Some amazing rugby league has been played in the opening round of the World Cup tournament. There have been some highlight reel tries, some huge hits and one absolute thriller.
All that said, for mine, the tournament highlight thus far has been the emotion shown in the pre-match by all involved.
Anyone who saw the tears streaming down the face of Kevin Naiqama during the playing of the Fijian national anthem would have felt it tug on the heartstrings.
Ditto the scenes that saw Tongan monster Konrad Hurrell fighting back tears as the anthem played, or incredible scenes during the PNG pre-game.
As a proud Aussie, I loved seeing the guys standing arm in arm as Advance Australia Fair was belted out.
I can only imagine how proud people across the world were as their players did the very same during their respective national songs.
The spine was certainly tingling during the incredible rendition of the Scottish anthem as both bagpipes and an acapella verse made for an almighty occasion.
Despite the mixed reviews of the Aussie’s pre-game, the idea was right. The execution was lacking but the idea of an acknowledgement of country lead by the game’s biggest name in Johnathan Thurston should unite players and fans alike.
The New Zealand Haka is always a highlight when it comes to the Kiwis games, and they did not disappoint, especially in reply to an emotional Samoan cultural challenge.
If the signs of the two sides preparing to go to war in the name of rugby league did not get the blood pumping, I don’t know what to tell you.
The Tongan’s also delivered an emotionally charged war cry that had to have their players chomping at the bit to rip in from tackle number one.
For mine though, the highlight was the Fijian hymn.
It seems to qualify for the Fijian national side, not only do you need to be among the quickest men on earth, know how to find the try line, and belt your opponents in defence, but you also need to be able to sing.
— 7RLWC (@7RLWC) October 28, 2017
That was incredible. The sight of players choking back tears and looking to the skies was one that would have filled every fan with pride.
Seeing a number of flags being waved, and faces painted, in the stands across the venues have been an incredible sight. No one gave the USA team a chance of an upset against an NRL packed Fijian side, but that did little to wipe the smiles away from American fans pre-game.
The noise on show in Auckland as Samoa and New Zealand went to war was off the charts. The Samoan support was incredible. Ultimately they were outclassed, but the passion and effort will fill their fans with pride.
— 7RLWC (@7RLWC) October 28, 2017
And what about the scenes in Port Moresby?
Every time a PNG player made even a half break the fans were in raptures. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more excited crowd outside of a Grand Final or Origin decider.
Anyone who says this tournament is pop gun, and there have been plenty, take a look at the tears in the eyes of the players and the smiles on the faces in the stands.
Yes, it is increasingly looking like a one team competition in terms of the trophy, but you tell me Tonga, Ireland, Fiji and PNG haven’t provided moments that will never be forgotten in their respective homelands.
The games have unfortunately been blowouts, one epic finish aside, but you tell me you’re not already counting down the moments until Tonga and Samoa clash next weekend?
Once again I look forward to the anthems, the cultural challenges and course the Rugby League!!