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The Future of the Pacific Nations.

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There seems to be this idea being propagated on this forum that the rise of the Pacific nations is going to end, if it hasn`t already, Australia`s 50 year dominance of International Rugby League.

Quote;      "The world cup drama may well have woken the Australians up to the fact that not only are the majority of their competition now qualified to play for other nations, they are willing to actually play for those nations instead of Australia too."

This assertion, which seems to be widely accepted, would be well worth having a closer look at.

Tonga. Population: 106 000, Projected population 2050: 136 000; Tongan ancestry living in New Zealand (NZ) 82 000; in Australia (OZ) 35 000.

As you can see Tonga has more people living in NZ and OZ than in Tonga itself. Many of these are either, the post WW11 immigrants that migrated to NZ and Oz in response to labour shortages in the post war economic boom or their children.

Important point: Migration from the Pacific now contributes less to the growth of the Tongan population in NZ than the natural increase in the ex-pat populations. Although I couldn`t find exact emigration figures from Tonga, net immigration was very low, which suggests that since I gather that country would not have very high immigration levels, then emigration wouldn`t be that high either.

Verdict: Given Tonga`s small population, emigration levels will remain low, as the populations in NZ and Oz mature, the players produced in those countries will be unable to represent Tonga because their grandparents will have been born in either NZ or OZ. They will then either have to declare their allegiancy to NZ or OZ. The likelihood of producing enough players through scouting or domestic competitions to produce a tier 1 national team, low.

Samoa. Population: 200 000, projected population 2050: 243 000.  Population in NZ: 192 000, OZ: 80 000. 

As with Tonga, the growth of the Samoan populations in NZ and OZ is more through births within those communities than through immigration. And as with Tonga they are benefitting in their current player pool because of the large ex-pat population.

And as with Tonga I couldn`t find exact emigration figures, but net immigration figures were low, suggesting its not a big number, and of course with a population of 200k it couldn`t be, especially since birth rates have dropped significantly over the last 40 years.

Verdict. Samoa has the advantage of a larger population than Tonga, suggesting that they will be able to produce more players domestically at senior levels and younger players that can be picked up by scouts, but unlikely without the second and third generation players that they now have access to in NZ and OZ, be able to field a Tier 1 team like they potentially can currently.

Fiji. Population 900 000. Fiji is a different kettle of fish. Their domestic premier League was on track to expand to nearly 30 teams this year, with I gather a lot of junior growth under that. Fiji is one country that is more likely of being able to produce either players at a domestic level or especially through young players being scouted for the NRL to have numbers to produce a competitive Tier 1 national team. But we are still talking about a country of less than 1m and union is very strong.

Papua New Guinea. population 8 000 000, should eventually be a no-brainer if the proper pathways can be established.

Overall summary. At some point Tonga and Samoa will probably be hampered by their lack of numbers domestically, and especially when the time comes that they can no longer draw on 3rd and 4th generation players from NZ and Oz they may struggle to remain competitive. Fiji may also find ultimately that numbers are a problem.

The big winner from this will be NZ when the next generation of Jason Taumololo`s et. al. have to declare themselves for NZ, Australia with its` smaller Pacific Island population will benefit but to a smaller degree as players like Kotoni Staggs have no choice but to declare themselves for Oz.

Hopefully the rise of maybe France and Wales up your way over the next twenty years may compensate for what as I expect to see the decline of at least two of our current Pacific powerhouses.




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That's a most interesting analysis.  It's important for the Brits here to understand that almost all the full time pros available for those three countries spent their formative years in New Zealand and/or Australia as opposed to having spent in the countries they're representing.  I've often seen posters here give the impression that they think most came from those islands instead which is obviously not the case.

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PNG is the most likely. Big population and mad for League. Union is very weak there compared to the others. It could be just what League needs though. Fiji will be up there but union is strong but no different to NZ.

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I like this - genuine fantasy football, with an imaginary international game. 

Verdict: NRL introduces its own form of football in which all players who want to play internationals are allowed on the same pitch with each side having their own ball for 10 minutes every 8 years, as part of the Australian “vision” for the game. 

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22 minutes ago, Keith989 said:

What does it matter how strong the PIs get if there are barely any test matches played?

This is the crux of it. These countries getting stronger are of absolutely no benefit to the international game if they are never allowed to play and/or if players are prevented from playing for them.

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48 minutes ago, Keith989 said:

What does it matter how strong the PIs get if there are barely any test matches played?

Well that is the heartbreaking reality of Australia's condemnation of International Rugby League.

With the technology, that exists today if the NRL and RFL decided to focus on supporting the IRL (financially and spiritually) to develop International competition amongst the RL playing Nations, the game could spread across the globe very quickly. We should now be poised and eager to use all these new tools to make up for a hundred years or so that we've lagged behind the dark side. 

Their game, was spread across the globe by ex-pats, travelling the world and taking the game with them.

The professional classes, through globe trotting business professionals, the university educated elite, and of course through the armed forces were responsible for RaRa's growth.

The reality on our side, is that we as a cultural group, produced very few business professionals by comparison. It's only in the last 40 years or so that the game has been played in our Universities and Colleges and so we are only now (finally) seeing some ex-pat English men starting the game up in their adopted homes here and abroad.

We all know that playing Rugby League in the forces, wasn't even allowed (and in fact, frowned upon) until relatively recently so that avenue for growth was cut off (by the Oxbridge/Sandhurst trained establishment officers).

Another cultural difference, which I believe had a much greater influence than is widely acknowledged, on stunting the growth of RL (as opposed to RaRa) was the decision by the professional teams, on commercial grounds, to play in leagues.  The amateur game, (of course) followed suit and so small geographical areas had inward looking leagues created and they contented themselves with playing the same 10 or 15 teams, for ever more, never looking outside their locality or giving any thought to actively promoting the sport beyond their town limits.

Contrast this with RaRa's abhorrence of leagues (or even of the idea of trying to win ha ha ha), which resulted in the reliance on a ''fixture secretary'' in every club.

It was his job, to compile friendly fixtures one or two seasons in advance to make sure they had a game each week. The net result of this ''amateur'' ethos was clubs would entertain visiting teams from much further afield than the average RL fixture pairings. They would then travel in turn, to honour the previous years visiting teams and repay the favour.

Each year, clubs would have an entirely different fixture list, (keeping it novel and very interesting to-boot), This completely random, (unplanned) and incredibly fortuitous choice (to shun leagues) resulted in creating very fertile ground, for new clubs to grow and prosper in and (in my opinion) helped the game to spread across the country relatively quickly.

If we had had the same demographic (at the outset) and if we had chosen not to organise into local leagues, then our game (given its superior content) would have spread around the world just as quick, if not quicker.

With all the modern communication technologies we have today, we can (I believe) quickly redress this imbalance but we've got to decide that it's a worthy goal and act in unison, to make it happen as quickly as possible.

Come on NRL!  

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