By STEVE BRADY
THE HEAD of International Rugby League believes the World Cup is gathering momentum and building up to “something very special” for the sport.
IRL Chairman Troy Grant is delighted with the early stages of the tournament, which recovered quickly from a first-night hiccup when the PA system failed at Newcastle’s St James’ Park and ruined the opening ceremony.
Grant told League Express: “I thought the opening ceremony was building beautifully, Kaiser Chiefs were just hitting their straps and then it happened!
“It’s unfortunate, but a superb England display had everyone forgetting the opening mis-step quickly.
“The opening games of the World Cup brought relief that we are finally under way and it is hard to describe just how great it is to see international footy back. There were lots of emotions.”
The 52-year-old Australian politician and former police chief isn’t concerned by some scenes of empty seats at Round One games and he believes interest will grow as the competition gathers momentum.
He said, “Crowd atmosphere has been great, some bigger crowds at smaller venues would be good to see and they will grow as the tournament moves on.
“The colour and passion of international Rugby League sets it apart and you can’t match that. The players embrace it and with more content on show, more regularly, more and more support for the international game will come.”
Grant was particularly pleased to see debutants Greece and Jamaica take their World Cup bow, adding: “It’s critical that Greece, after so many years of hard toil and resilience, were rewarded with a place in the competition and they were terrific.
“Jamaica is a great story and with the domestic league genuinely growing this Cup appearance will help no end at home. Their embrace of what it means to be a part of this World Cup is the best advertisement we have for other nations to keep stepping up and building.”
The IRL supremo believes the tournament will fully flourish once the women’s and wheelchair disciplines kick-in.
He said: “The women’s and wheelchair tournaments are pivotal to what stands us apart from other sports. Everyone talks about inclusiveness and equality, Rugby League just gets on and does it.
“Both disciplines of the game will showcase just how far they’ve come and Brazil competing is, like the Jamaican story, inspiring stuff. There are stories aplenty and Rugby League is woven together through its stories and shared experiences.”
By STEVE BRADY