Monday Morning Halfback: Rep Round
A look back at the World Club Series and what the results mean in hindsight, the development of the international game, the special Kangaroos team and the history that beckons for the kiwis.
World Club Series leading the way
Brisbane Broncos and St George Illawarra Dragons - the two teams that were added to an expanded World Club Series to join the English and Australian champions at the start of the year now share the lead in the NRL Telstra Premiership after eight rounds. There was certainly plenty of debate and detractors about the concept's legitimacy south of the equator -while in the north it was treated with a high level of excitement and respect.
The games were played with a fierce intensity and outside of the one-sided World Club Challenge, were hanging in the balance until fulltime - or extra time for the Broncos v Wigan Warriors clash.
St Helens who were thrashed 39-0 by a red-hot Rabbitohs have bounced back and are currently 2nd in the Super League. Wigan and Warrington are 3rd and 5th respectively.
While the Australian based teams swept the series 3-0, the English sides showed that the gap is closing. The fact that the Broncos and Dragons are now leading the NRL perhaps casts a new light on those results.
Hopefully the concept will only grow bigger and better in the coming years. It can only be a good thing for rugby league for the sport to get more competitive and gain more interest in other markets.
Long live international rugby reague
Still on growing the game, your humble correspondent is a massive fan of international rugby league. Call me a trainspotter - the unofficial term - but what I have witnessed firsthand is that international rugby league has made some huge steps forward in the last few years.
The 2013 World Cup in the UK was an amazing tournament. Everyone that was a part of it, from the players, to the fans to the media acknowledged that it had a special feel to it. The lopsided World Cup Final could not detract from what was an amazing tournament for all involved. Walking around the grounds, being in and among the players representing their countries it had a really special feel to it, something which struggled to be accurately conveyed back home.
As we have seen from the recent Cricket World Cup, some of the best matches come from the minnow nations being given their chance to shine on the biggest stage.
We saw it with the USA at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup and it was again reinforced in the recent Four Nations tournament when Samoa threatened to cause some major upsets by playing expansive, up tempo and exciting footy.
It is great to see four teams getting a chance to show what they can do again this weekend as part of Representative Round.
Fiji will have six players from the team that made the World Cup semi-finals in what looks like a strong, physical side, while Tonga have named an exciting team full of potential.
The double-header should provide some highly entertaining rugby league!
The Kangaroos have been a truly amazing football team and will be remembered as one of the greats in years to come. The World Cup triumph was their crowning moment in an amazing era. There is a changing of the guard coming, but there are still some bonafide superstars - dare I say future immortals - in this side and you should get out and watch them while you still can.
Darren Lockyer has gone, but Billy Slater, Greg Inglis, Johnathan Thurston, Cam Smith, Cooper Cronk - you get the idea - have a few years left in the tank. They can't play forever, but it has truly been a special side. Watch them while you can.
Enter the Kiwi
New Zealand proved they are a quality side when they twice beat Australia to claim the Four Nations crown last year. If they win again on Friday night, they'll have written their own history - becoming just the second Kiwi side in history to string three wins in a row against the mighty Kangaroos since their first game in 1908. Wouldn't that be something. Not a bad way to respond after losing the World Cup Final.
Good luck to the women's teams playing the curtain raiser on Friday night. If you get a chance, get out to the ground early to watch them play. They are exceptionally talented and play a different brand of footy to what you see week-in-week-out at the NRL level. But as Jillaroos coach Steve Folkes says, that is not a bad thing. There is a lot less structure and a whole lot of individual brilliance. Add to that a lot of passion and an ongoing rivalry with the Kiwi Ferns brought on by more and more matches, it is a great thing for the women's game and I'm sure they will put on a great game on Friday night.
Who'd be a coach?
The Sydney Roosters are just two points clear of bottom place. Their 2015 season narrative could not have been more different to the Manly Sea Eagles. Yet here we are. Manly's problematic start to the year has been well documented, while the Roosters have suffered four tight losses in a row. The Bondi club has been outstanding in the last month, but have been pipped in golden point by the Broncos, lost by one point to the Storm in an absolute classic and were beaten by two points in a tough Anzac day clash with the Dragons. They are not playing badly at all, but are now 12th on the NRL ladder, just one win above the Sea Eagles. Who would be a coach?
Quote of the Week
"He wants a go at that NRL Rookie! But nah, he definitely can't tackle."
-Panthers fullback Matt Moylan stitching up his older brother, Australian Touch Football representative Ben Moylan, when asked at the launch of the Touch World Cup how Ben would have fared in the NRL. Ben will compete in the Touch World Cup starting Wednesday this week in Coffs Harbour.
Good news - the finals will be shown on Channel 9. More details here.
Farwell to NRL.com staff writer Matt Encarnacion who finished up on Sunday and is off to continue writing at AAP. While you will still occasionally see some of his rugby league content on NRL.com, we will certainly miss his unique writing style on a daily basis. His story on Obed Karwhin's journey from war-torn Africa to the Holden Cup was amazing in particular. If you haven't read it, do yourself a favour, it is an amazing yarn. Best of luck in the new role!