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Rugby league is the freak of Australian sport

Cup match: Matt Seamark (centre) of Wales is sandwiched between Daniel Howard and Matthew Shipway of the US during a rugby league World Cup match last year.

Cup match: Matt Seamark (centre) of Wales is sandwiched between Daniel Howard and Matthew Shipway of the US during a rugby league World Cup match last year. Photo: Getty Images

Given the position rugby league holds in Australia, it never ceases to amaze how little coverage anything outside the NRL receives.

This week we had the qualifying system for the World Cup announced. You would think, given the number of NRL players likely involved, it might get a line or two in the papers – particularly since the 2017 tournament is in Australia.

No such luck.

The reasons for this are many and varied but I repeat my constant refrain: Australians are good underdogs but sheepish as leaders. We should be doing for rugby league worldwide what the Americans do for basketball and baseball, but somehow that missionary zeal is absent from most of us.

Maybe many rugby league people in Australia are involved in the sport because it’s the top show in town. If belly flopping was the top sport, they’d play and follow that. So they are ashamed what a small sport rugby league is worldwide and have nothing in common with second-rowers in Serbia or referees in American Samoa.

But rugby league in Australia is the real freak, the weird anomaly. I believe the real spirit of the game resides where it is marginalised, where people don’t get paid, where it battles every day for survival. That’s what the game is to me – not giant professional athletes earning more than the prime minister but geeks, battlers, trainspotters and volunteers trying to lift a sport above obscurity against the odds.

Anyway, onto the news itself. As predicted here, Italy and the US have been kind of kicked out of the World Cup despite their strong showings in Britain, Ireland and France last year.

Scotland, Samoa, Fiji, France and England are the automatic qualifiers alongside hosts Australia and New Zealand. That’s right, all the 2013 quarter-finalists except the US.

I see good and bad in this decision. The good is that the US has an incentive to sort out its warring factions and become a full member of the Rugby League International Federation before the tournament. Italy has the same problem and the same incentive.

The bad side of the decision is that full members are miffed at those two countries stacking their sides with foreign-based professionals and beating them – and they’ve ganged up on the Tomahawks and Azzurri whose non-membership prevents them defending themselves in the boardroom.

What’s more, the qualifiers will be mid-season, meaning NRL and Super League players will be unavailable. If the US and Italy are to get through to the World Cup in 2017, they’ll have to do so with domestic players or at least those from lower-tier competitions in Australia and Britain.

And that’s not a bad thing. I feel the US, in particular, have been treated poorly but, in the end, we want the best rugby league countries in the World Cup, not those who exported more people to Australia and England in the 1950s.

The remaining seven spots in the 2017 tournament will be filled by qualifiers in Europe (three), Asia-Pacific (two), the Americas (one) and Africa-Middle East (one).

This year’s European Championships will decide which of Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France will take part in the 2016 Four Nations.

Why are we having a 2016 Four Nations when Great Britain want to tour Australia next year? Given the choice, I’d rather players have off 2016 and we get the Lions next year.

Turnover at Titans

I HAD the pleasure of meeting Daryl Kelly, the chairman of the Gold Coast Titans, at 1300SMILES Stadium on Saturday night.

In retrospect, I’m glad we didn’t have coffee or you might not be reading this column.

It was a coffee with Kelly that preceded the resignation of coach John Cartwright on Tuesday. Club founder Michael Searle went late last week, although we weren’t told until Tuesday.

I have a lot to do with coaches these days through my work with Triple M, even though I almost never call them anymore as a news gatherer between games.

Cartwright was always helpful and honest, his comment about coaches being “ships in the night” showed rare perspective in a stressful and self-absorbed industry. He made it clear he cared about the club beyond his own career and it’s great he’s staying around.

The end of Neil Henry’s tenure in North Queensland was premature; it occurred during a finals series, after all. He’s a good choice as replacement.

As for Searle, he founded the joint. Searle was one of the up-and-coming movers and shakers in the game who, unfortunately, over-reached with the ill-fated centre of excellence.

I’m aware that people who were out of pocket from that held it against the club and stayed away. Maybe now they’ll come back.

But Searle’s legacy is a club that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. That’s something to be proud of.

Tallis taken to task

COMMENTS time and I’m still playing catch-up.

