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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 ...

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.

Subscribe to the podcast here.

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.

    Commenter
    Don
    Location
    Sydney
    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.

      Commenter
      JimmyH
      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.

        Commenter
        James
        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

      Commenter
      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.

        Commenter
        Jacko
        Location
        Warriorville
        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?

          Commenter
          OPERAKAT
          Location
          MELBOURNE
          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.

            Commenter
            Next Mini Ice Age
            Location
            Brisbane
            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.

            Commenter
            Phat
            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?
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_Australian_football_code_crowds#Attendances_by_team
            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!

            Commenter
            Budz
            Location
            Sydney
            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.

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

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        NRL Season 2016

        Round 1
        Thu, 03 MarTimes shown AEDT
        PAR vs BRI 20:05Pirtek
        Fri, 04 MarTimes shown AEDT
        MAN vs CBY 20:05BO
        Sat, 05 MarTimes shown AEDT
        CBR vs PEN 15:00GIO
        WST vs NZW 17:30CSS
        NQL vs CRO 19:301300
        Sun, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
        SYD vs SOU 16:00AS
        GCT vs NEW 18:30Cbus
        Mon, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
        MEL vs STG 19:00AAMI
        Fri, 09 SepTimes shown AEST
        vs 00:00TBA
        Sat, 10 SepTimes shown AEST
        vs 00:00TBA
        vs 00:00TBA
        Sun, 11 SepTimes shown AEST
        vs 00:00TBA
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        Round 2
        Thu, 10 MarTimes shown AEDT
        PEN vs CBY 20:05Pepp
        Fri, 11 MarTimes shown AEDT
        BRI vs NZW 20:05SUN
        Sat, 12 MarTimes shown AEDT
        CBR vs SYD 15:00GIO
        SOU vs NEW 17:30ANZ
        PAR vs NQL 19:30Pirtek
        Sun, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
        CRO vs STG 16:00Shark Park
        MEL vs GCT 18:30AAMI
        Mon, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
        WST vs MAN 19:00VAS
        Fri, 16 SepTimes shown AEST
        vs 00:00TBA
        Sat, 17 SepTimes shown AEST
        vs 00:00TBA
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        Round 3
        Thu, 17 MarTimes shown AEDT
        NQL vs SYD 20:051300
        Fri, 18 MarTimes shown AEDT
        CBY vs PAR 20:05ANZ
        Sat, 19 MarTimes shown AEDT
        NEW vs CBR 17:30HS
        PEN vs BRI 19:30Pepp
        GCT vs WST 21:30Cbus
        Sun, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
        NZW vs MEL 14:00MSS
        STG vs SOU 16:00SCG
        Mon, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
        MAN vs CRO 19:00BO
        Fri, 23 SepTimes shown AEST
        vs 00:00TBA
        Sat, 24 SepTimes shown AEST
        vs 00:00TBA
        View All Fixtures
        Round 4
        Fri, 25 MarTimes shown AEDT
        SOU vs CBY 16:00ANZ
        BRI vs NQL 20:05SUN
        Sat, 26 MarTimes shown AEDT
        CBR vs GCT 17:30GIO
        SYD vs MAN 19:30AS
        Sun, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
        STG vs PEN 16:00WIN
        Mon, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
        NZW vs NEW 14:00MSS
        WST vs PAR 16:00ANZ
        CRO vs MEL 19:00Shark Park
        Sun, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
        vs 00:00TBA
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        Round 5
        Thu, 31 MarTimes shown AEDT
        MAN vs SOU 20:05BO
        Fri, 01 AprTimes shown AEDT
        GCT vs BRI 20:05Cbus
        Sat, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
        MEL vs NEW 15:00AAMI
        WST vs CRO 17:30CSS
        NQL vs STG 19:301300
        Sun, 03 AprTimes shown AEST
        SYD vs NZW 14:00AS
        PAR vs PEN 16:00Pirtek
        Mon, 04 AprTimes shown AEST
        CBY vs CBR 19:00Belmore Sports Ground
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        Round 6
