‘We’re better than the Mexicans, we’re better than the Mexicans, we’re better than the Mexicans.”
If you have seen Mike Bassett England Manager you will be familiar with this comical scene, as Ricky Tomlinson makes his players repeat that they are better than the Mexicans they are about to face in the World Cup.
Despite repeating this throughout the training session they go on to an embarrassing 4-0 defeat at the hands of Mexico.
What has this got to do with the World Club Challenge I hear you ask.
It is highly unlikely that Keiron Cunnigham had St Helens chanting that they are better than the Australians in preparation for their World Club Challenge showdown with South Sydney Rabbitohs.
However the hammering they took showed the Super League is as hopeless in its pursuit of closing the gap between them and the NRL as Bassett’s England side were of beating Mexico.
It wasn’t the best of performances from the reigning Super League champions as they let the occasion get the better of themselves, but there isn’t a lot they could have done to halt the rampaging Rabbitohs who gave them a lesson in rugby league.
Wigan and Warrington may have put up a better showing for the English competition, yet when you look at the facts they merely came close to beating average NRL sides who came to play the Poms in a pre-season match.
Yes the two sides played well and both probably could, and maybe should, have won their game although with the fans and teams down under not taking it seriously the series was undermined.
St George Illawara finished last season in 11th place and Brisbane Broncos only just made the top eight, with their coach Wayne Bennett telling League Express that he ‘didn’t know it was a series’ until told by the interviewer.
The Broncos chief also added, “no-one has talked about it back home about being a series, I certainly did not know that was the case.”
We will never know if the Warriors or the Wolves would have put up a better fight against Souths however the Aussies proved that they can turn it on when they need to, and boy did Saints find that out the hard way.
With superstars like Greg Inglis, Isaac Luke, Adam Reynold and the incredible George Burgess, who repelled everything the home defence threw at him, it is hard to see any team in Super League coming close to the NRL champions.
The attitude towards the ‘series’ down under was that only one game mattered and after nilling the best side in Super League they showed their competition is far superior.
We are not as far behind as we were in 1997 when the last World Club Series took place, with the Aussies humiliating us back then also, but we are still a way behind the NRL in terms of quality.
The only real way to properly gauge the difference between the two competitions is to have the top three from both compete in the series yet that would also need the NRL’s outlook on the series to change too.
Whilst it was a good concept for the fans, as they got to see some of the best players in the world play in this country, as a competition it wasn’t what it was billed to be.
If we can make it into a real England vs Australia battle, with both parties taking it seriously and treating it with respect then over the years we could see the growth of an exciting new World Club competition and maybe, just maybe, we will come out on top.