Of late, Rugby League has come under serious scrutiny from a number of different angles, for a number of different reasons. Whilst quite a few of those reasons are well on merit (for instance, the madness surrounding the obstruction ruling and video refereeing is completely worthy of some debate), it often feels like Rugby League folk like to take a stab at the game we seemingly love so much.
There’s no other sport like it in that essence; the game takes more friendly fire than any other in the entire world – rarely do you see the likes of cricket, football or even “the other” code get huge amounts of critique from its own people. And interestingly enough, it’s another major sporting event which is going on in the world at the moment that should remind us that for all the bashing we give it, Rugby League is a fantastic product that we should be promoting, not lambasting.
Football fans will have no doubt been entranced by a remarkable World Cup in Brazil, where the action has been so fantastic it has overshadowed the massive protests surrounding the hosting of the tournament in Brazil. But let’s not forget, it’s barely been eight months since Rugby League put on its own extravaganza of a World Cup – and that too was a tournament that grabbed a lot of publicity for the right reasons.
..for all the bashing we give it, Rugby League is a fantastic product that we should be promoting, not lambasting.
Has it been capitalized on? Debatable. But watching the semi-finals of the football World Cup earlier this week, it brought up an interesting point of view relating to the last four of the RLWC at the back end of last year. Football fans were beside themselves with excitement and joy when Germany put on a masterclass to beat hosts Brazil 7-1, in perhaps the most one-sided international semi-final in the history of the sport. But lest we forget, people in Rugby League circles weren’t excited when we had a one-sided semi of our own in the World Cup last year – more of a view that we should completely revamp the structure of the sport.
Australia’s 64-0 hammering of Fiji – a nation who were a real bright spot of the tournament with the way they approached their games – was condemned in our game as a disaster, and something that should have been swept under the carpet? Which is the bigger disappointment – a one-sided semi between two teams who are expected to win the tournament, or a one-sided result which we all expected?
The second semi-final between England and New Zealand was an absolutely incredible game of Rugby League, and should have been the real talking point from that double-header at Wembley. But instead, we found ourselves choosing to be despondent and negative, rather than upbeat and positive. The Netherlands and Argentina put on a dreary affair in football’s equivalent on Wednesday, but even then the footballing world chose to embrace the positives, rather than be negative.
Maybe that is why football has got as far as it has done in the eyes of the public. If neutrals see a sport that is consistently hammered by its own people – including journalists, who are perhaps the worst for it – then how on Earth are we going to convince people this is a product worth buying into? Everywhere you look it seems to be someone suggesting radical change, or somebody taking a swipe at people in power. Of course the game has problems (what sport doesn’t?), but airing our own dirty laundry is just shooting ourselves in the foot.
Perhaps for once we should choose to focus on the positives of the game, rather than the negatives. It would certainly make for a refreshing change, and would lift the rather black mood that has built up around the sport over the last six months. If other sports do it, why don’t we?