Rugby / rugby league

Why A NZ Win is good for International Rugby League
Rugby League, at the international level, has been limping along for the last decade or so, with random games popping up devoid of meaning and a lack of a Kangaroos tour to the UK pushing it to the back burner once the NRL finishes. Last Saturday night at Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland, a new-look Australian side minus the likes of Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk succumbed to New Zealand 26-24 despite scoring in the opening minutes with alarming ease. Sitting at home watching, I was afraid of another flogging which does nothing for the game, but a Shaun Johnson-inspired NZ stormed back to grab a surprise win, albeit in front of a disappointing crowd of 12,763, which pretty much says where the international game is at; the very best players of New Zealand can only attract an NRL-standard crowd, and even in Australia the game would struggle to crack 20,000. A surprise win by NZ breathes fresh life into the international game which has been overshadowed by the juggernaut that is State of Origin, the giant elephant in the room of the NRL season, an outdated concept harking back to the days when the game was predominantly played in NSW and QLD. In an era when the game is expanding into new markets, hanging onto this format that runs for the best part of three months seems a bit odd to me. But back to my topic, and if Tonga could do a NZ on Australia and cause an upset on Saturday evening it would be a brilliant moment for the game, and with NZ embarking on a long overdue tour of the UK in late October/early November, the game at the highest level looks to be finally moving forward. As much as I love to Australia winning, it isn't healthy for the game to have one nation winning every world cup, and smaller nations are reluctant to schedule fixtures against them for fear of a thrashing. With the rise of Tonga as a rugby league powerhouse, it changes the landscape, and this weekend's historic fixture could be the best thing to happen to the game since it was started way back in 1908. If Tonga rise to become the dominant country, that wouldn't be such a bad thing. Perhaps the NZ win is the dawn of a new era of international rugby league, and I can't wait.