From last week’s column, You Got The Juan said Gorden Tallis was not a journalist and should be called a pundit. I agree – but have a confession to make. I don’t have a degree in journalism. I got a job straight out of high school at AAP.

Short Memory said Tallis was basing his comments on what Robbie Farah said to him 15 months ago. But an unnamed player was quoted in Rugby League Week just a fortnight ago criticising Potter. I don’t think Tallis’ claims were based solely on the conversation with Farah. He just cited it as evidence.

Jimmy Crocodile said fans wanted coaches sacked when they did not get results. And I guess that’s why they are sacked, Jimmy! I’d just like to see more of them serve out their contracts, and I’d like to see more support for them when they are sacked. Then we’d get a better class of applicant.

I’m going back to the "image" column looking for something I can respond to but most of the feedback seems to be league v AFL v rugby union tiffs. OK … Tired Camel said because I have done stupid things, I can’t comment on players doing silly things. But what is the use of learning from mistakes if you can never pass on what you learn? I waited 28 years until I could cope with being called a hypocrite before writing that column. I also outed myself as one right at the top – so if you thought that discounted me from commenting, you could stop reading right away.

Lgrsydney questioned Todd Carney winning the 2010 Dally M medal. But the Dally M is for the best player – not the fairest. The Rothmans Medal was best and fairest. Mind you, suspensions do discount a candidate from the Dally M medal. As for Paul Gallen, he’s the captain of NSW and says interesting things. No one has the right to censor him.

Soot said people in all areas of society behave poorly. But rugby league at the top is a media-financed and driven entity that the game as a whole uses as a recruitment tool. James Packer is not a front man for recruiting future media moguls. If the people at the top, whose wages are paid by media rights, are acting in a way that deters recruitment, then the amateur game is hurt as badly as the professional game.

Enough for this week, then.

Here’s the forum.

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65 comments so far

  • RLWC should move to 16-teams in 2017.16 is a much better format than 14 teams, and they could final 16-teams to be competitive, especially if the eligibility rules get loosened more.

    Date and time
    August 06, 2014, 4:07PM
    • Unfortunately, many (not saying all) RL people in Australia seem to think RL begins and ends at our borders. Yet when I was younger, there was nothing better than rousing Ashes RL Test matches between Great Britain and Australia. Would love to see that again. Also looking forward to the 2017 RLWC; the 2013 RLWC was generally great.

      Date and time
      August 06, 2014, 4:53PM
      • Those many are right. RL is a great game within its two state borders, a non entity beyond that. Appreciate what you have.

        Date and time
        August 07, 2014, 10:52AM
    • It wouldn't matter what countries you put in the "World Cup" the countries will be full of Aussies and Kiwis anyway, so just make the countries up

      FC of Sydney
      Date and time
      August 06, 2014, 6:27PM
      • Australia does very little to promote League globally.For some reason they are very inward looking you only have to listen to the bias in their media towards the only overseas NRL Warrior side to wonder why?Perhaps you Aussies just dont care about growing the game- I really dont know.There is some movement with PG and now Petro is pushing Fiji which is great but such a lot more could be done especially come World Cup time.
        League is such a TV friendly sport(altho time taking for video refs is spoiling it lately)that its growth could be huge if the leaders were dedicated to it.
        You are correct that the backbone of any sport is in the thousands of unpaid players and volunteers away from the limelight.Any sport that ignores the imput of their grassroots will slowly stagnate at best or decline at worst.

        Date and time
        August 06, 2014, 6:29PM
        • "Given the position rugby league holds in Australia, it never ceases to amaze how little coverage anything outside the NRL receives."

          What does that mean? and given that rugby league is mainly played in two states what is the problem?

          Date and time
          August 06, 2014, 6:49PM
          • I agree OPERAKAT - a truly staggering and arrogant comment. Have a look at the publicity the Waratahs have had this last 2 weeks; plus the All Blacks V Wallabies start next week. Uo here is Brisbane the Reds have bigger home crowds on average than the Broncos.

            Next Mini Ice Age
            Date and time
            August 07, 2014, 8:28AM
          • Sigh.

            I think you missed the point entirely.

            The writer is asking why non-NRL related rugby league, ie. World Cup, NSW Cup, other non-NRL related competitions do not receive much coverage.

