18th November 2017, 15:15 | steve_mascord
The grandstand at FMG Stadium, Hamilton, literally shook on Saturday as Tonga winger David Fusitu’a went over for his third try and the Mate Ma’a became the first side in World Cup history to come from the second tier and beat one of the big three.
The sport has a new cultural and financial powerbase. Tongans and Samoans living in New Zealand are willing to patronise our events, support our sponsors and buy our merchandise. The question is whether rugby league can now provide this new market with the goods and services it requires.
The decision to put the Pacific Tests back at Campbelltown in 2018 suggests we can’t. The Pacific Tests bring us to another development during the week that should have rocked the sport – the first whiff of industrial action by under-paid tier two players. “There has to be a line drawn in the sand – it's just what's right for the players and what's right for the game," Samoa coach Matt Parish said. “I'll include Fiji, Tonga, PNG as well. The players, the management all need to stick together and fight for what's right." Was he suggesting a boycott if their plans aren’t met? "I would hope it never got to that," he said.
The Women’s World Cup has received great publicity down under with taboid newspapers running live blogs on the games.
In case you missed it, all the games are at Southern Cross Stadium, home of the Cronulla Sharks, and it all kicked off on Thursday. New Zealand beat a Canadian side that had pretty much never played the game before 50-4, leading only 16-4 at halftime.
Australia’s Jillaroos led qualifiers Cook Islands 36-0 at halftime, on the way to a 52-4 victory. And England got off to a winning start despite injuries, beating Papua New Guinea 38-8.
Ireland, off home despite winning two from three matches, have received some unexpected support in the rather large shape of former Samoan international Reni Maitua. “I want someone to explain that to me. Seriously, it’s a joke,” Maitua told a new internet TV show, Unfiltered “It makes the whole thing a bit of a farce to be honest. You come all the way to the other side of the world, you win two games and a team goes through that hasn’t won a game and has a draw? It doesn’t make sense. It’s not right what’s happened to the Irish team.”
On the same show, former Tongan international Willie Mason had some harsh words for the Somoan side. “It is up to you to be a professional,” Mason said. “When you’re in camp for six weeks there’s food everywhere and you can put on weight easily unless your coaches and your trainers are making you accountable for it. I don’t think anyone’s been held accountable — the coaches, the trainers — they need a whole new revamp for Samoa to get to that next level.
"The players are at that next level, they’re ready to go to the quarters and the semi-finals and push like Tonga. They’ve regressed, so something’s got to happen with the coaching system, training facilities, everything just needs a revamp. Get everyone out and start again.”