SOMEHOW most rugby league fans outside the UK remain oblivious to it but British rugby league is experiencing an open rebellion right on the eve of its hosting of the World Cup.
When we say ‘open rebellion’, we are talking Australia, 1995. We’re talking – potentially – that significant.
The spark has been a plan to restructure the professional game by having two divisions for part of the season and then – innovatively or crazily, depending on your perspective – rearranging it into three competitions mid-stream.
There was supposed to be an extraordinary general meeting of clubs last week to finalise the plan but it was postponed indefinitely, the Rugby Football League saying everyone wanted to concentrate on the World Cup.
What it didn’t say was that all the Super League clubs bar Leeds were organising their own meeting to discuss the next move. Not a friendly development. Wigan’s Ian Lenagan is leading the protest.
Leeds CEO Gary Hetherington is seen as exerting the most influence over Red Hall, and Sin Bin understands he is not backing the threatened breakaway.
But one of the new bosses at Wakefield – who are – is Kath Hetherington, his wife!
“TREAT the sideline as a precipice” is one of rugby league’s hoariest clichés – but at Port Vila’s Kormand Stadium, it really is the end of the known universe.
If you’re a crab.
To prevent land crabs invading the field of play, the venue for this weekend’s Vanuatu-Niue Islands international is ringed by a buried concrete barrier which stops the critters in their tracks.
Some, however, seem to find their way over the top of them because there are numerous holes over the field nonetheless.
The white concrete strips would serve as functional ground markings but proper paint will be laid down before knick-off by a man who will also do some tidying up around the place – and acts as deputy speaker in the Vanuatu Parliament.
For the second consecutive year (Vanuatu played Greece in 2012), there were concerns about access to the venue. Soccer claimed to be using it and an official said on radio during the week that the “rugby” would have to miss out.
But Queensland-based organiser Dane Campbell – who set up rugby league in foreign countries as a hobby while halfback understudy to Andrew Johns at Newcastle – made sure a deal was done with the government well in advance and it is the soccer administrators who have to find a new venue.
In case you are wondering, Melbourne’s Justin O’Neill still hasn’t represented his homeland. He was in Mackay helping out last week, though, when Vanuatu beat the Solomon Islands 48-30.
YOUR correspondent has just started reading No Helmets Required, Gavin Willacy’s meticulously-researched story of the 1953 American All Stars.
While the United States are finally going to the World Cup this month, Willacy reveals they were actually invited to the first one in ;54 – even though the game was not played there at any level when the invitation was issued and promoter Mike Dmitro hadn’t recruited a single player!
But there is just as much rancour over the 2013 Tomahawks, with domestic players and officials outraged at the number of “heritage” players who’ve got a start.
It’s worth remembering, though, that there are more domestic players in the squad than in those of Italy, the Cook Islands, Ireland, Scotland and others.
We were first alerted to the situation when big prop Curtis Cunz revealed on Facebook he had been overlooked.
Unlike Tohu Harris, Cunz has not turned down the chance to tour as an “ambassador” and seemed as thrilled to confirm his involvement as he was depressed at missing the cut.
But the drama and debate will no doubt continue.
Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD