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HappyDave

Bring Back GB / Ashes Tests etc (Merged Threads)

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In some ways I wsih we'd never had those 2-3 good crowds at international matches in the early 1990s. It certainly would have saved internet RL forums from mountains of guff being spouted about how that was typical in the period before then.

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6 million viewers on the BBC? That is about as much as they would have got in 1990 and 1994 for Ashes Tests being the centre piece for Grandstand on BBC 1 on Saturday afternoons.

For those of you with short memories this is what international rugby league used to look like and it didn't suffer any comparison with soccer or Rugby Union.

The biggest tradegy and victim of the Super League War was the international game. The ARL warned the RFL what would happen if it got into bed with Murdoch and much of the goodwill towards the international aspect of rugby league in Australia was been lost because of the actions of the RFL and the NZRL.

Any evidence that RL on Grandstand would have pulled in those kind of figures? I have not found anything which supports that (or contradicts it).

 

I'm not sure what you mean by 'this is what international RL used to look like'. What are you referring to? For the few videos you can post of GB v Aus with healthy crowds - there were 4 large international Wembley crowds between 1990-1995 there were plenty of poor crowds for games against NZ, France, PNG etc.

 

In 1990/1 GB had the following home crowds:

 

v France at Leeds - 6554

v Australia at Wembley - 54569

v Australia at Old Trafford - 46,615

v Australia at Leeds - 32,500

v France at Leeds - 5284

v PNG at Wigan - 4193

 

There are some shockingly low crowds for a team packed with household names where apparently 7m people are interested in them.

 

I think there has been some very poor strategies implemented around some internationals, but looking at past times with rose-tinted glasses on is not helpful.

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The good crowds and the high profile of Ashes Test matches was not a blip. It lasted for a ten year period from 1986 to 1996.

 

The crowds for Australia v Great Britain matches over the period were as follows.

 

1986

 

1st Test Manchester 50,583

2nd Test Leeds 30,808

3rd Test Wigan 20,169

 

1990

 

1st Test Wembley 54,569

2nd Test Manchester 46,615

3rd Test Leeds 32,500

 

1994 

 

1st Test Wembley 57,034

2nd Test Manchester 43,930

3rd Test Leeds 39,468

 

1996 Super League Series

 

1st Match Wembley 41,135

2nd Match Manchester 40,324

3rd Match Leeds 39,337

 

You also had three very well attended World Cup matches at Wembley over the same period with crowds of 73,631, 41,271 and 66,540. To dismiss these figures as irrelevant is rather strange. They weren't a flash in the pan. It is undeniable that the International game has regressed hugely since then and with it the national profile of Rugby League within the UK. 

 

For first rate opposition read Australia and New Zealand. Not France, not PNG, not Wales and certainly not The Exiles.

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The good crowds and the high profile of Ashes Test matches was not a blip. It lasted for a ten year period from 1986 to 1996.

The crowds for Australia v Great Britain matches over the period were as follows.

1986

1st Test Manchester 50,583

2nd Test Leeds 30,808

3rd Test Wigan 20,169

1990

1st Test Wembley 54,569

2nd Test Manchester 46,615

3rd Test Leeds 32,500

1994

1st Test Wembley 57,034

2nd Test Manchester 43,930

3rd Test Leeds 39,468

1996 Super League Series

1st Match Wembley 41,135

2nd Match Manchester 40,324

3rd Match Leeds 39,337

You also had three very well attended World Cup matches at Wembley over the same period with crowds of 73,631, 41,271 and 66,540. To dismiss these figures as irrelevant is rather strange. They weren't a flash in the pan. It is undeniable that the International game has regressed hugely since then and with it the national profile of Rugby League within the UK.

For first rate opposition read Australia and New Zealand. Not France, not PNG, not Wales and certainly not The Exiles.

why didnt you quote the crowds v NZ during the same period?

I highlighted the 4 good Wembley crowds - 90, 92, 94 and 95. I discounted the 40k crowds because a) they were very disappointing for the time and B) we got 42k last time we played the Aussies in London 2 years back.

