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Opinion

Seeking positives from Women’s World Cup postponement

07 Aug 21, 7:48PM 0 Comments

Written by Keith Whitelock

Photo by NRL Photos

Confirmation that the 2021 Rugby League World Cup will be postponed until late 2022 has left hundreds of non-NRL players frustrated and disappointed.

Canada had finalised plans to send the Ravens to the women’s World Cup. A substantial contingent of athletes around the world had put life events on hold to attend this tournament, including weddings and even whispers of some delaying having children. Rugby League is a passionate sport that income is often sacrificed to play, not the other way round.

Speaking with Neil Davidson for the Canadian Press, Bob Jowett, president of the Canada Rugby League Association stated “My immediate thought was it’s very very disappointing,” before going on to taking a more positive and programmatic approach “Another year does give more time to prepare and more time for player evaluation. And more time for players to get where they maybe want to be physically and technically”.

The women’s 2021 Rugby League World Cup (Women’s) consists of eight nations; four in Group A (England, PNG, Brazil, Canada) and four in Group B (Australia, New Zealand, France, Cook Islands). Almost all of the players representing these nations don’t derive their primary source of income from rugby league, meaning annual leave had no doubt been booked and plans made to travel to England for the tournament.

Bob Jowett is right when he acknowledges that there are positives to take out of this if you dig a little deeper. A lot of teams in all three tournaments (men’s, women’s and wheelchair) are new to the sport so an extra 12 months provides the opportunity to build all-important team cohesion. Whilst postponement could cost hard earned sponsorship dollars, it also provides extra time to grow the sponsorship pool for each nation.

Brazil, in particular, is largely unknown to the women’s competitions. Very limited resources have stretched a long way by very hard-working people on the ground. The woman’s team can potentially choose from women’s rugby sevens and rugby union players however this was always going to be difficult as the Rugby World Cup (Women’s) was set down for roughly the same time.

Unfortunately, the Rugby League World Cup postponement doesn’t free up women’s rugby union players as World Rugby also announced the postponement of the 2021 Rugby World Cup (Women’s) to be in Auckland and Whangarei in 2022. This postponement was accompanied by a $3.6m cash injection to help teams further prepare for the tournament, something rugby league simply can’t provide. That tournament will now run from 8th October to 12th November 2022 which prohibits players from playing in the Rugby League World Cup at the same time.

The old adage goes that you can only play what’s in front of you. Decisions have been made which have affected hundreds of people. Those nations who adapt best have chosen to take the positives out of this. With a commitment from the IRL to still hold a World Cup in 2025 (almost certainly in France), fans will be treated to two tournaments in three years. This could prove the making of international rugby league as the World Cup brand is truly solidified.

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