COLMAN ON SUNDAY MY CUP OF TEA
IRARELY disagree with my friend and colleague Robert Craddock. In fact, “Crash” is probably the most agreeable journalist I have ever met.
However, on the matter of Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita choosing to play for minnow Tonga rather than heavyweights New Zealand and Australia in the upcoming Rugby League World Cup, I find we are on different sides of the fence.
Crash reckons the late defection of two of the game’s most dangerous forwards makes a laughing stock of the World Cup. I believe it’s just the opposite. I’d even go so far as to say it makes this the most fair dinkum World Cup in recent history.
Let’s face it, the rugby league version is the least competitive World Cup in sport.
If Australia don’t win it, New Zealand will, and if they don’t there is a slim chance England will.
As for the others, forget it. Apart from PNG, in most cases they don’t even play rugby league in the countries that take part.
If not for an influx of NRL and UK Super League players who have a genealogical rather than emotional link to the country they represent, they wouldn’t be able to field 17 players who know the rules.
Which is not to say those countries don’t produce great rugby league players. It’s just that in most cases their parents or grandparents have long since left the country of their ancestors to give their children a better chance at life. The Australian team was once captained by a Greek, George Peponis. It is now coached by Mal Meninga, whose grandfather came to Queensland from Tanna Island, part of Vanuatu. The Kangaroos have been represented by Lebanese and Italians. In recent years, Tongans, Samoans and Fijians have made enormous contributions on both sides of the Tasman. Trouble is, when it comes to the Rugby League World Cup, more often than not they have played for Australia or New Zealand when at the height of their careers.
Imagine how a Tongan fan must feel watching his team being thrashed from a side containing players whose families are Tongan?
That is exactly what happened to Queensland fans when they watched NSW sides filled with Maroons stars belting them pre-Origin.
Origin, of course, became the jewel in the crown – the most popular and profitable event in rugby league. So much so that it threatened the future of international football, which was the main reason the World Cup concept was reignited.
This competition isn’t about finding which of two teams will win the final.
It’s about promoting the game in regions that can provide a production line of players for the NRL – and for that, read Pacific Island nations.
Will it really make an iota of difference if Taumalolo (left) and Fifita (below) don’t play for the Kiwis or Roos?
Of course not, but it will mean a lot for the game in Tonga, and for the credibility of the Rugby League World Cup.