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Sub 40,000 crowds for Australia disappointing? What planet are you on. What was the capacity of Elland Road at the time? Probably about 40,000. 

 

Compared to the crowds of the 1970s and 1980s and most of the crowds in the 2000s anywhere approaching 40,000 is very good. 

 

The last game England played against Australia at Wembley sort of proves my point. If England/Great Britain play high quality opposition in a competition with a meaningful format and in large stadiums like Old Trafford, the City of Manchester, Elland Road and Wembley the crowds will come. 

 

That England haven't played a 3 Test series against Australia for nearly 10 years is ridiculous. Even 3 Test series against New Zealand have proven to get decent 20,000 + crowds at medium sized stadiums in Wigan, Hull, Huddersfield etc.

 

It is pretty basic stuff. 

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Sub 40,000 crowds for Australia disappointing? What planet are you on. What was the capacity of Elland Road at the time? Probably about 40,000. 

 

Compared to the crowds of the 1970s and 1980s and most of the crowds in the 2000s anywhere approaching 40,000 is very good. 

 

The last game England played against Australia at Wembley sort of proves my point. If England/Great Britain play high quality opposition in a competition with a meaningful format and in large stadiums like Old Trafford, the City of Manchester, Elland Road and Wembley the crowds will come. 

 

That England haven't played a 3 Test series against Australia for nearly 10 years is ridiculous. Even 3 Test series against New Zealand have proven to get decent 20,000 + crowds at medium sized stadiums in Wigan, Hull, Huddersfield etc.

 

It is pretty basic stuff. 

Read my post -  I am talking about the Wembley crowds!

 

When we got 40k for the 1996 Test it was very disappointing considering we had got 15k more a few years earlier, and even 65k the year earlier for the WC final.

 

Whilst you put all your focus on three test series' against the Kiwis or the Aussies, I actually quite like the series we have had. My favourite structure was the Tri Nations, where we played two Tests against the Kiwis and two against the Aussies and then hopefully another in the final. This was potentially 5 tests against the best and when they want to decent grounds it paid off (Eastlands 38k).

 

I'd prefer that to return tbh, with additional games against Wales/France for the Tri Nations teams when they are not playing that weekend.

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The last game England played against Australia at Wembley sort of proves my point. If England/Great Britain play high quality opposition in a competition with a meaningful format and in large stadiums like Old Trafford, the City of Manchester, Elland Road and Wembley the crowds will come. 

 

That England haven't played a 3 Test series against Australia for nearly 10 years is ridiculous. Even 3 Test series against New Zealand have proven to get decent 20,000 + crowds at medium sized stadiums in Wigan, Hull, Huddersfield etc.

 

It is pretty basic stuff. 

SO basically you suggest playing Australia and New Zealand in proper tournaments.

 

Ok then:

 

In the 1990's GB/Eng played the Aussies or Kiwis a total of 30 times.

In the 2000's GB/Eng played the Aussies or Kiwis a total of 35 times.

 

I agree that the ground selection hasn't been brilliant, but then these small grounds should have been sold out months in advance if they were too small.

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Whatever the RFL says the Super League Series games against "Australia" were not Test Matches and the ARL Commission does not recognise them as such. A small point but it does show how the RFL and the NZRL put two fingers up to the ARL in the mid 1990s. Australian feelings of betrayal go some way to explaining their insular attitude towards the international game. Before the Super League War the Aussies had been very forward in trying to grow the game in the UK and France and felt they had that generosity thrown back in their face.

The Tri Nations was OK but it did have the problem of neutral matches and also the issue of ending up with New Zealand and Australia in the final, which could make it a hard sell. The 2004 edition was a great tournament until the horrid final! However the Four Nations format is a massive step backwards as it reduces the number of quality Test Matches. Warm ups matches against Wales, France and PNG are great but they are not the main event. (Wales, France, PNG etc should play against each other as much as possible).

