Talking RL: ‘Anfield should stage Magic Weekend’

Australia were the only ones who held up their end of the bargain
Australia were the only ones who held up their end of the bargain

The outcome of the Four Nations final was as frustrating as it was predictable, though the Aussies can’t be blamed for holding up their end of the bargain, when England, New Zealand – and the organisers – fell short.

Once Josh Dugan went over for the Aussies’ opening try in the third minute, it was clear there was only going to be one winner.

They were 24-0 up by half-time and, while such one-sided contests can be a turn-off, it was hard not to marvel at the mastery of the Australian performance.

They had the best player on the pitch (Darius Boyd) as well as the best-named player on the pitch (Valentine Holmes), and the only time they were booed was when they elected to kick a first-half penalty.

This has not been a great Four Nations.

Viewing figures were good but crowds at Coventry, London and Hull failed to hit targets, amid criticism of the choice of all three of those venues.

But organisers can’t be blamed for the poor games – Scotland’s dramatic draw against New Zealand was easily the best match of the tournament.

One thing organisers did get right was choosing Anfield for the final.

Sure, there was the mess-up when the loud-speakers failed during the national anthems, but that aside, the afternoon was a resounding success.

The ‘novelty factor’ of playing at Liverpool’s home – the first rugby league game there in nearly two decades – surely accounted for some of the 42,000 tickets sold.

Many will have left satisfied. The stewards were both friendly and knowledgeable, the ground’s compact-feel was terrific, and the only disappointment was the absence of England from the game.

A future Magic Weekend venue, perhaps?

The chatter after the Four Nations Final on Sunday was about the return of Kangaroos tours after next year’s World Cup.

Finally, some common-sense.

England were better, more competitive, when they played the Aussies three times in the space of three weeks.

Rather than the five years – FIVE YEARS – it has taken to rack up that many meetings in recent seasons.

Warrington’s Chris Sandow is the latest big-name to cut short his Super League stint.

Alongside Dave Taylor, Todd Carney and Frank Pritchard – who also left before the end of their deals – they were arguably the four biggest recruits from the NRL in the last two years.

It would be easy, at this point, to put the boot into Super League.

“Not only does the competition struggle to attract big-names, it can’t retain them, either...” – and all that.

I’m all for trying to recruit A-listers, but they need to perform when they get here.

And in truth, while they showed occasional flashes of quality, all four failed to live up to the hype.

Indeed, Warrington coach Tony Smith should be commended for his brutal honesty, describing Sandow as a “pain in the proverbial”!

That’s right up there with Anthony Gelling’s “man of the people” as one of the quotes of the year!

North America has “conditionally” been granted the rugby league World Cup in 2025. I welcome the bold move... but I’m intrigued to know what the set of conditions are.

Not that it’s stopped my colleagues Paul Kendrick and Tom McCooey already volunteering their services to help cover the event – as well as any warm-up matches in similar destinations...