THE World Cup trophy that will be presented to the captain of the winners of the final at Suncorp Stadium on November 22 was almost recast before the last tournament as a body-building trophy.
Originally donated to the Rugby League International Federation by French Federation Francaise de Rugby a XIII president Paul Barriere for the inaugural World Cup in 1954, the trophy mysteriously disappeared on the eve of the 1970 final in England - believed stolen.
It was found 20 years later at a rubbish tip in Bradford but no one seemed to realise its significance and the trophy was set to be used for a bodybuilding competition until a local newspaper identified it.
Can there be a better analogy for the lack of respect afforded to international rugby league for much of its 100-year existence? Even the World Cup, the second-oldest tournament of its type, has been a somewhat shambolic affair staged sporadically over the past 54 years and under a variety of formats.
The 2000 tournament in England, France and Wales was a financial disaster and set back development of the game for years as Australia, Great Britain and New Zealand were forced to absorb the losses - leaving little funding for other countries.
With 26 separate television deals taking coverage to 127 countries and generating more than $20 million income, state governments in NSW, Queensland and Victoria bidding to host matches and strong ticket sales, the tournament, starting tonight in Townsville, offers the opportunity for a fresh start.
Significantly, News Ltd - which has a finger in almost every rugby league pie in Australia - has no involvement in the tournament other than through its shareholding in Fox Sports and Sky TV in Britain and New Zealand.
The Australian Rugby League and Britain's Rugby Football League won't get to bank much money from the tournament either.
Instead, most of the profit from the World Cup will be poured back into further developing the game in the Pacific and eastern Europe, where rugby league is rapidly growing in popularity - as evidenced by the interest of broadcasters in countries such as Albania, Serbia and Estonia to televise the tournament.
Perhaps if officials had picked up the phone to them previously the game would have discovered this new source of revenue earlier.
Until now, the RLIF's only income was derived from gate receipts at Test matches, with a percentage paid to the international body.
It has been a Catch-22 situation, with the lack of funding to develop the international game leading to a lack of meaningful Tests from which money could be raised.
The success of the Tri-Nations tournaments between Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain in 2004, 2005 and 2006 enabled the resurrection of the World Cup, which should in turn lead to further development of the game in Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Papua New Guinea and France.
It is envisaged that France will join an expanded Tri-Nations tournament, while the four Pacific nations would play their own annual tournament - providing more international exposure for players from those countries and a greater incentive for others who are eligible through their heritage to play for them.
The proposed inclusion of a PNG team in the NRL would improve the competitiveness of the Kumuls just as the Kiwis have benefited from the presence of the Warriors and the French have been revitalised since the introduction of Catalans to Super League in Britain.
The promotion of the Celtic Crusaders to Super League next season is expected to provide a similar boost for Wales, while many believe the Pacific nations would benefit from having a combined team in the NRL.
But that is for the future and at the moment it is Year Zero in international rugby league, with no one involved in the World Cup pretending that it compares to the rugby union version played in France last year.
A more accurate comparison would be with the 1987 Rugby World Cup, which was so unambitious the final was held at Concord Oval.
In little more than a decade, the tournament had grown to be the fourth-biggest sporting event in the world.