            Date and time
            August 07, 2014, 11:23AM
          • @Next Mini Ice Age:
            You must be living in a nice bubble there! Also could you be more wrong?
            Brisbane Broncos NRL 9 314,438 34,938
            Reds Super Rugby 8 228,003 28,500

            Not only do the Broncos have a higher average crowd, their total crowd will be so much bigger because they play far more matches in a season too!

            Date and time
            August 07, 2014, 11:33AM
          • Hi Budz - the Broncos average crowd numbers are heavily skewed through 3 - 4 games. When the Broncos play say GC Titans/ Cowboys/ Warriors (big kiwi population up here) they get around 40,000. Go and have a look at the average crowds for other games.

            Next Mini
            Date and time
            August 07, 2014, 12:02PM

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        NRL Season 2015

        Round 1
        Thu, 05 MarTimes shown AEDT
        BRI 6 vs SOU 36 Report Stats
        Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
        PAR 42 vs MAN 12 Report Report Stats
        Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
        NEW 24 vs NZW 14 Report Stats
        GCT 18 vs WST 19 Report Stats
        NQL 4 vs SYD 28 Report Stats
        Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
        PEN 24 vs CBY 18 Report Stats
        CRO 20 vs CBR 24 Report Stats
        Mon, 09 MarTimes shown AEDT
        STG 4 vs MEL 12 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 2
        Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
        CBY 32 vs PAR 12 Report Stats
        CRO 2 vs BRI 10 Report Stats
        Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
        PEN 40 vs GCT Report Stats
        MAN 24 vs MEL 22 Stats
        NQL 14 vs NEW 16 Report Stats
        Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
        SOU 34 vs SYD 26 Stats
        CBR 6 vs NZW 18 Report Stats
        Mon, 16 MarTimes shown AEDT
        WST 22 vs STG 4 Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 3
        Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
        MAN 12 vs CBY 16 Report Stats
        BRI 44 vs NQL 22 Report Stats
        Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
        NZW 29 vs PAR 16 Report Stats
        CBR 20 vs STG 22 Report Stats
        MEL 36 vs CRO 18 Report Stats
        Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
        SOU 20 vs WST 6 Report Stats
        GCT 18 vs NEW 20 Report Stats
        Mon, 23 MarTimes shown AEDT
        SYD 20 vs PEN 12 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 4
        Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
        PAR 29 vs SOU 16 Report Stats
        WST 24 vs CBY 25 Report Stats
        Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
        NEW 26 vs PEN 14 Report Stats
        CRO 22 vs GCT 24 Report Stats
        STG 12 vs MAN 4 Report Stats
        Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
        NZW 16 vs BRI 24 Report Stats
        SYD 34 vs CBR 6 Report Stats
        Mon, 30 MarTimes shown AEDT
        NQL 18 vs MEL 17 Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 5
        Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
        CBY 17 vs SOU 18 Report Stats
        GCT 16 vs BRI 26 Report Stats
        Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
        MAN 16 vs CBR 29 Report Stats
        NEW vs STG 13 Report Stats
        Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
        SYD 12 vs CRO 20 Report Stats
        Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
        PAR 6 vs WST 22 Report Stats
        MEL 30 vs NZW 14 Report Stats
        PEN 10 vs NQL 30 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 6
        Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
        BRI 22 vs SYD 18 Report Stats
        CRO 22 vs NEW 6 Report Stats
        Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
        PAR 16 vs GCT 38 Report Stats
        NZW 32 vs WST 22 Report Stats
        PEN 22 vs MAN 12 Report Stats
        Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
        CBR 10 vs MEL 14 Report Stats
        STG 31 vs CBY 6 Report Stats
        Mon, 13 AprTimes shown AEST
        SOU 12 vs NQL 30 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 7
        Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
        CBY 28 vs MAN 16 Report Stats
        STG 12 vs BRI 10 Report Stats
        Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
        GCT 32 vs PEN 6 Report Stats
        NQL 28 vs NZW 24 Report Stats
