Sunday, 7 August 2011

Why Bother Cup? (2007)

Back in 1954, a concept was designed to see which Rugby League nation was the best. What ensued was the first ever Rugby League World Cup, contested between Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and newcomers to the international scene, France.

This competition was a tight one, with only one of the six games played seeing a score of more than 30 points. Great Britain and Australia were clear favourites to play in the final, however a 15-5 victory by France over Australia, saw them leapfrog Australia and walk into the final against Great Britain. The French lost the final by four points, but a platform had been set.

In the next two world cups, Australia (in 1957) and Great Britain (in 1960) were undefeated after their three matches and were awarded the title on superiority. In 1968 Australia and France played out the final, with Australia bringing home the trophy. France being the only team to play in the World Cup final on both occasions thus far.

In 1975, Wales was introduced into the World Cup Competition, after Great Britain had easily claimed the previous two cups. The idea was primarily to weaken the Great Britain side and make a more competitive competition. This had the desired effect, with Australia claiming the title based on its win-loss record for the series.

In 1977, the World Cup reverted back to its original format of four teams playing each other once, which saw Australia beat Great Britain by just one point in the final.

In 1985 a new format for the world cup was created whereby each team would play a home and away series. The competition took four years to complete. Papua New Guinea was the new inclusion to the competition, however they proved to be nothing more than the whipping boys, letting in 325 points in just 7 games.

The 1989-92 World Cup was heavily dominated by Australia and was the turning point in World Cup Competition. World cups prior to this were generally a very closely fought contest by at least all the teams bar one. Now only 2 or 3 of the teams were competitive while the rest were there to make up the numbers.

The 1995 World Cup further enhanced this realisation, more so with the introduction of more teams into the fray. Fiji, South Africa, Tonga, Wales and Western Samoa were all added to the competition, joining lowly France and Papua New Guinea. South Africa let in an average of over 60 points a game in their three appearances alone. Eventually the three strong nations, Australia, England and New Zealand, were the last three teams in the competition, as everyone expected.

It begged the question, “Why bother?”

Along came the 2000 World Cup. The minnows from the previous world cup were bolstered by the inclusion of teams from Russia, Lebanon, Cook Islands, Ireland, Scotland and New Zealand Maori’s. With 11 of the 30 games resulting in a winning score of over 50 points, it became pretty clear that there was a massive gap between the elite and the rest.

The final series of the 2000 World Cup was also utterly disappointing, with score lines such as 66-10 and 54-6 in the Quarter finals, 46-22 and 49-6 in the semi finals and 40-12 in the final, showing just how poorly organised and useless the world cup had become.

The 2008 World Debacle Cup is undergoing its preparations as we speak. It poses to be nothing more than a boring try romp with Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain being the last three teams remaining. It needs to change for the benefit of the lesser nations.

My proposal is different, but makes for more competitive matches. Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain automatically advance to the World Cup. All other countries play in a World Cup Invitational; the winner gets invited to participate in a four team World Cup series. Each team plays the other twice, before the final between the top two teams to decide the World Cup winner.

Currently, lower teams are being humiliated on the world stage. Is this a good thing for the game in their respective countries? No.

Lets not make this a demoralising experience for newcomers to the game of Rugby League, lets give them a chance to improve and grow, and one day become a competitive force.

This is what the international game needs.

Otherwise, why bother?

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