Well, for the first time this year I got to a game on Sunday. London (...sorry, Harlequins) and St Helens. As always, a tough first half, with some hope, then a horrible rout. But the hard thing is League at the Stoop - I never saw London there the first time round, and I'm familiar with seeing them at Griffin Park. Now, Griffin Park (Brentford FC) is almost eerily like most RL grounds, caught among the streets, scruffy. It also had a great clubhouse bar, shared by the fans, players, and the Sky TV crew.
The Stoop is, ah, different. Prices have doubled (20 Quid To Get In?), and the gates are terrible (yes, why not make everyone queue twice), and it's all oddly out of place. The bar is run by Welshmen, presumably for Union reasons. But, why worry? There was a frankly good crowd, split between the usual London RL eccentrics, exiles, and some people who could be new converts.
But it's not this I'm thinking about. It's the bloody Australians. For years, everyone hoped that one day, they'd do a World Cup in a country where huge audiences for league are obvious. They always dodged, just as they took great care to do nothing for the Pacific Island guys. Now, they're finally doing one. But they've done a horror.
In 1995, 10 teams competed in the Centenary World Cup. Three groups were organised, one including both England and Australia. This was a little dodgy, but it went well and nobody cared. In 2000, a 16-team World Cup was organised in the UK, widely considered A Disaster. Well, praps. At the time, the railway system was in a condition of collapse, and two of the cities involved (York and Gloucester) were full of Royal Engineers struggling to prevent them from vanishing under floodwater.
Naturally, the concept of a World Cup was the problem, and so nothing was done between 2000 and 2007. Now, though, the Aussies have uncorked a horror - the draw will put England, Australia, and New Zealand in the same supersize group with one unlucky loser. It's the same kind of franchise bullshit that tore the game apart in the 90s, and y'know why? It's institutionalised cheating, is all.