By STEVE MASCORD
THE kerfuffle caused by colleague Robert Burgin’s RLW piece a couple of weeks ago is still rumbling on.
So far, the mooted rebellion of a dozen countries from the RLIF’s rule is still very much underground. There is still at least some possibility many countries will accept the offer of a fully funded tournament next year.
The way Far & Wide sees it, there is a very important line to be drawn.
I openly opposed, for instance, Penrith and Brisbane playing a game in Hawaii two years ago. My reasons were this: NRL players had demanded that spring off and Great Britain had therefore been told to stay home. Also, to be honest I was not sure NRL players on an end-of-season trip could be trusted to do more good than harm in a new territory.
But the main concern was this: expansion is too important to be done on an ad-hoc basis. It’s OK for soccer clubs to organise their pre-season and end-of-season games because soccer is widely played internationally.
Rugby league still is not.
International expansion should be part of an over-all strategy, not done in a piecemeal fashion by the competing teams – and in that respect alone I have sympathy for the RLIF in the decision not to allow Emerging Nations games to go ahead.
The games were initially intended to be curtain-raisers but would the teams involved have actually have fielded true national sides? I doubt every player would have satisfied the grandparent rule and I doubt the best players would have been available. And it was not the best countries; some of them do not have the required domestic activity to be in the World Cup qualifiers and others do.
But the RLIF did not block the tournament because of these concerns. The countries weren’t asked to stop calling the matches a “championship”. It was blocked because the World Cup asked for it to be blocked, citing exclusivity clauses.
The countries involved were allowed to continue planning for several months only to have those plans blocked. That’s why they’re angry. And they are justified in that.
Far & Wide would like to see any replacement tournament next year built into a proper structure. Perhaps a country without the proper bonafides could win a wildcard into the next World Cup qualification (although once there they would have to meet all requirements regarding the team they field).