What a year for International Rugby League

Upfront: The League Express opinion – Mon 18th Jan 2021

Three Super League referees have been selected for the International Rugby League (IRL) Elite Referees Panel, from whom the referees who will be in charge of this year’s World Cup will be chosen.

Robert Hicks, Chris Kendall and Liam Moore join three Australians and one New Zealander who make up the IRL Panel.

There is one remaining vacancy that is expected to be filled in the near future.

It means that the three referees are in pole position to referee the big games in this year’s World Cup.

It doesn’t mean, however, that they are certainties to do so.

If they lose form, or if they suffer injury or illness, other referees could be drafted in to take their place.

But their selection does put them in a great position to feel confident about being awarded some of the bigger games in this year’s tournament.

And it is a particular honour for Liam Moore.

The Wigan based referee is still only 25 years old. So far the most notable moment in his career was refereeing last year’s Challenge Cup Final between Leeds Rhinos and Salford Red Devils at Wembley. Many of the players in that game would have been significantly older than he was.

It’s a remarkable evolution of refereeing from the time when all referees used to be considerably older than the players. More and more refereeing is now a young man’s (or woman’s) game. Chris Kendall is also still in his twenties, for example, and there is certainly a wonderful incentive for any young person who wants to be involved in Rugby League to go down the refereeing route, as opposed to pursuing a playing career.

So what a year it will be for those three referees, and for Rugby League as a whole in 2021.

We have also recently published details of the latest grant aid given by the World Cup organisers to community clubs up and down the land, which is a direct result of the financial support that was negotiated with the government for the tournament.

Of course the crucial factor is whether crowds will be back in stadia by the time the World Cup kicks off at Newcastle on 23 October. As the Covid crisis extends into a second year, there is still no cast-iron guarantee that the venues will be allowed to be full to capacity.

No doubt like everyone involved with the World Cup and the RFL, we are keeping our fingers firmly crossed that we will be back to normality in time for a successful tournament.

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