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Rugby League On The Rise 

Finally the magical game of rugby league seems to be growing and expanding its reach across the world. The game is slowly adding in more teams around Europe to compete in the European Championships and by assisting emerging nations in the development of leagues in their countries. 

Now I understand how there are a hell of a lot of people who aren’t as aware of the growing number of nations that are beginning to play rugby league but also the random places the game is being played in if you want to hear me and FanbabbleScotty talk about the international game with our friend and guest Murph go and check out the “Off-Season Shenanigans” episode of theChat From The Back podcast . The international game is as I stated in the beginning finally growing up per say, we just need to look at how in just the last 6-12 months we have majorly added a new international team by bringing in Macedonia. 

Yet while you can’t expect to see the Macedonian team play the likes of Australia, Tonga, PNG, New Zealand etc straight away or even within the next few years they will be able to have plenty of chances to get on the park and play competitive games in the aforementioned European Championships. While it is extremely unlikely a newly brought in international member won’t necessarily be super strong in games to begin with they will be assisted in similar situations to others when they just came in by playing games against other nations that are placed at the same tier as them to allow for them to be even more competitive in their fixtures. 

Players from the Turkey, Malta, Netherlands and Czechia teams prior to the final matches in Group D from the Europen championships. Image taken from europeanrugbyleague.com

It would be amidst of me if I didn’t mention anything about the disappointment of the 2025 Rugby League World Cup having to be moved. For me the thing that is most upsetting for me is that it was destined to be a true showcase of the ever growing relationship between rugby league and the world with it being staged in the USA and Canada however due to financial concerns the plans were cancelled. 

As much as that could be seen as a dagger blow to the game in the North American market I still think the game is going on the right direction despite not now hosting the cup but for me the biggest thing that could have killed the game in that part of the world was the in which the Toronto Wolfpack was treated and booted out of the Super League. Unfortunately we as rugby league fans should have foreseen the way the Toronto team was going to be treated given the objection to them  being in the league from the outset and throughout. 

Much to the chagrin of the Rugby Football League the Wolves were able to play their way up the division’s and qualify for the Super League for the 2020 season after winning the “Million Pound Game” in 2019. However we all know how 2020 played out and given the ever changing nature of the world that we are still in the midst of today Toronto had no option  other than to announce their withdrawal from the competition due to also increasing financial difficulties that resulted in the worst possible outcome of the team ceasing operations. 

Toronto’s players celebrate winning promotion to Super League. Image taken from skysports.com

Despite the sadness of the outcome of their only season (not even a full season) this is the best outcome that could happen. The Wolfpack had been purchased by a group of private investors and would still play a part in the growing of the game in the American market by playing in the newly formed North American Rugby League competition, that has caused issues in the game stateside similar to the super league war here in Australia from 20 so years ago that is a story for another day, yet the fact there is that much support for the game in the USA is a great sign for the code. 

However it’s now on to the news that sparked my interest in writing this piece and that is despite not being able to have the RLWC in North America in 2025 we will be having it held in France. Now I’m not saying we are going to see massive growth of the game in France as they aren’t new to the game having hosted the inaugural World Cup in 1954 and also being competitive at the tournament early on. I feel by having it held in France it has a romantic feel to it given we as the supporters of the game can come together and celebrate the 71st anniversary of the first tournament in the same country that hosted the first. 

We can though look at the growing of the game in France though as well given that this year in 2022 we will see the first French derby in the super league following the promotion of Toulouse Olympique who will now join Catalans Dragons. Yet not only is the club game growing in the  Europe or the American market but also in our own market here in the Oceania region through the addition in 2014 of the PNG Hunters to the Q Cup and  y bringing in the Fiji Kava Kaiviti Silktails to the Ron Massey Cup since 2020 who will hopefully be moving to the NSW Cup in the not to distant future. 

Catalans claimed the League Leaders’ Shield in 2021 to add to their Challenge Cup victory in 2018 proving they belong in the elite level of the game. Image taken from skysports.com

So for me looking ahead to the future of the game if we as the current custodians of rugby league weather that be as fan’s, players, coaches, administrators, reporters or whatever it shall be, if we can keep pushing hard at growing the game more than ever and even harder then what we have done in just the last 10 years then who knows where this great game may end up. All I can say is it is fantastic to finally see Rugby League on the rise again around the world. 

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