Opinion: International Rugby League is back and booming

Australians can be cruel at times.

Just ask any tourist. Inevitably, if you visit the home of any Australian (other than my humble abode) you will be offered a taste of a unique Australian food product – Vegemite.

It’s a bit like Marmite, known to many Britons. It was originally called Parwill … thanks to an advertising man who must have partaken of too much of the liquid from which it was a by-product – beer.

According to the slogan suggested by the marketing man, “Ma might, but Pa will”. Boom, boom!

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When they eventually settled on the name Vegemite, the new marketing actually worked, especially a radio jingle. “We’re happy little Vegemiters, bright as bright can be, we all enjoy our Vegemite, for breakfast, lunch or tea.”

I certainly don’t. To me it tastes foul. And so it is with unsuspecting tourists. You need more than a beer to cleanse your palate after it has been subjected to Vegemite.

Having said that, it has become part of the Australian language. And I am certainly a ‘happy little Vegemiter’, having written my match report for League Express and settled down and to watch the television replay of the Four Nations double-header (without having to write a word this time around) … with honey replacing the Vegemite.


I am happy because international Rugby League is back and booming.

What a great result to see the Australians’ dominance threatened by the Kiwis’ upset thrashing.

And I must admit I was cheering for Toa Samoa against England. Not that I dislike Poms. Two of my sons have English passports (as well as ones from God’s Own Country) and I have a delightful English daughter-in-law, a Birmingham lass who is the apple of my eye.

No, I want to put the Rah-Rahs back in their place.

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They have been sneering over the past couple of weeks about their rugby code being the only one with an international profile.

Ah, but not only did the Samoans give the English 17 a real fright, I was pleased to see all those other Tests being played around the world.

Serbia, Hungary, Greece and Bosnia-Herzegovina in the Balkans Cup. Scotland, Wales, Ireland and France in the European Cup. Fiji v Lebanon. Czech Republic v Greece. Papua New Guinea v Tonga. Philippines v Vanuatu. Norway v Thailand. Portugal v Latin America.

Please excuse me if I have inadvertently missed any matches.

This year Papua New Guinea entered a team in the Queensland Cup. They were known as the Hunters and based in Kokopo near what used to be Rabaul, before it was wiped out by volcanic eruptions.

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Fiji is talking about applying to play in the NSW Cup from 2016.

But why aren’t there any plans underway for a side in the NRL?

Why not a Pacific side with some veterans such as those who played against England on Saturday and a coach of the calibre of Craig Bellamy.

We are told that Brad Fittler and Andrew Johns are returning from their annual trip to Fiji with three more NRL hopefuls.


Parramatta unearthed winger Semi Radradra in the just completed season in which he scored 19 tries in 24 appearances.

Can you imagine, if all those talented young Pacific Islanders were encouraged to play in a Pacific side in the NRL, what it would do for the international standing of our game?

There would be no more sneering from the kick-and-clap brigade on the Dark Side.

As South Sydney chief executive Shane Richardson said the other day:

“The world’s changed so much with the internet and social media, and that gives a huge chance for league to expand on the back of the enthusiasm that hits people when they see the game. They just get bitten.

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“That’s potential. I’m just not sure the International Federation that we’ve got is delivering on that at the moment. We’re constantly cowered rather than getting out there and telling the world.”

You are right, Richo! What is the International Federation doing?

Of course, Australians are the worst at stuffing it up.

In all the newspapers last week, I couldn’t find one story that listed the teams for the England-Samoa clash, even though both countries had to make their squads public by Tuesday.


Rugby League journalists, with a couple of notable exceptions, including Rugby League World’s Steve Mascord, are very Sydney-centric.

As Mascord has noted, once upon a time he was able to get to every international played around the globe. Now it is impossible. There are too many.

Another reason why we need a Pacific team in the NRL.

What great trips there would be for fans. At present most Australians only get to the Pacific nations on cruise ships.

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But if their team was playing away, they could fly in and have a proper holiday as well as watching their beloved Rabbitohs, Broncos or Tigers.

Just like the Super League fans can enjoy a few days down in Perpignan when their side is matched against the Catalans Dragons.

And the food at resorts in Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and the Cook Islands is a lot tastier than Vegemite on toast.

Pa will certainly tell you that!