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2013 Rugby League World Cup truly something for Britain to be proud of
IT may have ended the way most of us expected, but the Rugby League World Cup's winding route to Old Trafford left most fans pleasantly surprised.
Ask five different people what their favourite moment of the World Cup was and you would most likely get five different answers, such was the number of special moments that made this tournament so memorable.
It could have been the success of the so-called ‘developing countries’ like Italy, the USA or Scotland, England’s titanic semi-final with New Zealand, or my personal favourite, Samoa’s brave fight against the Kiwis roared on by a Warrington crowd that had taken the Pacific Islanders as their own.
Perhaps your favourite moment was the Wolfhounds taking on the eventual World Champions Australia in front of the biggest rugby league crowd ever seen in Ireland, one of many attendance records to tumble throughout the tournament.
The most significant of those was the final at Old Trafford, where an international rugby league record of 74,468 watched Australia demonstrate their dominance of the international stage by obliterating the defending champions in something of a non-contest.
That was perhaps the biggest frustration on my part, the fact that the final did not send the tournament out with the bang it deserved.
That is no parting shot at the play on show, heaven forbid.
Australia played some sensational rugby, not just in the final but throughout the tournament, their record of 404 minutes without conceding a try worthy of any World Champions.
But I could not shake the fact that, while sat in the Old Trafford press box, the atmosphere did not feel like that of a record-breaking World Cup final crowd.
It needed England there to make it truly special, to truly make it match the occasion, though New Zealand offering some form of resistance would arguably have helped, too.
Perhaps that is just being too picky, greedy even, for the spectacular, when we have already been treated to an outstanding tournament.
Our World Cup engulfed the regular rugby league public; those a bit further south and it even impressed the Aussies, with their multi-billion dollar rugby league TV deals and air of superiority over the English game.
It has given British rugby league fans a reason to be proud of the sport at international level again in this country, five years after flopping at the 2008 World Cup.
Now what the success of the tournament also does is heap pressure on the RFL to make the right moves for the future of the domestic game.
If we, as a sport, can organise and participate in a nationwide international tournament that ticks many of the boxes in terms of sponsorship, participation, entertainment and fan base expansion, why is the elite competition in this country struggling without a title sponsor?
Why is Super League unsure about its future, with in-fighting and self-doubt about the direction in which it is travelling?
Legacy cannot be built on unstable foundations, the RFL and the clubs themselves must make the right decisions for the future of rugby league or else all the excellent progress made in the last two months will be wasted.
They have given us a magnificent World Cup, but by doing so have further exposed their failure to provide what this country needs most if we are to continue to push forward, thriving domestic competitions that we can be proud of at all levels.