I’ve never been to a Rugby League Test match.
There, I said it.
Seriously though, why would I? This week, barely 10,000 showed up to watch England beat Lebanon despite it being a close, hard fought and entertaining match. So if It holds little to no interest for me, it doesn’t seem that I’m alone.
International Rugby League doesn’t interest me just like bullfighting doesn’t interest me. Or Mike Tyson fights, when he was at his peak. Or horse races with Winx in them. I don’t enjoy an uneven slaughter, preferring a tight contest.
Despite this, I have watched International Rugby League before and one of my earliest and fondest footy memories is of the Sevens, when I watched the pre-season tournament in 1993. Over two days at the Sydney Football Stadium, the Sevens brought together the best teams from the NRL (NSWRL) up against a hodgepodge of international opposition such as Fiji, PNG, USA and Russia in a weekend try extravaganza that my mates and I still talk about today...although they usually just mention how I inadvertently slammed my face into one of the flagpoles on my way out of the stadium. Wasn’t even drunk.
The games themselves were pretty exciting, entertaining a sparse crowd. The event is definitely a memory I hold dear; an enjoyable day out if not for the quality of the games on show but the entertainment for the crowd. Check out some of the highlights from the vault here. We all got behind the ‘Ruskies’ and even the Americans as they tried to match the best players in the world and usually got spanked or turned over onto their arse. Watch the footage, and listen out for the cultural sensitivity from Fatty and Big Darrell Eastlake.
So to International Rugby League and the World Cup kicked off this week and I sincerely hope there are some moments of magic like I experienced, with close contests and underdogs overperforming as we saw at the Sevens all those years ago. Rugby League as a sport needs international competition and whilst it is awesome to see the countries of The Pacific rim representing their traditions, especially from indigenous peoples, it is just as sad to see the British teams and the French getting tonked (French try against Australia was awesome though). It is on the field where the competition will be judged and let’s face it, it’s likely to be an Australian procession. In fact, we’re running a poll on Twitter asking who will win: Australia or Not Australia? It’s fully scientific.
The Kiwis are likely to offer the sternest test for the Kangaroos, although the Pacific teams are quickly rising to be the next best level of serious competition with a host of NRL stars filling the Fijian, Tongan and Samoan teams. All this is to say, despite the fact that the website and app for the competition are woeful (see images), if you can decipher who is playing who and work out how to get tickets, or what stage of the competition it is and whether the teams in the game you want to watch are still alive in the competition (I can’t work out any of it from the website) then please don’t be like me - whether it’s your nation, someone else’s nation or you even choose to adopt another nation, go and watch them beat the living crap out of each other. Just make sure it’s not like watching a bullfight. A fair fight is always best.