I think bi-lateral series are just better at guaranteeing the games you want to promote and are better at attracting media and public attention. In terms of stadia the crowds tend to grow or reduce to meet the capacity. Holding Tests against Australia away from club grounds at "special stadia" like Old Trafford, COMS or Elland Road is proven to increase the gates.

Finally the lack of a regular international schedule is a real issue. Australia, New Zealand and England should be obliged to tour each within a set timeframe to mantian interest and make sure there are high profile internationals every year.

As it is Rugby League is getting out gunned by the likes of cricket and rugby union and in terms of media interest and profile so something needs to change. I am not sure that an over expanded World Cup with lots of joke teams in it is the way forward. 14 is far too many. 10 or even 8 would be much better.

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Can you tell me when RL was NOT outgunned by cricket and RU? Seriously?

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Whatever the RFL says the Super League Series games against "Australia" were not Test Matches and the ARL Commission does not recognise them as such. A small point but it does show how the RFL and the NZRL put two fingers up to the ARL in the mid 1990s. Australian feelings of betrayal go some way to explaining their insular attitude towards the international game. Before the Super League War the Aussies had been very forward in trying to grow the game in the UK and France and felt they had that generosity thrown back in their face.

The Tri Nations was OK but it did have the problem of neutral matches and also the issue of ending up with New Zealand and Australia in the final, which could make it a hard sell. The 2004 edition was a great tournament until the horrid final! However the Four Nations format is a massive step backwards as it reduces the number of quality Test Matches. Warm ups matches against Wales, France and PNG are great but they are not the main event. (Wales, France, PNG etc should play against each other as much as possible).

I think bi-lateral series are just better at guaranteeing the games you want to promote and are better at attracting media and public attention. In terms of stadia the crowds tend to grow or reduce to meet the capacity. Holding Tests against Australia away from club grounds at "special stadia" like Old Trafford, COMS or Elland Road is proven to increase the gates.

Finally the lack of a regular international schedule is a real issue. Australia, New Zealand and England should be obliged to tour each within a set timeframe to mantian interest and make sure there are high profile internationals every year.

As it is Rugby League is getting out gunned by the likes of cricket and rugby union and in terms of media interest and profile so something needs to change. I am not sure that an over expanded World Cup with lots of joke teams in it is the way forward. 14 is far too many. 10 or even 8 would be much better.

The initial concept of the Tri Nations meant that we were guaranteed 4 tests a year against the best two nations, which is more than previous.

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Well they should have stuck with it. The neutral games and being unable to make sure the hosts make the final is still a bit of an issue though.

I have never really understood the run before you can walk mentality regarding the international game. It would be great if there was a first tier of more than three teams but there just isn't. Games between the big three and the rest tend not to be great viewing. I mean I would much prefer to watch Wales v France or PNG v Samoa than any of those teams getting battered by one of the big boys. The highlight of last World Cup was the second tier teams going hammer and tongs at each other in evenly matched contests.

International rugby league needs to make sure its core product is vibrant and successful before trying to expand. Why they had to expand the World Cup after the success of the last one is beyond me. 10 teams seemed to work well and there weren't any "joke" outfits bringing negative publicity.

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Well they should have stuck with it. The neutral games and being unable to make sure the hosts make the final is still a bit of an issue though.

I have never really understood the run before you can walk mentality regarding the international game. It would be great if there was a first tier of more than three teams but there just isn't. Games between the big three and the rest tend not to be great viewing. I mean I would much prefer to watch Wales v France or PNG v Samoa than any of those teams getting battered by one of the big boys. The highlight of last World Cup was the second tier teams going hammer and tongs at each other in evenly matched contests.

International rugby league needs to make sure its core product is vibrant and successful before trying to expand. Why they had to expand the World Cup after the success of the last one is beyond me. 10 teams seemed to work well and there weren't any "joke" outfits bringing negative publicity.

I have no issues with having to earn your place in the final - but I did prefer it when we had two games against the Kiwis and Aussies. If that can't happen in a 4n, then I'd rather see us revert back to the Tri Nations, although that won't be happening as there is a 7 game 4N in 2014 and 2016.

