20th October 2018, 10:30
ANDREW CHALMERS: EXCITEMENT BUILDS TO ENGLANDS TEST SERIES WITH KIWI
Read Chairman, Andrew Chalmers' latest column - in partnership with the Bradford Telegraph and Argus.
International Rugby League proved that it was very much alive and well last weekend with the Kiwis, magnificent in defeating the current World Champions the Kangaroos. The eventual score line was a hugely misleading 26-24 victory to New Zealand over Australia but the hosts had three “tries” ruled out by the video ref and only two late tries gave the mighty Kangaroos the dignity of a one score defeat. This all points to a remarkable resurgence for the Kiwis under new coach Michael Maguire.
The Kiwis were clearly the biggest disappointment at last year’s World Cup competition. They followed this poor result with quite a convincing defeat by England in the controversial Test held in Denver during this season. On the form of last week, I believe the Kiwis will prove more than a match for England in the forthcoming three Test series.
With England lacking the talismanic Sam Burgess I think they will have their hands well and truly full containing a rampant new look New Zealand side. As a proud Kiwi I trust I will be forgiven for staying loyal to the country of my birth even if the home side will have the usual contingent of four or five products of the Bulls academy system.
Before this series of course we have the first ever meeting of Australia and Tonga. The South Sea Islanders made it to the semi-final of last year’s World Cup and played a full part in probably the most spectacular rugby league experience seen for some time when they played England in Auckland. Mount Smart stadium was a sea of red and white with the whole stadium singing Christian hymns which could be heard for miles around Auckland.
An awe inspiring contest and a thrilling finish that left everyone purring at what this great sport can achieve when played well. My wife and I attended the game and I count myself privileged to have witnessed a truly epic occasion. So close to being one of the greatest turn-ups in rugby league history.
One of the greatest challenges for international rugby league remains the frustrating inability of the sport to publish a coherent international calendar at senior level. If my time as NZ Chairman is anything to go by, it seems the lack of commitment from the Australians which frustrates this process. They of course have a three game Origin Series every year which they value higher that Test football and they seem to have little interest in giving the international game the boost it deserves. That is why you see my country play the English more often than not. These two countries are fully committed to internationals.
Of course there is a lot if other international rugby league being played. There are European matches between the countries in this part of the world. I don’t know enough about how this works but I am delighted that some of our players have put their hands up to represent their countries. Playing careers are over all too quickly and any young player who wants to play for his country, wear the national shirt and sing the national anthem goes with our absolute blessing. Truly no questions or barriers from the Bulls, just total endorsement and support.
What I didn’t realise is that international rugby league seems to be popping up everywhere at the moment. I was surprised to learn that Malta, a place I’d only ever considered for a vacation recently defeated Niue to win the emerging nations world championship. Wow, how good is that. For completeness I should add that countries included in the competition were teams from Hungary, Turkey, Poland, Greece, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Philippines, Japan and even Hong Kong. And why not. We all support our club and other supporters follow their own, but then the national team is everyone’s to share.
With women’s rugby league growing every season and a wheelchair competition in the plans for the World Cup in 2021, there are very positive signs that international rugby league is at last getting its act together. All the good work of these emerging nations and the new genres of rugby league will count for very little if the sport’s biggest organisation doesn’t embrace the movement. I really hope it does. I want the Bulls to be the best we possibly can be, but I want us to be part of a sport that is the best it possibly can be. Without the top end sorting itself out, it never really will, let’s hope they do.
Finally I want to personally thank super coach Wayne Bennett for supporting the Bulls Academy with “An evening with Wayne Bennett” on Thursday 25th October at SouthBank. Wayne is of course the greatest and most successful coach in the sports history and is really entertaining when away from the professional media. He is also a great supporter of young players and I understand he didn’t hesitate when approached to break his schedule to support our event to raise funds for our highly respected Academy.
I know we are nearly at capacity for this never to be repeated event so I do hope those of you who haven’t yet got the ticket do so and quickly. I can’t imagine a better evening and it is in support of our top youngsters. Hope you can make it and thanks, as ever for your support.
Wayne is a vocal supporter of the development of international rugby league, he helped the Kiwis clean up at the 2008 World Cup, and of course lead the All Golds on the 2007 pilgrimage to defeat the Northern Union on these shores. Inspiring stuff from a rugby league great. I have no doubt Wayne will be snapped up in the UK, if he ever chose to add the Super League title to his list of challenges.