Nines World Cup our next step: Hodges
It's impossible to watch our Australian athletes performing so well at the Olympic Games and not wonder how rugby league can increase its relevance on the world stage. In my opinion our next step should be to introduce a Rugby League Nines World Cup.
Next year's Rugby League World Cup in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea will be a great showcase of the game but if we are to put rugby league in a position to compete for Commonwealth Games or Olympic glory we need to find a way to be more inclusive.
The emergence of the Nines concept has been hugely successful through the Auckland Nines and there was even a Commonwealth Rugby League Championship held in Glasgow two years ago in the lead-up to the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
As they have in the Rio Games, rugby sevens will feature at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast and while it's a shame rugby league won't figure, it shows a path we should try to follow.
We've come a long way with the Auckland Nines tournament in the past three years; why not open it up to the rest of the world? In terms of growing our game, that's what it's all about.
Cricket's T20 format features a World Cup every two years and they are now being invited to participate in future Olympic Games; we don't need to be that far behind.
It was fantastic to see the Aussie girls claim gold in the rugby sevens this week and our own Jillaroos and the Kiwi Ferns have shown in their games in Auckland that they can put on a sporting contest just as entertaining and just as skilful.
We've got both men's and women's teams now and it would be a great spectacle but everyone has to put their heads together to see how we can make this work. If it does work it will be fantastic for our game.
With the World Cup format as it stands it is difficult for emerging nations such as Jamaica, Canada, Spain and Serbia to qualify let alone be competitive but a nines tournament would invite an even greater pool of countries to take part and gain invaluable experience playing against the game's very best.
It seems incredible to me that teams representing Chile and El Salvador played a 13-a-side game in Sydney in June and I have no doubt that if rugby league was able to showcase itself globally that we could attract some amazing athletes from all over the world to play our game.
When you're out and about as a member of the Kangaroos there are so many people from so many different cultures and nationalities who are now understanding and appreciative of our game and they are telling people they know the world over about rugby league.
Because they see us as NFL without the padding the Americans really like it and I think it would be great if the 2021 World Cup was to be held in America. With the population in the US it would be massive for our game and we might then see young American guys coming to Australia to pursue a career in rugby league.
Obviously if rugby league was to be included in a Commonwealth or Olympic Games the scheduling could be difficult with the NRL season and clubs may be reluctant to release their best players but I'm sure we could find a way to make it work and showcase our game in the biggest sporting event in the world.
It looks as though there are now four teams fighting it out for the final two spots in the top eight and in my mind it will be the Panthers and the Titans who get through. The more games Jarryd Hayne plays for the Titans the better they'll be and I really like the Panthers. They're a good young side and if they can get in the eight and stay injury free, those guys can worry the top teams and give the competition a good shake.