By John Davidson, (RLP RLWC Correspondent) Date: 21/11/13
The Tomahawks and the Bravehearts have shocked and pleasantly surprised at this World Cup but the hard work starts now.
The USA and Scotland may have both gone out at the quarter-final stage, to heavyweights Australia and New Zealand, but they certainly made their mark on this tournament.
They entertained and delighted with impressive results and good footy. They showed tremendous courage and fight, and inspired many with their feel-good journeys. Both teams were clear evidence that this World Cup is worthwhile, as they added great value and interest to the competition.
Now the mission begins to capitalise on their success.
Already the early signs have not been great. Scotland Rugby League’s funding has been cut by the Rugby Football League. This is a decision that truly boggles the mind.
Scotland just record their greatest achievement in their short history, in the World Cup no less, and their legs are taken out from under them. Their chance to improve and develop is taken away.
Scotland’s development officers are now gone and Keith Hogg, Chair of Scotland Rugby League, released this statement: “The Board of Scotland Rugby League have been as surprised by these developments as anyone. With our club representatives and our partners such as Sport Scotland we will now work out how we will structure support for Scotland Rugby League in future. This will be a very challenging task but together we can find our way through this challenge. Most importantly, we will now be arranging a number of meetings to work out how we will structure, implement and manage the 2014 season. Rugby league will continue to be supported in Scotland but obviously we can’t confirm how this will happen as yet.”
Steve McCormack has done a fantastic job with Scotland, not only coaching them at this World Cup but for the past 10 years. He should be kept on and supported financially to make his role full-time.
Scotland need regular games and financial investment. A regular series against the likes of Ireland, Wales and France, perhaps a spin-off of the Four Nations, would help. If it could be played every two years it could help build team continuity and cohesion. It would give the likes of Danny Brough, and their NRL stars like Luke Douglas, the reason to commit to Scotland permanently with a clear strategy for the future mapped out. The same goes for Wales and Ireland.
The 2013 World Cup is tipped to make a profit of around $5 million. What will that be money be spent on? Surely some most go to international rugby league and to help the minnow nations like Scotland. What is the point of a World Cup if we effectively kill the progress made by those outside the big three nations between every tournament cycle?
American rugby league is another case in point. Great strides are being made in the United States and the Tomahawk’s exploits received widespread media coverage in their home country like never before. If one or two American players can get a Super League or NRL contract off the back of that, more the better.
The USA team barely trained at this World Cup, the players were not paid and the preparation was poor. Despite that the Tomahawks performed just as good and better than many other nations.
Playing more high-profile games in the United States could help further kick-start growth. An Origin game has been played there as well as a trial game between South Sydney and Leeds Rhinos in the past. That trial match attracted a crowd of 12,500, a decent figure.
Why couldn’t the World Club Challenge, or an expanded event where the top three or four teams each from the NRL and Super League play each other, be stated in America? Why isn’t some research done into the possibility of hosting a World Cup there at some point the future? Get Russell Crowe, the Wiggles and other well-known rugby-league loving stars to help promote it. Hugh Jackman is another Hollywood star who loves his league, being a devout Manly fan. Surely his celebrity, and the profile of other famous footy fans, like Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs, can help spread the message.
The United States is an untapped market when it comes to talent. There is a huge around of potential players there waiting to be found and potential fans to be converted. Super League and NRL clubs should be encouraged to forge links with the AMNRL and USARL sides, so American players have a pathway to higher levels. NRL coaches regularly travel to America in the off-season to learn off NBA and NFL teams, while they are there couldn’t they help out fellow clubs in their own sport?
The 2013 World Cup has been a step in the right direction. Progress has been made and many of the minnows have been simply magic. The rugby league community needs to ensure their efforts are not squandered and that we are not having the same debate in five years time.