SET OF SIX: International Season Week Eight

Jarryd Hayne performed some freakish acts in the final but should the Parramatta star been on the field after suffering a head knock.

Jarryd Hayne performed some freakish acts in the final but should the Parramatta star been on the field after suffering a head knock. Photo: Getty Images


In the last three rugby league games at Old Trafford, players who have been knocked senseless and played on have been venerated for their subsequent performances. In the 2012 Super League grand final, it was Leeds' Kevin Sinfield - who went on to win the Golden Boot. In 2013, it was Wigan halfback Blake Green and on Saturday it was Australia centre Jarryd Hayne. All three were clearly well enough to perform and make a difference - but what of their health?

"I understand that," Australia coach Tim Sheens said. "I'm not sure Jarryd was that bad that there was a problem. He was stunned there's no doubt. Yeah, we've got to be careful." As we pointed out in Discord, rugby union has a pitchside assessment programme and only last week Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll was forced to stay off he field. "Jarryd Hayne copped an early knock in the game - we thought he was gone," captain Cameron Smith said. "He bounced back up and played." We still clearly see this as heroic.

Billy Slater of Australia dives over the line to score the opening try. Click for more photos

Australia win Rugby League World Cup

Billy Slater of Australia dives over the line to score the opening try. Photo: Getty Images


Players and coaches on both sides of the ... ahem ... fence agree: Old Trafford is a dangerous place to play rugby league, but it's worth the risk. Skinny in-goals, an elevated playing surface and hard advertising hoardings make the home of Manchester United a less-than-ideal venue for our game's stars. Rival wingers Brett Morris and Manu Vatuvei each collided heavily with perimeter advertising but Kiwi Vatuvei told Set Of Six: "It's a massive, historic (thing) playing here and it was a world record crowd. It's an honour playing here, a few of the boys follow soccer. I wouldn't trade it, I was just glad to get the chance to play here."

Sheens added: "Even with the conditions and the issues, they wouldn't swap that feeling, that crowd, for anything." Stephen Kearney added: "I think it's fine. It challenges the kickers to put it in the right spot. There's obviously a bit of danger with sliding off the back there but I'm sure if you asked the players, they'd much rather play out there." We did. They would.


Australia coach Tim Sheens hinted he was interested in keeping the post - but wouldn't elaborate. Sheens had previously suggested he favoured standing down if he was successful in winning back the World Cup. "That's out of my hands, the game will decide that," Sheens told the post match media conference when asked if he would stay on.

"If it's not for me, I've had a great time with the boys over five years and I couldn't finish any better." When we put to Sheens those statements carried a clear implication he was interested in staying on, he responded: "Right at the moment, all I'm interested in is having a beer with the boys. I'm not thinking about ... like the players, we're all tired. We've had a long year, this has been a tough tournament, a lot of pressure on the squad. Just the relief of that is all I want today. I don't really want to be speculating."


Another title for Queensland? There's more than a little of truth to the theory according to Penrith coach and New Zealand assistant Ivan Cleary. "We're talking about an Australian side that contains a lot of Queenslanders and everyone knows the run they're on," said Cleary. "They've got some guys in there that are once-in-a-generation players. That transfers into Australia and they were outstanding today. Having said that, they don't last forever and I think the Kiwi team is definitely making some strides.

It's not all doom and gloom. It seems like it, today, but the balance of power? I think the Kiwis are getting closer". Cleary was stunned at the arsenal of kicks the Australians used. "They even pulled up two kicks in the in-goal - and there's no in goal out there!" he said.


Even though the football was one-sided, there were some nice moments at the World Cup final. Johnathan Thurston dedicating his man of the match award on TV to the late North Queensland star Alex Elisala was top of the list. The BBC microphone technician whose job it was to 'mic-up' the haka got a huge cheer when he tripped over en-route. He got his task done, though, with headphones lying on the turf. Then there was Billy Slater walking over to console Sonny Bill Williams after his intercepted pass led to the final Australian try. And Josh Papalii plus James Tamou walking from the bench up into the stands to collect their tiny children so they could share the euphoria of the celebrations at fulltime. They were far too small to enjoy it, but the photos will be nice.

As for concerns the absence of England would make the 'record attendance' from a sellout not really an 'attendance' at all, there were very, very few visible red seats. It was a genuine world record, we reckon.


So where does this all leave us? How did we go from losing millions of dollars holding a very similar event 13 years ago to attracting 74,468 fans to a game involving two 'foreign' countries? Britain's Rugby Football League - and in particular, Sally Bolton and Nigel Wood, deserve the lion's share of the credit. Bolton does not have another gig to go to but should be able to name her own price - sadly, probably, in another sport. Off the field, we have unlocked the commercial power of international rugby league but will the NRL and RFL be willing to give it the autonomy and influence it deserves by allowing it to compete with them for sponsors? I suspect not. On the field, Australia have moved back to the front by fair stretch. They're doing their job. The game's job is to help everyone else keep up.