        MEL 17 vs SYD 16 Report Stats
        Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
        WST 22 vs CBR 30 Report Stats
        NEW 22 vs PAR 28 Report Stats
        Mon, 20 AprTimes shown AEST
        CRO 18 vs SOU 10 Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 8
        Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
        CBY 14 vs WST 38 Stats
        Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
        NZW 28 vs GCT 32 Report Stats
        NEW 24 vs NQL 26 Report Stats
        SYD 12 vs STG 14 Report Stats
        MEL 10 vs MAN 12 Stats
        BRI 28 vs PAR 16 Stats
        Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
        PEN 26 vs CRO 18 Stats
        SOU 22 vs CBR 30 Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 9
        Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
        BRI 8 vs PEN 5 Report Stats
        SYD 36 vs WST 4 Stats
        Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
        CBR 56 vs GCT 16 Stats
        CRO 16 vs NZW 20 Stats
        NQL 23 vs CBY 16 Stats
        Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
        MAN 30 vs NEW 10 Stats
        PAR 10 vs MEL 28 Stats
        Mon, 11 MayTimes shown AEST
        SOU 16 vs STG 10 Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 10
        Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
        CBY 10 vs SYD 24 Stats
        NQL 31 vs BRI 20 Stats
        Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
        PAR 13 vs NZW 17 Report Stats
        GCT 22 vs CRO 23 Report Stats
        MEL 16 vs SOU 12 Stats
        Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
        STG 32 vs CBR 18 Report Stats
        NEW 22 vs WST 12 Stats
        Mon, 18 MayTimes shown AEST
        MAN 10 vs PEN 11 Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 11
        Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
        SOU 14 vs PAR 12 Report Stats
        Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
        WST vs NQL 8 Stats
        Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
        CBR vs CBY 16:00GIO Stadium
        Mon, 25 MayTimes shown AEST
        NEW vs BRI 19:00HS
        View All Fixtures
        Round 12
        Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
        PEN vs PAR 19:45Pepper Stadium
        Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
        GCT vs SOU 15:00Cbus Super Stadium
        CBR vs BRI 17:30GIO Stadium
        NQL vs MAN 19:301300 Smiles Stadium
        Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
        NZW vs NEW 14:00MSS
        STG vs CRO 16:00Jubilee Oval
        Mon, 01 JunTimes shown AEST
        SYD vs MEL 19:00AS
        View All Fixtures
        Round 13
        Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
        BRI vs MAN 19:35SUN
        WST vs GCT 19:35VAS
        Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
        NEW vs CBR 15:00HS
        SOU vs NZW 17:30nib Stadium
        PEN vs MEL 19:30Pepper Stadium
        Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
        CRO vs SYD 16:00Remondis Stadium
        Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
        CBY vs STG 16:00ANZ
        PAR vs NQL 19:00Pirtek Stadium
        View All Fixtures
        Round 14
        Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
        WST vs SOU 19:45ANZ
        Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
        NZW vs SYD 18:00MSS
        Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
        GCT vs CBY 16:00Cbus Super Stadium
        Mon, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
        MEL vs PAR 19:00AAMI
        View All Fixtures
        Round 15
        Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
        MAN vs WST 19:45BO
        Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
        CBR vs NQL 15:00GIO Stadium
        GCT vs NZW 17:30Cbus Super Stadium
        CBY vs PEN 19:30ANZ
        Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
        NEW vs CRO 14:00HS
        MEL vs BRI 16:00AAMI
        Mon, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
        STG vs SYD 19:00AS
        View All Fixtures
        Round 16
        Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
        BRI vs NEW 19:35SUN
        SOU vs MAN 19:35ANZ
        Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
        NZW vs CBR 15:00MSS
        NQL vs CRO 17:301300 Smiles Stadium
        PAR vs STG 19:30Pirtek Stadium
        Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
        SYD vs GCT 14:00AS
        WST vs PEN 16:00VAS
