Honouring Stan Carpenter...
80 mins ago
National Rugby League boss David Gallop on Sunday night welcomed a desperately-needed shot in the arm for the code after a wonderful finale to round 18 of the premiership.
The doomsayers were out in force after Australia's record-breaking test win over Great Britain on Friday night, claiming rugby league was dead at international level, but bumper crowds, upsets and cliff-hangers had Gallop salivating.
A ground-record 18,046 fans watched from the edge of their seats at WIN Stadium as St George Illawarra fell tantalisingly short of snapping the Bulldogs' 13-match winning streak.
More than 16,000 spectators crammed into Leichhardt Oval - one of the last of Sydney's traditional suburban grounds used in the premiership - to witness Souths continue their recent revival with a surprise 38-24 victory over Wests Tigers.
Lowly-placed Canberra shocked reigning premier Newcastle 30-24 at Canberra Stadium, while Cronulla held on for a heart-stopping 25-24 win at Parramatta Stadium to add another name to the list of 2002 title contenders.
"I guess today was a reminder of how good our competition is," Gallop said.
"It proves what we have been saying - that crowds are coming back and they really came back today.
"Today showed skills of the players and what they are capable of. Even the Test match should be an incentive for people to come out and watch because they are the best footballers of any code in the country."
The NRL clubs will discuss next year's schedule at a meeting this week, but it's unlikely an extended representative season will be on the agenda.
Several players and officials, including test prop Shane Webcke, have floated the idea of a shortened premiership season to incorporate a weightier international calendar in the wake of Friday night's debacle at Aussie Stadium.
But it's unlikely to receive much air time at this week's chief executives meeting, with club officials reticent to give up home games in the name of international rugby league.
NRL chief executive David Gallop said the issue could be raised but he doubted the clubs they would support a shortened season.
"The thing is the clubs need to play a certain number of home games to make gate revenue to pay the players," Gallop said.
"It's not as simple as just making a proposal for the season to be shortened.
"You have to look at the ramifications."
Despite Great Britain's capitulation at Aussie Stadium, Friday night's game produced two positives for the Australian Rugby League - a crowd of more than 30,000 and exceptional television ratings.
Those two factors, and the support of players such as Webcke, has given the ARL a sense of optimism as it attempts to put international football back on the agenda.
ARL chief executive Geoff Carr today said he was optimistic they would be able to reach a happy medium with the clubs and NRL.
"If the players are saying we're playing too many games then we need to look seriously at whether we should shorten the domestic competition so we can allow the extra games for internationals," Carr said in the wake of the Kangaroos' 64-10 win over Great Britain.
"We know the support is there. We always had in our minds when we came up with this one-off game we were putting our toes in the water.
"We have something to think about. Now we have a platform."
Meanwhile, New Zealand coach Gary Freeman hit back at claims international rugby league was dead in the wake of Australia's 64-10 win over Great Britain on Friday night.
Freeman will lead NZ against Australia in October before the Kiwis depart on a three-test tour of Britain.
"I know that international rugby league is not dead," Freeman said.
"I think we have to look at it in context. It's going to be a hard tour."
And the former NZ halfback claimed there was no hard feelings following Willie Mason's performance in Friday night's match.
Mason was tossing up between representing Australia and NZ last year, before deciding to chase a green and gold jersey.
The giant Bulldogs forward was outstanding for the Kangaroos on Friday night.
"There's no ill-feeling at all," Freeman said.
"I thought he played great."