 

I don't think neutral games were too much of an issue, NZ v Aus got ok crowds in London and Warrington.

 

I agree with you about watching 1st tier teams versus 1st tier teams and 2nd tier versus 2nd tier. Only the best of these should make it to games against the 1st tier. I worry about Ireland in the World Cup, but overall I think they have done the seeding quite well.

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So the current Four Nations format is being retained for 2014 and 2016? It just think the fourth team is too much like fodder at the moment. It think your right that the 2 game Tri Nations is better with warm matches against the second tier teams.

Maybe I am old fashioned but I still think the best of 3 Test series is the best way of generating interest and competitive matches.

Of course with more and more English players in the NRL the prospect of a stronger England side that can beat the Aussies is much more likely.

A truly competitive England could be the real game changer for the international game. That was the catalyst for the boom in the early 1990s.

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It is all relative. The media coverage of sport before the advent of satellite TV and the internet was small fry. It was pay television that revolutionised professional sport in the UK in terms of money and media exposure. Until 2001 Union Lions Tour was pretty moderately covered. It was Sky TV and the travelling supporters who made into the massive event it is today.

The issue is that the brief revival in the interest in international rugby league from 1990 to 1994, when you had 3 competitive series with big crowds and loads of media attention, was squandered by the subsequent Super League War. The home Tests against Australia in 1990 and 1994 were massive national sporting events with 6 or 7 million people watching on BBC TV. Since the Super League War the international game has never recovered. Rugby league had product that it could sell to the general public and they promptly threw it in the bin. The players in the '90, '92 and '94 teams were household names and celebrities unlike today's players.

Blaming other sports isn't going to solve rugby league's problems, most of which are self inflicted rather than the result of some grand media conspiracy. Go back 20 years and who in the UK gave a t*ss about cycling or rowing? Cyclists and rowers are now big names media personalities and stars. Whinging won't solve rugby league's profile issues.

The idea that it was the Super League war that destroyed the international game is a myth. Ironically it was attempts to expand the international game and subsequent poor showings are what led to the huge decrease.

You cannot point out crowds in isolation. We had a golden period between 1990 and 1996 that was based on a belief that we could beat the superstar Australians that had dominated for the past decade and taken the game to a place it had never been. Look at 1986, if you take out the decent Old Trafford attendance you have some quite poor attendances.

The turning point was 1997. The ambitious World Club Challenge destroyed any notion that our game was on the same planet as theirs. The Wembley crowd was significantly lower than previous Ashes tours and the Old Trafford one, whilst looking impressive was in a stadium with a larger capacity than previously. I suspect 1990/1994 might have been sellouts whereas 1997 definitely wasn't.

By the 2001 tour things had clearly taken a turn for the worse. The 2000 World Cup was a disaster on and off the field. The game was in dire financial straits and we looked to be as far away as ever after losing 49-6 to NZ in the semi-final. It had been a huge embarrassment for the game and the prestige of international RL was low. The RFL were faced with a dilemma in 2001. They faced the very real prospect of low 30k crowds at the big stadia and a potential loss that they couldn't afford. They decided to play it safe and guarantee a profit for the tour. You can disagree with this decision but it isn't quite the mismanagement that many would love it to be.

The important thing is that the seeds were already set for the demise of the international game regardless of Super League. The players of the years 1995-2001 were the same players that would have contested games without a shift to Super League and we would have seen the same problems in my opinion. Let's not forget, we played half the strength of the Australian game in 95-97 an barely competed in 97. With no Super League war we would have potentially faced a massacre in the 1996 tour against a full strength side in Australia.

It's just too easy to blame the RFL and mismanagement.

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What is rarely mentioned in these threads is the demise of the Ashes tests on the Australian side. The 1988 tour was attended by a total of 67,554 people. This is barely a third of what they got 18 years earlier and were getting for many years prior to that. Sadly, this is comfortably lower than the 1989 British Lions tour to Australia at a time when the profile of Australian RU was very much lower than Rugby League.