        Mon, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
        CBY vs MEL 19:00Belmore Sports Ground
        View All Fixtures
        Round 17
        Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
        PEN vs SOU 19:45Pepper Stadium
        Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
        STG vs NQL 19:30WIN
        Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
        MAN vs CRO 16:00BO
        Mon, 06 JulTimes shown AEST
        WST vs PAR 19:00ANZ
        View All Fixtures
        Round 18
        Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
        CBR vs NEW 19:45GIO Stadium
        Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
        PEN vs SYD 17:30Pepper Stadium
        CBY vs BRI 19:30ANZ
        Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
        NZW vs MEL 14:00MSS
        CRO vs STG 16:00Remondis Stadium
        Mon, 13 JulTimes shown AEST
        GCT vs MAN 19:00Cbus Super Stadium
        View All Fixtures
        Round 19
        Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
        PAR vs CBY 19:35ANZ
        MEL vs PEN 19:35AAMI
        Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
        CBR vs CRO 15:00GIO Stadium
        NEW vs GCT 17:30HS
        STG vs SOU 19:30SCG
        Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
        SYD vs NZW 14:00AS
        BRI vs WST 16:00SUN
        Mon, 20 JulTimes shown AEST
        MAN vs NQL 19:00BO
        View All Fixtures
        Round 20
        Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
        BRI vs GCT 19:35SUN
        WST vs SYD 19:35ANZ
        Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
        NZW vs MAN 15:00MSS
        SOU vs NEW 17:30ANZ
        MEL vs STG 19:30AAMI
        Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
        PEN vs CBR 14:00Pepper Stadium
        CBY vs CRO 16:00Belmore Sports Ground
        Mon, 27 JulTimes shown AEST
        NQL vs PAR 19:001300 Smiles Stadium
        View All Fixtures
        Round 21
        Thu, 30 JulTimes shown AEST
        NZW vs CRO 22:00MSS
        Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
        NQL vs CBR 00:001300 Smiles Stadium
        STG vs NEW 00:00Jubilee Oval
        SOU vs PEN 00:00ANZ
        SYD vs CBY 00:00AS
        MAN vs BRI 00:00TBA
        WST vs MEL 00:00VAS
        GCT vs PAR 00:00Cbus Super Stadium
        View All Fixtures
        Round 22
        Thu, 06 AugTimes shown AEST
        NZW vs STG 22:00MSS
        Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
        BRI vs CBY 00:00SUN
        NEW vs SYD 00:00HS
        CBR vs WST 00:00GIO Stadium
        MAN vs SOU 00:00BO
        CRO vs NQL 00:00Remondis Stadium
        MEL vs GCT 00:00AAMI
        PAR vs PEN 00:30TIO
        View All Fixtures
        Round 23
        Thu, 13 AugTimes shown AEST
        BRI vs STG 00:00SUN
        CBY vs GCT 00:00TBA
        NQL vs SOU 00:001300 Smiles Stadium
        PEN vs NZW 00:00Pepper Stadium
        CBR vs MAN 00:00GIO Stadium
        SYD vs PAR 00:00AS
        CRO vs MEL 00:00Remondis Stadium
        WST vs NEW 00:00CSS
        View All Fixtures
        Round 24
        Wed, 19 AugTimes shown AEST
        NZW vs NQL 22:00MSS
        Thu, 20 AugTimes shown AEST
        STG vs PEN 00:00WIN
        SOU vs CBY 00:00ANZ
        SYD vs BRI 00:00AS
        MAN vs PAR 00:00BO
        CRO vs WST 00:00Remondis Stadium
        MEL vs NEW 00:00AAMI
        GCT vs CBR 00:00Cbus Super Stadium
        View All Fixtures
        Round 25
        Thu, 27 AugTimes shown AEST
        PAR vs CRO 00:00Pirtek Stadium
        NEW vs CBY 00:00HS
        SOU vs BRI 00:00AS
        CBR vs PEN 00:00GIO Stadium
        MAN vs SYD 00:00BO
        MEL vs NQL 00:00AAMI
        WST vs NZW 00:00CSS
        GCT vs STG 00:00Cbus Super Stadium
        View All Fixtures
        Round 26
        Thu, 03 SepTimes shown AEST
        BRI vs MEL 00:00SUN
        CBY vs NZW 00:00ANZ
        NQL vs GCT 00:001300 Smiles Stadium
        STG vs WST 00:00ANZ
        PAR vs CBR 00:00Pirtek Stadium
        PEN vs NEW 00:00Pepper Stadium
        SYD vs SOU 00:00AS
        CRO vs MAN 00:00Remondis Stadium
        View All Fixtures
        NRL Ladder 2015
        Overall standings
        Team P W L D Pts
        Melbourne Storm 10 7 3 0 16
        St George-Illawarra Dragons 10 7 3 0 16
        North Queensland Cowboys 11 8 3 0 16
        Brisbane Broncos 10 7 3 0 14
        Sydney Roosters 10 5 5 0 12
        South Sydney Rabbitohs 11 6 5 0 12
        Warriors 10 5 5 0 12
        Penrith Panthers 10 5 5 0 12
        View all
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