Three months after a nasty withdraw from the 2021 Rugby League World Cup, Australian Rugby League administrators are back on board for 2022.
The decision made by the ARL and NZRL was seen in poor taste by those in the international rugby league community as they only gave the RLIF (Rugby League International Federation) 10 minutes notice.
Rugby Football League boss Simon Johnson labelled the decision as, "selfish and parochial" at the time, however since then, Johnson has apologised for his comment.
Since the withdrawal, World Cup chief executive Jon Dutton has praised the cooperation of Australian and New Zealand rugby league administrators. With the Kangaroos fully committed to the 2022 World Cup tournament tensions have lowered and both the NRL and NZRL have begun constructive conversations.
“There was a period of reflection and I think we felt a little sorry for ourselves for a few days, but we dusted ourselves down and began the conversations with [NRL chief executive] Andrew Abdo and [NZRL boss] Greg Peters in September,” Dutton told The Sydney Morning Herald.
“They’ve both been conciliatory, positive and constructive and have been very clear they want to play in our tournament next year.
“We don’t know what the future holds from a COVID perspective, but we are hopeful across the world the situation is improving.
“We’ve seen some great events around the world, including Australia winning the T20 World Cup on the weekend and the Wallabies played at Twickenham in front of 80,000 spectators – and that’s what we want.
“We want to move away from the things that were said publicly. We’ve all learned a few lessons, but they are positive lessons.”
With the tournament brought forward a week to accomodate stadiums added pressure has been place on Australian and New Zealand based players as the NRL grand final finishes 13 day prior to the tournament's start on October 15th.
The tournament's early start has also prompted the Super League in pushing their grand final a week forward to accommodate English and French based players for the lead up.
“We just want to get people over safely, and perhaps on staggered flights,” World Cup chief executive Jon Dutton said.
“We’re very open-minded about warm-up games being played in Sydney before teams depart, some games could take place en route and some games could take place in the UK.
“It’s just another challenge for us, but having had a 61-game, 21-venue schedule to put back together we quite like a challenge.”
Moreover the real question to discuss is whether the Kangaroos play warm up games in Australia leading into the World Cup. With only 13 days till the tournament's start after the NRL grand final the Kangaroos, Kiwis and other Pacific nations will have minimal time to travel and prepare for these warm up fixtures.
The Kangaroos' last fixture was against a strong Tongan side in 2019 in Eden Park that shocked the Aussies in 16-12 win.
Whilst many depicted the defeat as an upset the resurgence of Australian/New Zealand based based players returning to play for their native countries such as Tonga, Samoa and Fiji has increased the depth of quality within international rugby league.
Furthermore with this in mind the 2022 Rugby League World Cup may become the most tightly contested World Cup to date. Most years is a guarantee for the Kangaroos to win, however their last game showed the Kangaroos that there's no room for complacency.