Forty-20is a rugby league magazine devoted to telling it like it is. So here is how it is: rugby league is now played in more nations than ever before. And the list is growing, as managing editor PHIL CAPLAN reports...
Next stop Ghana, India and Montego Bay
There was a time, not too long ago, when a British Army regiment playing a team of locals and ex-pats in Germany would have been considered an international; such was the paucity of rugby league played outside of the established nations.
Yet in mid-October just passed, an unprecedented weekend of international rugby league saw 12 nations play in six matches over four continents, encompassing 2013 World Cup Qualifiers in the European and Atlantic Zones, the first officially rated Celtic Test Match, a Trans-Tasman encounter and the birth of England Knights. And many more such games have been played far and wide in the weeks before and after that including, of course, the Gillette Four Nations and a two-match series between Fiji and Papua New Guinea.
A seminal moment? Not yet feast but certainly not famine and a possible pre-cursor for a common gap in domestic calendars that could showcase a genuine worldwide offering, which would make a supposedly geographically insular game so much harder to ignore.
So where next for the accelerating international bandwagon that has called in on Eastern and Northern Europe, the Middle East, Caribbean and Mediterranean recently? Believe it or not, Montego Bay, West Africa and India.
And, even more encouragingly, the process is not reliant on the drive of committed but essentially isolated individuals. According to Rugby League European Federation General Manager Danny Kazandjian, who spent three days briefing the RLIF in London in the lead-up to the Four Nations double-header at Wembley, it is much more sophisticated than that.
“Take what we are doing in Montego Bay in the West of Jamaica,” he says. “So far our development has centred on St Catherine’s and
Kingston in the East but working with
UK Sport International, who want to sell British sport around
Big in Belgrade: Italy and Lebanon fight out a draw in Serbia but the Azurri progress Marc Taylor the world, we will be setting up on the opposite side of the island based around 16 and 17 year olds in schools. The plan is that they will then start clubs within the school network,” he says.
If that has excited you, wait until you hear about the plans for Ghana. “It’s very long term and strategic,” enthuses Kazandjian, who cut his teeth working tirelessly to build the sport in Lebanon. “We currently have links to North Africa and South Africa - after their World Cup Qualifying exploits - are awaiting official government recognition, so we have targeted West Africa next and Ghana is the anchor.
“Again it is in concert with UK Sport International and universities as the best approach, with University of Ghana in Accra, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kamasi in the middle, University
Rugby league goes Bollywood 33
of Development Studies Tamali in the north and Winneba Sports College on the south coast.
“It is tied in to a unique international leadership development programme, which will see UK Sport International hand-pick some potential future leaders who have no experience of rugby league but receive generic training.
“Then, in partnership with Edge Hill College, a number of their students will travel to Ghana in May 2012 as a task force and deliver a sixto-eight week course on rugby league coaching and education. From there we will look to select administrators to spread the sport and there is already private sponsorship to support that.”
If all that has you salivating, the piècede résistancecould see you heading for the Rennies. Kajandzian continues: “The idea would then be to have a national university championships
1. The middle name of current New Zealand skipper and former Australian schoolboys sensation Benji Marshall is Quentin.
2. The third movie from American film director and screenwriter Quentin Tarantino was the 1997 crime drama JackieBrown.
4 Forty-20 November 2011
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3. While traveling to England on the 1933-34 Kangaroo tour, the folicallychallenged Dave Brown - soon to be
Australia’s youngest Test captain aged 23 - had his hairpiece thrown overboard by team-mates. He took to wearing a brown leather headguard instead.
New Zealand and Wests Tigers
5. Along with being a former Victorian gin palace, the Cauliflower pub, Ilford, is nowadays one of London’s most popular music venues
4. The original rugby scrum caps were intended to protect players’ ears rather than the head, with flaps to prevent lugs being grabbed, rubbed or torn off
6. Before the 18year-old Benji Marshall made his first-grade debut for Wests Tigers in 2003, he played in a pre-season trial match against London Broncos