On Tour: Why the World Cup matters
It's easy to write off the World Cup on one scoreline. Australia 62, USA 0. But to do so is missing the point.
Try telling Cam Smith, Paul Gallen, Greg Inglis and Johnathan Thurston that this World Cup doesn't matter. Or try telling the same to the fans who attend the games or spend hours waiting outside the grounds in the freezing cold after full-time in the hope of getting a photo with one of their heroes.
Maybe they should mention it to the kid Billy Slater sat beside in the stands after leaving the field early in the quarter-final against USA, due to what could in all likelihood be a tournament-ending injury. Billy and the kid watched the rest of the game together side by side. That little boy's name? Billy Slater Leather.
Then there is the young lad in a hoodie who was waiting beside the team bus. He was picked up by big Sam Thaiday and taken onto the team bus because he had somehow missed getting a photo with his favourite player Johnathan Thurston after waiting for over an hour after full-time. Sam carried the boy onto the bus and down the back, grabbed his phone, took a photo of Thurston and the kid smiling together and then safely returned the phone and child to his parent who could not believe what had just happened.
Yes, Australia are expected to make the final and if they do, they will play against one of the other 'big 3' – New Zealand or England. But tell the fans, the players or anyone involved in this World Cup that the games leading up to the semi-finals haven't mattered.
Tell Boyd Cordner and Josh Papalii that their debuts in the famous green and gold jersey do not matter, or brother Brett and Josh Morris that playing together for Australia is meaningless. Tell the young halfback Ryan Brierley from Leigh Centurions that his 30 minutes of one-on-one time with Cooper Cronk talking about how to control a match after Australia had finished training didn't matter.
Maybe mention to the USA Tomahawks that the tournament doesn't matter. Before the game against Australia, the staff talked of the amazing journey and friendships they had forged in the short timeframe of the tournament. They were glowing about their historic win over France in a trial, then their first ever World Cup victory over the Cook Islands, backed up by a 24-16 win over Wales that cemented their place in the knock-out stage of the tournament.
Sure they were predictably beaten by Australia in the quarters, but does that make their achievement any less significant for rugby league? Their motto was 'shock the world', and while they didn't do that against the Kangaroos, their story certainly did get a lot of coverage. The Wiggles released a song about them that has had over 65,000 views on YouTube and gained media attention across all major publications.
The Rugby League World Cup is not perfect – some teams get seven-day turnarounds while other teams play three games in nine days. Sure, there are minnows and there are giants in this World Cup. No-one is denying that. But the same could be said of most sports.
One or two results shouldn't deter from what has been an excellent tournament.
Who did Corey Parker intend his pass to hit when he set up a try for Jarryd Hayne with an outrageous flick pass? It was the biggest talking point amongst players after Australia's victory over USA.
The team gathered at the team hotel after the game keenly debating the issue. Parker vehemently defended himself when the possibility was raised that he may have intended the pass for someone else.
Billy Slater joined the group discussion downstairs shortly after it had started – he had not seen the incident due to being injured and in the sheds, so Parker did his best to re-enact the moment as 'accurately' as he could. The bump off, the run, the flick, all were retold with actions and flair. Debate raged about whether or not his final flick was meant for Hayne.
Footage was then watched on a laptop and each frame was paused and debated with the same level of scrutiny of a judiciary hearing at NRL headquarters on a Wednesday night. Parker, the defendant, was pleading his case that he could only possibly have been trying to pass the ball to Hayne. But the prosecutors, captain Cam Smith and coach Tim Sheens, were not convinced. They pointed at Johnathan Thurston who had been making an inside run as the more likely target.
Had that been the case, in their argument, Parker's pass missed by a long way.
Sheens raised an eyebrow when someone cheekily mentioned that the coach's pre-game talk had involved the phrase 'no flicks'.
Everyone laughed it off, and while Parker's defence was willing, the Kangaroo court is still out on whether it was genius or blind luck.