Off the Wall

It is a pity Billy Slater's performance in the Four Nations Final came on the same day Tiger Woods won the Australian Masters, otherwise even the fickle Melbourne media would surely have given his three try extravaganza front page treatment today!

The final is covered in today's Melbourne papers - but the limited coverage does not do justice to Slater's performance.

And even in New South Wales and Queensland, far too much focus is given to Slater "redeeming" himself after last year's World Cup final debacle!

The final was a fitting end to what has been a long, and overwhelmingly, successful season for rugby league in Australia. A great premiership, a State of Origin series that drew record television audiences, and a great finals series, with The Storm worthy Premiers...

While the premiership season, and the finals, rightly highlighted the skills of Jarryd Hayne, the reality is that we have tended to take the skills of Billy Slater for granted - at least until yesterday morning.

Slater not only played a key role in The Storm's success, he was a vital part of the Maroons Origin series win as well, and he has capped off his best ever season with three tries in the Four Nations final.

But the real measure of Slater's season surely lies in the fact that the debate over whether or not Slater or Hayne should be the test fullback is now a non-existent one! Well at least for a few more months.

Notwithstanding the fact that it took the Kangaroos something like 60 minutes to get on top, questions remain about the real state of the "international game" today, and tomorrow.

You can forget France, New Zealand underperformed in the Four Nations, and in the last 20 minutes the Poms capitulated to the extent that the Kangaroos were able to run up 30 points with only the siren saving England from a half century being scored by the Kangaroos.

Rugby league is an 80 minute game and, on yesterday's performance, the Poms are just not an 80 minute team.

The match brought down the curtain on what has been a very long season.

Now the focus turns to 2010.But there is an immediate, and ongoing, concern - the continued drain of players from the NRL thanks to the salary cap restrictions, and the parlous financial state of a majority of NRL clubs.

Last week Dallas Johnson ended his Melbourne Storm career when he signed up with UK Super league. The Storm - and the Maroons - will miss him more than they probably imagine.

Today there are reports the Sea Eagles Matt Orford will sign up with the Bradford Bulls.

The sad reality is there is very little that can be done about it. The NRL will stick to the salary cap because it has zero capacity to fund an increase...and the clubs will go along with that position because a significant number are stretched financially even under the current cap.

The game faces many, and daunting, challenges.

But for the moment we can celebrate a significant Kangaroos victory - and one of outstanding individual performances in test history!