Organisers of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup are reportedly currently in talks with the Maori and Indigenous teams to replace the Kiwis and Kangaroos who recently just withdrew from the tournament amid COVID-19 health concerns.
The ARLC's decision is understood to be heavily backed by NRL club chief executives who will publicly defend the decision over the coming days. Moreover, The Daily Telegraph understands the 16 NRL clubs will be issuing a statement displaying their discontent with the tournament going ahead.
Despite the ARLC saying they had players' best interests at heart, many were upset with the decision as they felt they weren't consulted prior. President of the Rugby League Players Association Daly Cherry Evans said that players were more than eager to play in the World Cup.
Australia and New Zealand will not compete in the Rugby League World Cup at the end of the year due to coronavirus concerns.
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) July 22, 2021
"That's a really hard one to answer because I reckon it would have been one hell of a stand-off," Cherry-Evans said.
"Because the players wanted to go and the game probably knew that, which is probably why they didn't want to consult us.
"So, of course, we would have loved to have been given a bit more of a heads up on it but we do understand the game's acting within the best interests at heart.
"There obviously is definitely an element of disappointment for sure, it's a World Cup and I'm not getting any younger.
"So it'd be nice to hopefully have been involved."
Chief Executive of the tournament John Dutton has recently confirmed to the media in a press conference that the tournament has been in contact with the Indigenous and Maori representatives.
"We’ve certainly been in communication with the Indigenous and Māori representatives,” Dutton said. “We’re quite excited by those propositions.
“We need to undertake some due diligence because obviously they are not national teams, they are not teams that regularly exist at the moment but certainly that communication and consultation is already underway.
“They have to be sanctioned and that is why this is very much a decision for the International Rugby League. I think a precedent has been set, I think it was back in 2000 when a Māori team played in a World Cup, albeit under completely different circumstances."
One of the main issues the Maori and Indigenous sides would face is getting clearance from their NRL clubs to participate in the tournament. However, players have expressed a general interest for the proposition to go ahead.
“Let’s make it happen. Get the Indigenous/Māori sides into the World Cup,’’ Joel Thompson posted on social media.
Additionally, Thompson commented that Rugby League needs to push through this pandemic much like other codes.
“Representing our people and country at the World Cup means everything to us players,” Thompson said. “Rugby League needs to keep moving forward through the pandemic so we don’t get left behind”
Let’s make it happen. Get the Indigenous / Maori sides into the World Cup.
Strict protocols can make it safe for the players in the UK. Rugby League needs to keep moving forward through the pandemic. We’re seeing this with most sports across the world.
— Joel Thompson (@joel_thompson12) July 28, 2021
Jon Dutton has however iterated that with the Kiwis and Kangaroos' withdrawal the tournament is still up in the air.
"I think it's 50-50, but we won't know until we listen to the players," Dutton said.
"We have signed a memorandum of understanding with the Rugby League Players' Association and I cannot speak highly enough of Clint Newton and his team, who have been very supportive.
"I think a lot of the concerns are more about wellbeing rather than safety. Without the players, we don't have a tournament and that's why we need to listen to them."