The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
8 days ago - 2 Likes
Australian skipper Darren Lockyer is defending the tour-ending clash with the Tomahawks, saying it was important that the rugby league minnows got to pit themselves against the code's heavyweights.
"We need to develop the nations that aren't in the top level. We've got to give those countries a start in the big games and that's what the trip to America was about," Lockyer said.
The match was a lot closer than anybody had expected, with Australia eventually running out 36-24 winners, but only after trailing 24-6 at halftime.
The scoreline may have flattered the home side, with the Australians still feeling the effects from the previous weekend's success in the Tri Nations final, but it did prove that the US was at least on the right track ahead of the 2008 World Cup.
"The French and American teams both tested us right to the last minutes of the game so that's good for rugby league," Lockyer said.
"It can only be a good thing for when the World Cup comes around in 2008."
There were outspoken critics of the clash, including Rabbitohs CEO, Shane Richardson, saying the game wasn't worth the injury risk.
"You take the risk when it really matters and it's for the great of the game but I'm not sure the American match is for the great of the game," Richardson said before the match.
Bulldogs officials may be thinking the same thing now after the injury to giant forward Willie Mason. Mason will spend up to four months on the sidelines after sustaining ligament damage in his toe during the match.
He hobbled out of Sydney Airport on his arrival home without speaking to the press.
Kangaroos coach Wayne Bennett said it was a blessing there were so few injuries to come out of the tour.
"We went away with 25 players and we got one (long-term) injury on the tour and we played nine matches," Bennett said.
"You get that at training."
Backrower Craig Fitzgibbon was upset that talk of player-burnout and the injury to Mason had overshadowed what was an extremely successful tour.
"Injuries happen all the time, whether it was that game or next game ... every time you play a game of footy you run the risk of getting injured," Fitzgibbon said.
"The game was organised to help the American rugby league out and take the game more global.
"I think it was good for the Americans, obviously they want to get a league up and running ... it was just unfortunate that Willie got hurt.
"We've come home from a successful Tri Series and we should be talking about the trophy and not all of these other things."