Fiji's Eloni Vunakece (L), Marcelo Montoya (C) and captain Kevin Naiqama celebrate their win in the Rugby League World Cup quarter-final match between New Zealand and Fiji at Westpac Stadium in Wellington on November 18, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Marty MELVILLE (Photo credit should read MARTY MELVILLE/AFP/Getty Images)

Thank you Kumuls

Although ultimately outclassed on Sunday afternoon, I think we can all agree that the Kumuls were the people’s champions of the 2017 RLW tournament.

The scenes across their three pool games aren’t like to be matched anywhere, anytime soon, such was the emotion and the passion.

I really wish the quarter-final against England had been played in Port Moresby. Can you imagine the atmosphere? Phwoar.

It was a huge shame to see the Kumuls exit the tournament. I really hope we see plenty of PNG internationals in the near future.

Huge future for Lebanon Rugby League

Although Tonga and Fiji will rightfully be remembered as the stories of the tournament, we should not forget the Lebanese efforts across their four games.

Remembering this is a team who was forced to play both England and Australia in the pool stage, it was ridiculous to hear people saying they didn’t deserve their spot in the quarterfinals.

Mitch Moses has grown as a footballer as a result of their involvement, while players such as Abbas Miski have made names for themselves. Miski is set to join the Panthers as a direct result of his incredible performances across the tournament.

The level of support for the Cedars was a sight to behold.

Brad Fittler had the side playing well beyond themselves and as a result has helped the side reach a much larger audience than ever before.

The incredible efforts can only be a positive for Lebanese rugby league. Their international league ranking is set for a big rise.

There are major problems in NZ Rugby League

I discussed this earlier in the week but it is worth repeating. I was set to really show some emotion here if not for Shaun Johnson’s earlier post on social media saying that he and the players have accepted defeat.

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For a tier one nation to go 2-2 in a World Cup is a disaster, especially considering the Kiwis had not yet played either the Kangaroos or England.

For Shaun Johnson to lash out at the media and say ‘yous got what you wanted’ was completely the wrong attitude, especially seeing as Johnson did not once run and test the Fijian line.

You cannot place blame purely on the number seven’s shoulders, but as chief playmaker fans expected more.

The Kiwis need a new culture, and that means a complete clear out is a must. Kidwell cannot continue as coach. Blair will be replaced as captain. A fair few players have probably played their last game in the famous, black jersey. That is just for starters.

Valentine Holmes is the best winger in the game

That’s right, I said it. Vunivalu, Mansour and co step aside, the Cronulla ace is the number one winger in the world right now. Holmes is the ultimate outside back. He can literally do it all. No one else can match what the young Queenslander can produce.

He set a World Cup record on Friday night by scoring five tries against Samoa, something made even more amazing due to the fact it is not his full-time position at club level.

Holmes and his Roos and QLD wing partner Dane Gagai were the difference in the Origin series, and once again he shapes as a genuine game breaker outside the traditional spine.

There are few players in the game as exciting as young Valentine, who has firmly established himself above Josh Mansour as part of the Kangaroos first choice wing combination.

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The comment comes on the back of the game against Samoa, not the strongest of oppositions, but considering his try-scoring record on the wing for the Sharks last year, combined with his performances for state and country, only Vunivalu is even close.

Fiji/Tonga are lifting international football to new heights

One, grumpy coach aside, absolutely everyone else is loving the rise of Tongan and Fijian rugby league. Tonga garnered most of the pre-tournament attention due to the strength of their squad, but Fiji has really managed to sneak under the radar. Semi-finalists in the past two World Cups, Fiji were almost an afterthought being that they would draw either Tonga or New Zealand in the quarterfinals.

There has been no better-attacking side across the tournament that the Fijians, however, the step up in class was meant to be too much. Well, someone forgot to tell the Fijians.

Not only did they beat New Zealand, in New Zealand, but they held them to a sole penalty goal. Although they themselves were unable to cross the try-line, no one can doubt that Fiji created, by far, the better opportunities.

As for Tonga, they outlasted a supremely hungry Lebanese outfit and have set up the biggest game in their nation’s history against the English.

Both sides will need to step up yet again despite beating New Zealand, as in the Kangaroos and English, they face completely different animals.

They will have plenty of fans, that is for sure.

4 COMMENTS

  1. “One, grumpy coach aside”

    (Muffled: “Pappa Smurf” *cough cough*)

    I would be happy to see Tonga vs Fiji in the WC final as long as England don’t make it through (or is it threw billy?) 😉

    • Don’t you understand how it works mate, someone has one good game, against sub standard opposition, and they are all of a sudden the best in their position. You just need to shorten your memory mate and you will understand completely 😉

      For the record, give me Vunivalu or Mansour any day of the week.

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