Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
3 days ago
I was going to head this column "A credibility challenge for France this weekend". But when I looked through France's international "record" over the last 30 years or so, I decided it had already faced that challenge - and flunked it completely!
I can still remember the era when France was generally competitive against Australia - up to the mid-1970's. But when you look at the record since it has been a downhill slide, and frankly one that shows no sign of reversing.
We need to go back to last year's World Cup to see how ingloriously France has sunk as a rugby league force. France finished the World Cup in last place - and lost its final game against Samoa, yes Samoa, 42-10! And it had earlier gone down to Fiji 42-6.
In matches against Australia since the mid-1970's there have been any number of results which point to an absolute annihilation on Sunday morning. In 2005, Australia trounced France 44-12. But in the previous one off test prior to that - in 1994 - Australia thrashed France 74-0...and that was in France!
And on and on the sorry tale goes.
The sad reality is that France can no longer be regarded as a serious international competitor. In any realistic rating s system it would rate below PNG, Fiji, Samoa and now probably Tonga and the Cook Islands!
If the Australian team, with a few stars rested, racks up a fifty plus margin on Sunday morning you have to question the value of the game tipping millions into rugby league in France.
If what has been spent propping up the game in France over the last 30 years had been put into the South Pacific then we would just about have finished off rugby's dominance...something that is likely to happen over time...but could be happening right now.
The game is being played in Paris - how convenient for the accompanying gaggle of ARL/NRL officials? But Paris has never been a rugby league stronghold, so crowd "numbers" will be interesting.
I guess, in summary, the game won't really have any impact on France's position. Short of Australia running up a century, nothing will have changed. France is likely to continue what seems to be an inevitable slide into international rugby league oblivion.
And if the French do happen to give the Kangaroos a serious run for their money then our 17 charges should be sent straight to the swabbing stalls!