Tony Kemp: International rugby league a joke

16:00, Nov 23 2013
KANGAROOS: The Australian squad pose for a team photo before heading to the Rugby League World Cup.

In case you haven't heard, there's a Rugby League World Cup on.

Earlier today, the Kiwis squared off against England at London's Wembley Stadium in one of the semifinals while the Aussies took on the surprise packets, Fiji, in the other.

And by the time you read this, the Kiwis will either be preparing to meet the Aussies in the decider at Old Trafford next week or jumping on a plane bound for home.

For the last month or so, diehard league fans have been getting up early and tuning in to the northern hemisphere to watch the New Zealanders easily sweep aside their rivals.

But the sad fact of the matter is that before last week, most sports fans couldn't have cared less about this tournament.

That's the nature of this World Cup, where too many meaningless games are played in which the result is a foregone conclusion before a single ball has been kicked in anger.


It was never in doubt that Australia, England and New Zealand would make it this far in a tournament that doesn't really deserve to be called a World Cup.

As I've said before, this is a "Heritage Cup", where players have represented nations on the basis of family ties that could be described as tenuous at best.

Throughout the tournament, we've seen press releases from the organisers, celebrating ticket sales, fan attendances and touting the quality of the footy.

But, as much as it pains me to say this, you can put lipstick on a pig but it's still a pig.

What's clear is that international rugby league is broken. It's a joke and so is the organisation charged with running it, the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF).

For too long, international rugby league has been run by muppets, who seem more interested in attending functions in their blazers than worrying about the quality of their product.

With infighting behind closed doors, political point-scoring and egos getting in the way all the time, the international game has suffered immensely.

And now it's time to do something about it.

It may be an unpopular thing to say but the RLIF needs to be scrapped and we must hand the responsibility of running international rugby league, not to mention the World Cup, to the NRL Commission.

Give the Aussies more power, you ask? And isn't the international game run by a Kiwi in NZRL chairman Scott Carter?

Yes, and yes. But before you run me out of town, here's the method behind my so-called madness.

The NRL already provides the bulk of the players for the World Cup. In this year's tournament, a staggering 174 players from either the NRL or the Holden Cup were selected by various nations. That's not even counting the 17 or so from Australia's state competition who have also taken part in the tournament.

Then there's the small matter of commercial nous - something the NRL clearly boasts.

The RLIF, meanwhile, is severely lacking in that department.

Carter is out of his depth and has bigger issues to worry about - namely running the NZRL - than the international game. He needs to step aside.

And the same could be said for the English, who have massive problems to sort out right now in regards to their Super League competition.

The last thing they need to be worrying about is mapping out the future.

That leaves the Aussies. Their team is one of the best in the world, their competition is undoubtedly the best in the world and, most importantly, it's a commercial success.

The international game needs some direction and the NRL Commission is the perfect organisation to give it that.

Just look at State of Origin and what a wonderful product it is. It's exciting, regularly cited as the best rugby league in the world by the players, and it's a commercial success.

Why? Because the NRL Commission gives it the love and attention it deserves.

The days of blazer-wearing board members strutting about, chests puffed out while scoffing hors d'oeuvres at international rugby league functions are over.

It's time the game got with the professional era and it's time for those who are out of their depth to fall on their swords.

The international game is a joke. The NRL Commission could easily change that.

Sunday News