Whilst it would be great to go back, I fear that were we to try and go back to the Great Britain Lions tour it would look like a weak imitation of the British Lions. Of course we know the real history but who's listening to us?

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The turning point was 1997. The ambitious World Club Challenge destroyed any notion that our game was on the same planet as theirs. The Wembley crowd was significantly lower than previous Ashes tours and the Old Trafford one, whilst looking impressive was in a stadium with a larger capacity than previously. I suspect 1990/1994 might have been sellouts whereas 1997 definitely wasn't.

Was it just down to the World Club Challenge, or was it also down to the fact that internationals were no longer on terrestrial television by this point?

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What is rarely mentioned in these threads is the demise of the Ashes tests on the Australian side. The 1988 tour was attended by a total of 67,554 people. This is barely a third of what they got 18 years earlier and were getting for many years prior to that. Sadly, this is comfortably lower than the 1989 British Lions tour to Australia at a time when the profile of Australian RU was very much lower than Rugby League.

But the attendances for the 1992 Ashes tour were far higher - over 103,000 aggregate for the tests.

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Was it just down to the World Club Challenge, or was it also down to the fact that internationals were no longer on terrestrial television by this point?

The World Club Challenge, winning something like 8 games hardly created a wave of optimism in the game especially when it comes to the internationals. I even remember Eddie making excuses in the studio at the time.

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But the attendances for the 1992 Ashes tour were far higher - over 103,000 aggregate for the tests.

Purely down to the increased competitiveness. My point was that while we're basking about the glory days in international RL the period was one of huge demise on the Australian side. I find it hard to believe that this would not have continued to decline as we stopped being competitive.

Our first test on Aussie soil post WCC debacle drew a whopping 14,000. Since then the Aussies come out when they think there's a sniff of competitiveness in us but quickly retreat again when were embarrassed. I think our last crowd was 18,000 from memory.

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You can't dismiss the effects of the Super League War. 1986 to 1997 was a golden era but it wasn't built upon. The reason why is because Super League fractured the structure of the international governance of the sport. The cycle of regular home and away test series between Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia that stretched back to the war was lost and never returned. The ARL rightly felt betrayed by the behaviour if the RFL and the NZRL and when the Australian game was reunited needs of the international game were neglected in favour of the club game and the State of Origin. Remember by 1998 a Great Britain team hadn't visited Australia for 6 years. The NRL and the State if Origin became the be all and end all.

Hence the lack of a proper international Test window in every season in October/November. Much of the goodwill that the Australia had to British Rugby League and spreading the game in general was lost. If people want to know why Australian rugby league is insular then its feeling of grievance from the mid 1990s is pretty important.

Also the switch to the Summer season has had an impact too. It has disrupted the natural touring cycle and the fluid movement that used to exist between the British and Australian game where players would regular play in the other Hemipshere during their off seasons.

The one real hope is that with more players in the NRL England can actually start beating Australia regularly. If and when that happens interest should be renewed.

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Purely down to the increased competitiveness. My point was that while we're basking about the glory days in international RL the period was one of huge demise on the Australian side. I find it hard to believe that this would not have continued to decline as we stopped being competitive.

Our first test on Aussie soil post WCC debacle drew a whopping 14,000. Since then the Aussies come out when they think there's a sniff of competitiveness in us but quickly retreat again when were embarrassed. I think our last crowd was 18,000 from memory.

Good points. If I remember rightly the 3rd test crowd in 1988 had a very poor crowd as they thought they were going to thrash us.

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You can't dismiss the effects of the Super League War. 1986 to 1997 was a golden era but it wasn't built upon. The reason why is because Super League fractured the structure of the international governance of the sport. The cycle of regular home and away test series between Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia that stretched back to the war was lost and never returned. The ARL rightly felt betrayed by the behaviour if the RFL and the NZRL and when the Australian game was reunited needs of the international game were neglected in favour of the club game and the State of Origin. Remember by 1998 a Great Britain team hadn't visited Australia for 6 years. The NRL and the State if Origin became the be all and end all.