        Thu, 07 AprTimes shown AEST
        BRI vs STG 19:50SUN
        Fri, 08 AprTimes shown AEST
        SOU vs SYD 19:50ANZ
        Sat, 09 AprTimes shown AEST
        PAR vs CBR 15:00Pirtek
        NZW vs MAN 17:30MSS
        PEN vs NQL 19:30Pepp
        Sun, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
        CRO vs GCT 14:00Shark Park
        NEW vs WST 16:00HS
        Mon, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
        MEL vs CBY 19:00AAMI
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        Round 7
        Thu, 14 AprTimes shown AEST
        MAN vs PAR 19:50BO
        Fri, 15 AprTimes shown AEST
        NQL vs SOU 19:501300
        Sat, 16 AprTimes shown AEST
        GCT vs STG 15:00Cbus
        CBY vs NZW 17:30Westpac Stadium
        BRI vs NEW 19:30SUN
        Sun, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
        CBR vs CRO 14:00GIO
        WST vs MEL 16:00VAS
        Mon, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
        SYD vs PEN 19:00AS
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        Round 8
        Fri, 22 AprTimes shown AEST
        BRI vs SOU 19:50SUN
        Sat, 23 AprTimes shown AEST
        CBY vs GCT 15:00ANZ
        CBR vs WST 17:30GIO
        NQL vs PAR 19:301300
        Sun, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
        CRO vs PEN 16:00Shark Park
        Mon, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
        NEW vs MAN 14:00HS
        STG vs SYD 16:00AS
        MEL vs NZW 19:00AAMI
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        Round 9
        Thu, 28 AprTimes shown AEST
        SOU vs WST 19:50ANZ
        PAR vs CBY 19:50ANZ
        Sat, 30 AprTimes shown AEST
        PEN vs CBR 15:00Carrington Park
        SYD vs NEW 17:30CCS
        MAN vs NQL 19:30BO
        Sun, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
        NZW vs STG 12:00MSS
        GCT vs MEL 14:00Cbus
        CRO vs BRI 16:00Shark Park
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        Round 10
        Thu, 12 MayTimes shown AEST
        STG vs CBR 19:50Jubilee Oval
        Fri, 13 MayTimes shown AEST
        PAR vs SOU 19:50Pirtek
        Sat, 14 MayTimes shown AEST
        PEN vs NZW 15:00AMI Stadium
        MEL vs NQL 17:30SUN
        MAN vs BRI 19:30SUN
        Sun, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
        NEW vs CRO 14:00HS
        WST vs CBY 16:00ANZ
        Mon, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
        GCT vs SYD 19:00Cbus
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        Round 11
        Thu, 19 MayTimes shown AEST
        SOU vs STG 19:50ANZ
        Fri, 20 MayTimes shown AEST
        NQL vs BRI 19:501300
        Sat, 21 MayTimes shown AEST
        WST vs NEW 15:00CSS
        NZW vs CBR 17:30Yarrow Stadium
        CRO vs MAN 19:30Shark Park
        Sun, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
        PEN vs GCT 14:00Pepp
        CBY vs SYD 16:00ANZ
        Mon, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
        PAR vs MEL 19:00Pirtek
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        Round 12
        Fri, 27 MayTimes shown AEST
        BRI vs WST 19:50SUN
        Sat, 28 MayTimes shown AEST
        STG vs NQL 19:30WIN
        Sun, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
        CBR vs CBY 16:00GIO
        Mon, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
        NEW vs PAR 19:00HS
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        Round 13
        Fri, 03 JunTimes shown AEST
        CBR vs MAN 19:50GIO
        Sat, 04 JunTimes shown AEST
        NZW vs BRI 15:00MSS
        NQL vs NEW 17:301300
        MEL vs PEN 19:30AAMI
        Sun, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
        SYD vs WST 16:00AS
        SOU vs GCT 18:30nib Stadium
        Mon, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
        CBY vs CRO 19:00ANZ
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        Round 14
        Thu, 09 JunTimes shown AEST
        BRI vs CBR 19:50SUN
        Fri, 10 JunTimes shown AEST
        WST vs SOU 19:50ANZ
        Sat, 11 JunTimes shown AEST
        NEW vs NZW 15:00HS
        PAR vs GCT 17:30TIO
        SYD vs MEL 19:30AS
        Sun, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
        MAN vs PEN 16:00BO
        Mon, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
        STG vs CBY 16:00ANZ
        CRO vs NQL 19:00Shark Park
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        Round 15
        Fri, 17 JunTimes shown AEST
        SOU vs PAR 19:50ANZ
        Sat, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
        STG vs MEL 19:30WIN
