Does anyone remember the glory days of international rugby league?
It doesn’t feel like that long ago there was some sort of resurgence.
2019 was the first time in 41 years that the Australian Kangaroos has been beaten by a nation other than New Zealand, Great Britain, or England. That was France back in 1978.
Saturday, November 2nd, just under two years ago Tonga defeated Australia 16-12 in Auckland. It was a historic event, and the reaction of tears, hugs, and flags proudly on display all night long was a testament to that.
With three wins over tier-one nations in a row, Tonga is on their way to make international great (and competitive) again.
Since then though, crickets in the Southern Hemisphere. No international rugby league to be seen.
One of the most recent results played across the world was the Netherlands thumping Germany 48-16 in a Griffin Cup match on October 2, 2021 – but that’s not making headlines or getting fans excited at this end of the world.
And yes, we’re supposed to be ready for a Rugby League World Cup, however, the Australian Rugby League Commission and New Zealand Rugby League released a joint statement on July 21st to say they will not compete due to player welfare and safety concerns.
This spiralled out of control so much, that without the best two teams in the world, the World Cup would be postponed a year.
So, any chance of some international rugby league games between New Zealand, and Australia, perhaps even Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, or Tonga to see out the 2021 year? Nope.
International Rugby has always been stronger, more developed, more competitive and more advanced than International Rugby League. It will seemingly always be in its shadow, too.
By the end of this calendar year, the New Zealand All Blacks would have played 21 international fixtures since the beginning of 2020. Travelled to three different Australian states, four European countries, and the United States of America.
It’s great that international rugby is still getting to be played around the globe during a global pandemic, and players are still able to compete, get paid, and provide a future for their whānau.
But, what about international rugby league? What’s going on? They can’t keep playing the Covid card forever. Especially with a full NRL season playing out rather successfully.
The lack of fixtures is disappointing.
The National Rugby League season finished up with an extraordinary Grand Final between Penrith and South Sydney. Months earlier it was New South Wales upstaging Queensland in Queensland with a comprehensive 2-1 series win.
The NRL It’s clear that internationals are no longer the pinnacle of rugby league, but to just not have any games at all seems to be adding to the NRL monopoly.
Television rights play a massive part in the success of it all, and to get more people tuning in, consuming advertising, and watching rugby league is a numbers game more so than ever before.
But how good would it have been to be able to see the Kiwis and Kangaroos battle it out to end the season? A three or even five-test series would help the fans get their rugby league fix, instead of waiting until February for pre-season NRL games to kick off
Or even throw in an impromptu Oceania Cup, which is still on hiatus after the 2019 season
The one thing that seems to confuse me the most, however, is that earlier on Thursday this week, the New Zealand Kiwis announced a wider training squad for the revised 2022 Rugby League World Cup – which doesn’t kick off until for another 12 months.
The naming of the squad really doesn’t mean anything this far out, but I guess if that’s as good as it gets for international rugby league in the year 2021 – I guess we just have to deal with it.
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