Mission Accomplished. Australia will return with the Rugby League World Cup after a dominant tournament, culminating in the Final where they thrashed New Zealand 34-2.
There’s no doubt there was a mission from match one despite their slow start against an improving English outfit. Coach Tim Sheens set out each game with one plan. Respect the opposition no matter their quality and strength, and play simple football.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing even though the results were on the board. The Kangaroos had to contend with a World Cup ending injury to Luke Lewis after hitting signage sliding past the dead ball line in their win over Fiji. More surprisingly they weren’t allowed a replacement for the remainder of the tournament.
Furthermore Billy Slater’s reoccurring knee problem flared up against the United States threatened to end his competition. He battled on and was determined to make up for his horrible 2008 World Cup Final performance in Brisbane. Slater ended up with two of Australia’s five scored in the final.
One player to benefit from the tournament was Parramatta’s Jarryd Hayne. Hayne missed some part of the Eels and NSW Origin series. His equal-leading try scoring count of nine (along with Josh Morris) will give Hayne confidence going into the Eels 2014 campaign with new coach Brad Arthur on board.
This team including Slater, Hayne, Greg Inglis, Cameron Smith, Johnathon Thurston and Cooper Cronk may be the greatest World Cup squad assembled by any team in it’s almost sixty-year history of the tournament. They kept their last five opponents try-less (Fiji twice, Ireland, United States and New Zealand) and scored over two hundred points in doing so. It’s also scary to think emerging players Daly Cherry-Evans, Josh Papalii and Andrew Fifita are next in line to continue Australia’s dominance at International Level.
There will be the critics saying the World Cup is a farce. New Zealand were disappointing in the final, however, England proved they are almost second best in the world after almost winning the semi-final against the Kiwis. A large gap still remains to the rest of the field but with emerging nations Italy coming along and Malta looking for World Cup qualification in the next event, rugby league can only prosper. It will take the lead nations to ensure that rugby league continues to grow for the better.