thought I might do a bit of sabre-rattling on behalf of our game. If, as a sport, we are only as strong as our weakest links then we are very, very weak indeed.
While rugby league as a sport strives to attract the casual sports fan and waivering young amateur player, those of us at centre of rugby league fandom should be trying engage those at the periphery.
We should be telling those who only watch on TV or read about the game in the daily press as much as we can about out history, our cherished myths and re-inforce the fact that over vast tracts of our slowly expanding empire we are worse than underdogs, we are invisible, marginalised, even victimised.
We have great stories to tell but we tell them to each other, when we should be reaching out to those who could make us stronger.
To this end I was alarmed to read today that the South African Olympic Commitee has written to regional sports councils warning them not to affiliate with the SARL after one such body recently had the temerity to do so. Here’s the story:
In South Africa, the Olympic Committee refuses to recognise rugby league as a separate sport to rugby union. In taking its stand, the Committee is wilfully overlooking a clause in its own bylaws which says it should recognise any sport with which the Commonwealth Games Committee is affiliated, of which rugby league is one.
That a publically funded body will not recognise a game that has been around since 1895 is absurd and disgraceful.
Where is the Rugby League International Federation in all this? Who is fighting in the corner of the real heroes of our game, those trying to start (or in South Africa, revive) the game in hostile territory?
Surely the RLIF should be lobbying the IOC to end this outrageous bigotry forthwith.
But the RLIF exists mainly in theory rather than reality. And we are all inward looking fans of clubs and players, who don’t actively do much to promote our ideals and ambitions to others.
We look back on the Vichy days as scandalous and sad. But what are we doing about what is now happening right under our noses?
The man who has written to the provincial organisations is one Tubby Reddy. He has a website,, and the contact email address is given as

THANKS for all the comments on the last column.

read on

1 Comment

  1. Very good point Steve.

    I have always been non-plussed at the level of insularity in our game – it is ironic that such a characteristic is so widely applicable. There is no doubt we would have had a vastly different looking international profile for our game had the French Rugby League not been thwarted … and a very different (better) international outlook would like have change things (probably for the better) domestically as well.

    Anyway, I think the message is right … encourage those on periphery of the game to become more involved, even if you have to “give up” something to get them engaged and closer.

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