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Rugby League Amateur World Cup
by Jamie Lester
Most supporters of the game will agree that the World Cup as a whole was a successful show piece for rugby league on the international stage. Profits were made, many games were well contested, crowd numbers were above expectations, and there was a genuine interest in the event.
Detractors, however, would argue in direct contrast. There was no major sponsor for the event, the big three teams continued to dominate, the final was one-sided, and apart from Australia, England, France, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, most teams relied on heritage players to be competitive.
Personally, I understand the selections, while not agreeing with with them on occasions, I understand why coaches made their decisions. My understanding does not mean I support those decisions however, and to rectify one of rugby league's great shortcomings, a Rugby League Amateur World Cup is the answer.
In the past there has been emerging Nations World Cups, although, the problem with reverting back to that idea is that we could run into a similar situation of teams selecting their best heritage players. In addition, it eliminates teams that I would argue are still emerging such as USA and Italy. An Amateur World Cup would allow for all nations to compete including Australia, England and New Zealand competing with their amateur teams. Yes, this may well mean another chance at silverware for one of the big three, but that is irrelevant, having a meaningful World Cup with amateur players playing for the love of the game, competing at the highest level they can aspire to, would be a marvelous reward for all.
Most readers will be aware that South Africa made a bid to host the 2017 World Cup. Having not previously hosted any rugby league games of great magnitude must have made the decision a relatively straight forward one for the RLIF. Hosting an Amateur World Cup would be a much more realistic alternative for South Africa in their first attempt and would provide South African Rugby League with a great opportunity to develop the game there.
One major barrier to the event unfolding is the likely 'fear of failure', an unwillingness for the idea to be given the go ahead when there are many unknowns, especially surrounding financial risk. So how is a decision made? How does an idea transcend into an actual event? It begins with a proposal which needs to be backed by the powers that be. In this case it is important for the RLIF to support the event while not necessary for them to run the event. Below is a brief outline of how an Amateur World Cup could pan out in 2018.
2014: Proposal sent to RLIF, Host nation invitation sent, Competing nations expression of interest sent.
2015: Host nation selected, Competing nations expression of interest close.
2016: Competing nations finalized (16 team competition recommended), Rugby League Amateur World Cup format and draw finalized.
2017: Rugby League World Cup hosted by Australia and New Zealand.
2018: Rugby League Amateur World Cup.
Using Canada as the host nation example, imagine four pools of four being spread across Vancouver, Toronto, Edmonton/Calgary and Montreal/Ottawa, with the top two teams from the Vancouver and Edmonton/Calgary pools playing their quarter and semifinals in Vancouver and the equivalent happening in Toronto from the remaining two pools. The potential for growth of the game from hosting an Amateur World Cup would be incredible and do wonders for rugby league in an emerging nation.
What do you think? Should a Rugby League Amateur World Cup be added to the international rugby league calendar?