Off the Wall

About the best that can be said about the Four Nations Series is that the very average attendance at the Melbourne game actually exceeded that at the one day cricket match also in Melbourne last night!

That said, if the game's administrators had hoped the series would grow interest in test match football their hopes have been dashed already.

The games so far have been frankly boring, lacking the intensity, and more, we have come to expect from test match football where the rules are applied more leniently when it comes to the occasional stoush or two.

The television ratings have been poor and the attendance at the Kangaroos v Kumuls game in rugby league heartland was an embarrassment.  The national team surely deserved better.

Cricket is travelling much worse at this early stage in its season - but who wants to be compared with a sport that is suffering from declining attendances, lower television ratings and in dire financial straits?

And this Saturday night the Kangaroos meet the Kiwis in a game that has no impact on the makeup of the final as they will meet again in the final in Brisbane a week later!

The lethargic performance of the Kangaroos at times in both their game shouldn't be at all surprising.

The Kangaroos have just come off a demanding NRL season - but some of the team had not played since the premiership rounds eight weeks or so before the Four Nations started while players from the teams that made the finals have been playing for eight months or more with barely a break.

So those who have had a break were entitled to be a bit rusty while those who hadn't are entitled to be looking for a break!

Of the other teams, the Kiwis have impressed - so this series is doing the game in New Zealand no harm at all.

But when it comes to Papua New Guinea and England it is hardly doing it any favours.

The English have been disappointing, and the good people of PNG - where rugby league is truly the national game - will be asking questions about where all the money the national government has tipped into the game has gone. The people, and government, of PNG surely deserve better?

When the independent commission assumes full control of the game it simply must look seriously at the length of the season, and the toll that is taking on players, and especially on representative players.

A season that runs from late January/early February with official trials until mid-November is hard to sustain year in year out.

And it is not just hard on players - clearly fans are worn out as well.

It has to be principally about getting the balance right.

We need to promote a multi-national game, but we need to remember the premiership is the heart and soul of the game - and its future!