WHEN 19 Penrith Panthers, from 6 different nations embarked upon the Rugby League World Cup in the UK just over 6 weeks ago, I don’t think they could have realised the profound affect they would have all had on the Rugby League landscape.
Australia, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Lebanon, and Italy all had a member or members of this season’s Panthers playing squads amongst them. Quite amazingly between them and their grand final counterparts Parramatta (15), 34 players from these two clubs alone represented a nation competing in England. The 6 weeks of competition proved to be everything and more as the world stage hosted the greatest game of all for the first time since 2017.
The finale last Sunday morning was an old fashioned case of David V Goliath. The Aussies have long ruled the rugby league world, whilst the Samoans were playing in their very first World Cup final after astonishingly not winning a single game in the 2017 World Cup I just spoke of.
How far they’ve come!
It was evident early that the Aussies meant business, whilst the Samoan team looked like they’d played their grand final the week earlier when toppling the English. But it didn’t stop their bravery under duress.
Injuries galore cost the underdogs any chance of a victory over their more fancied rivals. But again they showed true grit and determination and walk away with their heads held extremely high knowing that they’ve inspired many a young Pacific Islander in their own quest to one day wear the Blue national jersey of Samoa.
The 4 Panthers donning that jersey certainly delivered throughout the tournament and indeed the Final. Jerome Luai tried his butt off, while Brian To’o and Stephen Crichton scored the only two tries for their country. Spencer Leniu had a wonderful competition given the fact he carried a shoulder complaint into the world cup.
As for the Australians? Well they were in a word ‘professional’ in every sense of the word.
The cream certainly raised to the top as the world cup lengthened. The on-going scrutiny of Nathan Cleary was once again silenced.
Honestly when will some factions of the rugby league journalistic fraternity realise that the kid has IT! in bucket loads. And delivered at the exact right time, as he always does.
Nathan put on a masterclass in the Final having a hand in 4 of the Aussies tries.
Like the start of his first grade career and like his foray into Origin, Cleary is meticulous in his approach, just like he was in the green and gold jersey. He only imposes his will when he feels the time is nigh, every time! He’s a very special rugby league player.
As are his Aussie Panther teammates, Isaah Yeo and Liam Martin. Isaah did NOT MISS ONE TACKLE throughout the entire tournament! Whilst averaging an amazing 41 tackles per game. Staggering.
And Liam Martin? Arguably with Tedesco and Add-Carr our best in the entire competition, improving dramatically with each game played.
The Rugby League World Cup of 2022 may have been run and done but what an impact it had on the footy world.
Each team, no matter where they came, embraced the spectacle wholeheartedly and to know that in only 3 years time in France 2025, the next World Cup will take place with even more keen eyes focussed upon it than there was this year!
Can’t wait to see you at the game…..
MG (random Westie) OAM