The past week has seen the NRL cop a huge amount of criticism for stopping its competition for a week to play few rep games. The arguments being raised were along the lines of:
- City v Country is pointless and should be canned.
- The Trans-Tasman test was going to be a case of Australia dishing out a hiding to the young Kiwi side.
- No one cares about a bunch of reserve grade players taking part in the Samoa vs Fiji game.
If anything, this weekend's representative fixtures proved all the knockers wrong.
The Trans-Tasman test which was supposed to be a cakewalk for the Aussie side turned out to be a tough contest between the young and exuberant Kiwi side and the more experienced Australian side. The biggest talking point after the game was the stellar performance by the young Kiwi's and less so about Australia's 16th straight test match victory.
And then there was the highly entertaining Test match between Fiji and Samoa. A game played with so much passion, was a great advertisement of fast and powerful football which saw the much less experienced Samoan side claim a victory and enter into their first ever Four Nations tournament at the end of the season, competing against Australia, England and New Zealand.
There was one downside. With the women in League Round fast approaching, this was a great time to actually show the women's Rugby League game prior to the Trans-Tasman test, on Television. It would have been a damn sight more entertaining than that bloke who was doing the pre-match entertainment. It would have been just the thing to show how serious the NRL are about women in league.
Moving forward, this weekend needs to be bigger and better to justify the week off. I believe the NRL can do even more in this week to help promote the game to all demographics around the country:
Friday: Women's Trans-Tasman Test, followed by the Trans-Tasman test - both telecast live
Sunday: City v Country Day. Have a Queensland City v Country game, including an undercard game made up of players from the Queensland Intrust Super Cup. There should be a similar undercard game in NSW, whereby players in the Country Rugby League represent against City players from the NSW Cup Competition. These games should all be televised live as well.
The Under 20's Origin game should become a series and should be undercard games for the State of Origin series.
The NRL is undoubtedly the most dominant competition in world Rugby league and I believe that such an honour also carries the responsibility of helping to expand and strengthen the game in every place and in every format it possibly can.