4 days ago
Off the Wall
When the Melbourne Storm players returned from the Christmas-New Year break they must have had one eye on the appalling weather in the UK - because the UK is where they will be in about six weeks time.
While one of the worst ever winters on record will surely have eased by the time the Storm arrive in Leeds about a week before their World Club Championship match against the Leeds Rhinos on 28 February, the question must surely be being asked in Melbourne - is it worth it?
I have come to the conclusion that the World Club Championship has outlived its usefulness.
Even though the Manly Sea Eagles defeated the Rhinos last year, Australian teams have a poor win record, and that is partly due to the disadvantage they are at.
Firstly, February is still very much winter in the north of England. But there is an even more significant factor - the UK Super League premiership starts before the NRL premiership.
Trials are under way already (snow permitting) and the Rhinos play their first premiership match on Friday 29 January. By the time they take on the Storm they will probably have had four or five trial games and three or four premiership matches.
And regardless of whether it there is snow, hail, sleet or balmy late winter weather, the Rhinos will be significantly more "acclimatised" than the Storm will be.
However, putting those factors aside, the real question for NRL teams is just how worthwhile the whole exercise is? It is now always played in the UK...at a time that suits the UK premiers best of all. It also dates back to an era when the Kangaroos only visited the UK every four years. End of season tours by the Kangaroos to the UK are now pretty much an annual event.
It is difficult to assess just how much damage to the early season performance of the NRL premiers ten days or so in the UK winter does. But it can hardly be helpful!
The weekend the Storm play in Leeds - which I have found can even be cold and forbidding in late autumn and early summer - every other NRL club will be winding up their pre season matches (the weekend before the NRL premiership starts is usually trial free).
Another point about the World Club Championship is that it sinks without trace in a matter of weeks. Looking back on the 2009 season, who remembered by about round five that Manly even won it?
The NRL premiership is universally accepted as the most demanding rugby league competition of all - and demanding when compared with other codes.
The distraction of State of Origin, city-country and the Anzac test, are unavoidable...but surely the World Club Championship has just about outlived its usefulness?
I bet that when the Storm coach, and his players, look at the UK weather stories they hope it was just a part of the history of the game!