Ever since Great Britain played their last Test – a 28-22 win over New Zealand at Wigan in 2007 – there has been a growing push for a return to Lions tours. And from what Discord has been told during the past couple of days, someone is finally listening.
Rugby Football League chief executive Nigel Wood touched down in Sydney on Monday afternoon and went straight to Campbelltown Stadium to see Gareth Ellis and Chris Heighington in action for Wests Tigers. On Tuesday, he attended a meeting at Rugby League Central to discuss the direction of international football.
Wood declined to be interviewed when Discord ran into him at Campbelltown but we hear he is over the Four Nations concept and wants a tour at the end of 2014, with eight games including Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific All Stars.
Unfortunately, the clubs want to play the expanded World Club Challenge in Qatar, Dubai, Las Vegas or where-ever at the same time.
The big issue, as we see it, is the fact the proposed tour would still be in the name of England and not Great Britain. “Dividing up the home nations” since 2007 has not been dividing at all – it's been a case of chasing Sport England funding by calling one team England, and that team plundering Scotland, Ireland and Wales for talent.
“England” has been bad for international rugby league, robbing Scotland, Ireland and Wales of players like Danny Brough, Michael McIllorum and Rhys Evans. It's a similar situation to State of Origin and what it has done to the Pacific nations including New Zealand.
The NRL clubs are already telling Super League how to distribute their own WCC prizemoney if they want the expanded concept to happen. They should tell Wood to bring out Great Britain – not England – in 2014 or stay home.
We also have it on very good authority the RFL has seriously discussed our suggestion (well, not in this column but two others written by the same hack) that one of the England-Exiles games be played in London, on Anzac Day. Next year there is likely to be only one England-Exiles match – the “away” game against a stadium full of drunken antipodeans may have to wait until 2014.
NRL RIGHT TO TAKE ACTION AGAINST HASLER AND BENNETT
Columns like this frequently bag rugby league officials for not showing leadership but the NRL deserves credit this week for standing up to the super coaches, Wayne Bennett and Des Hasler.
Bennett has become the first person fined under the NRL's new media guidelines (the guidelines are new, it's not “new media”). We understand that on July 29, he refused to be interviewed by Fox Sports host Mark Braybrook in Canberra, as he was required to under the regulations.
The infraction with Hasler was less straightforward. He stopped short of actually saying the refs pre-judged his team, saying that they verbally guessed the direction of the match. Discord does not believe the NRL should increase its controls of post-match comments beyond libel and abusive language – doing so moves into the dangerous territory of censorship.
Hasler's biggest crime seems to be a factual error regarding the flow of penalties and what the referees actually said – and all reporters know how much trouble factual errors can get you in.
In fact, it's a strange role reversal – a coach being fined for misquoting someone – or, as we are often accused of, taking them “out of context”.
LET'S GO TO THE COMMENTS
Firstly, let me thank everyone for the volume of comments on my very first column for leaguehq.com.au! Huge response!
Oethesaint, my current arrangement with Rugby League Week prevents this column appearing in the print version of Fairfax papers. That's the way things will stay for at least this year – and I'm not sure the wider public is as interested in Scandinavian interpretations of the obstruction rule as you are!
Scott asked about the state of the game in England. I think when people like Michael Monaghan are saying Super League is “Super in name only”, we have problems. There is a groundswell of support for Super League being split in two, with the top 10 teams in one division and perhaps the other four and some additions in division two. Rather than promotion and relegation though, could we follow the World Cup route and give four teams from division one and two from the second group places in the finals? It would be a huge challenge to the top teams from division two to keep their standards up and the giant-killing aspect of the finals would be fantastic, like the Challenge Cup used to be. Certainly, Cas or Wakey could beat Catalans in a one-off game now – so why not under a split Super League?
Titanic and Michael had a spat about rugby league being shown on AusNetwork. I've sent John Brady at the NRL an email asking if league might return to the network any time soon. Here's his response: “It depends on any future negotiation rounds. Australia tv is a satellite service. We have a more accessible option with free to air stations in the pacific and other areas as well we also have an internet service that is available world wide.”
Yes, I know the internet service has had its own problems with geo-blocks when new television agreements were signed and people not getting what they paid for. I'll chase that up in future weeks.
TK mentioned Cronulla having a lot of Monday Night games. By comparison, NQ have very few (at home) and the Warriors none. I am not sure the time difference situation can really be compensated for in their case but certainly other teams should have more or less equal number of home MNF games. Factoring in the away team is perhaps more difficult but that's what they pay those Canadian pointy-heads for!
Wallyg said full season scheduling gives you duds. We have to have enough confidence in our product to negotiate in the belief there are no duds! Don't give free-to-air the first pick, share everything equally. If you don't like it, someone else will pay for it. If Nine don't want the odd last versus second last, then Seven will! We are negotiating from a position of strength – there are no duds because it's an NRL game!
DanTap says the Broncos are an “empty franchise”. I couldn't disagree more. I think they have one of the most compelling, defined, admirably cultures of any teams in the NRL. They are anything but empty. Maybe the Raiders ruined the old ACTRL and the Knights ruined the Newcastle and Coalfields comp in the way you describe – but it's called progress Dan. We can't sit back and watch other sports embrace it when we get left behind.
Whatwouldyou know said club games during Origin should be only worth one competition point. We already struggle to attract people – let's advertise the fact that the games mean less! I think not. Might as well not hold them at all.