Jason Taumalolo of Tonga.
Jason Taumalolo of Tonga. DAVID ROWLAND/AAP

World Cup showcasing growth of global game

IF THERE is one thing we have learnt from the Rugby League World Cup, it is the game is on the rise on the international level.

People have always been quick to knock rugby league as being confined to the eastern states of Australia, as well as parts of NZ and England.

Yet this tournament showed the game is more than just the NRL and State of Origin.

Tonga pulled out some incredible performances to make the semi finals, and get within inches of toppling England with the last play of the game.

Fiji came away with the biggest scalp in their history when they scored a gritty quarter final win over powerhouses NZ.

Lebanon and Papua New Guinea made spirited bursts into the finals, with the weight of both respective nations on their backs.

Ireland were sensational in their pool games, and the only thing that cost them a deserved appearance in the second stage of the tournament was a flawed system.

While Australia won the World Cup, England gave them a huge scare in the process, matching it with the Kangaroos on all fronts, going down by just six points.

Next year, an Emerging Nations World Cup will be held in Australia, with 11 teams confirmed. The only way the game will continue to grow on this stage is through continued exposure and competing in meaningful fixtures.

I had the benefit of working closely with the Maltese national team during their Mediterranean Cup fixture in May, and to say it would be a dream for them to compete in a World Cup would be an understatement.

A lot of these players for emerging nations have normal jobs like you and I, and still find the time and dedication to chase their dreams. Malta, as well as all other developing nations, epitomise what the game of rugby league is all about, and if the World Cup has done nothing more than make people realise the game expands beyond Australia, it has achieved its goal.

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