Hence the lack of a proper international Test window in every season in October/November. Much of the goodwill that the Australia had to British Rugby League and spreading the game in general was lost. If people want to know why Australian rugby league is insular then its feeling of grievance from the mid 1990s is pretty important.

Also the switch to the Summer season has had an impact too. It has disrupted the natural touring cycle and the fluid movement that used to exist between the British and Australian game where players would regular play in the other Hemipshere during their off seasons.

The one real hope is that with more players in the NRL England can actually start beating Australia regularly. If and when that happens interest should be renewed.

By 1997, even 1994 the seeds had been clearly sown for the demise. We won one but suffered heavy losses otherwise, much heavier than 90-92. It's far too easy to purely blame the events of 1995.

Some things would not have changed. For instance we would not have stayed competitive and would arguably have been less so as without Super League would have stayed part time. I suspect the 1996 GB Lions tour down under would have resulted in a heavy defeat and low crowds on the Australia side. We were unable to beat the best of half of their league in 1995 and were battered in 1997 on home territory. Simply scheduling regular tests wouldn't have stopped the basic fact that we were uncompetitive again.

People make the mistake of thinking things would have stayed the same when the only thing that is certain is that they wouldn't have. The Aussies would still have got sick of playing and beating us as they did from 1970-1988. Full-time professionalism and increased pressure from clubs would still have led to players not wanting to play regular tests at the end of a long season. The Aussies stopped playing test series against the Kiwis in 1995 too, despite their seasons being in-sync.

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Good points. If I remember rightly the 3rd test crowd in 1988 had a very poor crowd as they thought they were going to thrash us.

16,000 or so.

1966 - 166,522 (Aus win 2-1 38-35 aggregate)

1970 - 165,000 (GB win 2-1 61-64 aggregate)

1974 - 133,791 (Aus win 2-1 45-40 aggregate)

1979 - 66,752 (Aus win 3-0 87-18 aggregate)

1984 - 75,840 (Aus win 3-0 63-21 aggregate)

1988 - 67,554 (Aus win 3-0 63-46 aggregate)

1992 - 103,495 (Aus win 2-1 48-49 aggregate)

Looking at this, I don't think it's any coincidence that crowds collapsed when GB's performance did. They improved when our performance did as well. Like I said earlier, I suspect that the 1996 tour would have been a washout. The 1990 series had an aggregate of 40-29 to the Australians, the 1992 series was actually won on aggregate by GB but by 1994 it was back out to 65-20.

The tour we actually went on to NZ resulted in a 3-0 defeat with 2 further defeats against local sides and a draw. We can only imagine with some horror what the 1996 tour against a full strength Australia might have looked like.

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No doubt British Rugby League would have struggled with conversion to full time professionalism and the lack of Union converts however the point I was trying to make that even in the dark days of the late 1970s and early 1980s the Australians were still very committed to the international game no matter how uncompetitive Great Britain, France and New Zealand were. The ARL had a great interest in the spreading the gospel and developing the game in Europe. I mean the Challenge Cup Final used to be a big deal in Australia with people staying up in the middle of the night to watch it. Their was a massive amount of affection for the Old Country.

In many ways the ARL took on the responsibility of supporting rugby league Worldwide because of its obvious strength. This generosity made the betrayal of RFL and NZRL, who effectively kicked Australia out of the international game, even more acute. Having all that goodwill and generosity thrown back in your face is going to have some impact. As a result people in the UK can't complain with Australia now having an insular attitude. Even the name of the British Super League dredges up bad memories for the Aussies.

The key thing is that for the British game to improve it needs as much contact with Australia as possible. Home and away tours every two years and the top players being able to play in both the UK and Australia during their off seasons were crucial in that regard. I mean it has taken nearly 15 years to get significant numbers of British players playing in Australia again. Meanwhile top Aussies players wouldn't dream of playing in the UK at the moment.

Lots of precious things were lost due to the Super League War and the move to Summer.

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