        Sun, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
        NZW vs SYD 16:00MSS
        Mon, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
        GCT vs MAN 19:00Cbus
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        Round 16
        Fri, 24 JunTimes shown AEST
        PEN vs SOU 19:50Pepp
        Sat, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
        NEW vs STG 15:00HS
        CRO vs NZW 17:30Shark Park
        CBY vs BRI 19:30ANZ
        Sun, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
        GCT vs CBR 14:00Cbus
        MEL vs WST 16:00AAMI
        Mon, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
        NQL vs MAN 19:001300
        View All Fixtures
        Round 17
        Thu, 30 JunTimes shown AEST
        SYD vs CBY 19:50AS
        Fri, 01 JulTimes shown AEST
        BRI vs MEL 19:50SUN
        Sat, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
        NZW vs GCT 15:00MSS
        WST vs PEN 17:30ANZ
        CRO vs PAR 19:30Shark Park
        Sun, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
        CBR vs NEW 14:00GIO
        SOU vs NQL 16:00Barlow Park
        Mon, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
        MAN vs STG 19:00BO
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        Round 18
        Fri, 08 JulTimes shown AEST
        PAR vs SYD 19:50Pirtek
        Sat, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
        CBY vs WST 19:30ANZ
        Sun, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
        PEN vs CRO 16:00Pepp
        Mon, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
        CBR vs NQL 19:00GIO
        View All Fixtures
        Round 19
        Fri, 15 JulTimes shown AEST
        STG vs GCT 19:50Jubilee Oval
        Sat, 16 JulTimes shown AEST
        MAN vs NZW 17:30nib Stadium
        SOU vs BRI 19:30ANZ
        Sun, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
        NEW vs MEL 14:00HS
        PEN vs PAR 16:00Pepp
        Mon, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
        SYD vs CRO 19:00AS
        View All Fixtures
        Round 20
        Thu, 21 JulTimes shown AEST
        NQL vs CBY 19:501300
        Fri, 22 JulTimes shown AEST
        BRI vs PEN 19:50SUN
        Sat, 23 JulTimes shown AEST
        CBR vs NZW 15:00GIO
        GCT vs PAR 17:30Cbus
        MEL vs SYD 19:30AAMI
        Sun, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
        CRO vs NEW 14:00Shark Park
        STG vs WST 16:00ANZ
        Mon, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
        SOU vs MAN 19:00ANZ
        View All Fixtures
        Round 21
        Wed, 27 JulTimes shown AEST
        NZW vs PEN 22:00MSS
        Thu, 28 JulTimes shown AEST
        SYD vs BRI 00:00AS
        CBY vs STG 00:00ANZ
        GCT vs CRO 00:00Cbus
        PAR vs WST 00:00ANZ
        SOU vs CBR 00:00ANZ
        MAN vs NEW 00:00BO
        NQL vs MEL 00:001300
        View All Fixtures
        Round 22
        Thu, 04 AugTimes shown AEST
        STG vs BRI 00:00WIN
        PAR vs MAN 00:00Pirtek
        CRO vs CBR 00:00Shark Park
        NEW vs CBY 00:00HS
        MEL vs SOU 00:00AAMI
        GCT vs NZW 00:00Cbus
        WST vs NQL 00:00VAS
        PEN vs SYD 00:00Pepp
        View All Fixtures
        Round 23
        Wed, 10 AugTimes shown AEST
        NZW vs SOU 22:00MSS
        Thu, 11 AugTimes shown AEST
        CBY vs MAN 00:00ANZ
        BRI vs PAR 00:00SUN
        WST vs GCT 00:00CSS
        STG vs CRO 00:00Jubilee Oval
        NEW vs PEN 00:00HS
        SYD vs NQL 00:00AS
        CBR vs MEL 00:00GIO
        View All Fixtures
        Round 24
        Thu, 18 AugTimes shown AEST
        BRI vs CBY 00:00SUN
        SYD vs STG 00:00AS
        NEW vs GCT 00:00HS
        NQL vs NZW 00:001300
        MAN vs MEL 00:00BO
        CBR vs PAR 00:00GIO
        PEN vs WST 00:00Pepp
        SOU vs CRO 00:00ANZ
        View All Fixtures
        Round 25
        Wed, 24 AugTimes shown AEST
        NZW vs WST 22:00MSS
        Thu, 25 AugTimes shown AEST
        CBY vs NQL 00:00Belmore Sports Ground
        MEL vs BRI 00:00AAMI
        GCT vs PEN 00:00Cbus
        MAN vs CBR 00:00BO
        CRO vs SYD 00:00Shark Park
        NEW vs SOU 00:00HS
        PAR vs STG 00:00Pirtek
        View All Fixtures
        Round 26
        Wed, 31 AugTimes shown AEST
        NZW vs PAR 22:00MSS
        Thu, 01 SepTimes shown AEST
        BRI vs SYD 00:00SUN
        CBY vs SOU 00:00ANZ
        STG vs NEW 00:00Jubilee Oval
        NQL vs GCT 00:001300
        MEL vs CRO 00:00AAMI
        WST vs CBR 00:00VAS
        PEN vs MAN 00:00Pepp
        View All Fixtures

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