Today is the final of the Rugby League World Cup. Australia, ten-times winners, defend their title in their own country which is also the home of a popular domestic league. Everything was set for a successful tournament, but few have bothered to watch.
Australia could only attract 30,000 to last week’s semi-final in Brisbane, 16,000 less than for the quarter final in football’s 2015 Asian Cup at the same venue. The other semi-final between England and Tonga in Auckland sold out, and last month’s football world cup qualifier between Australia and Honduras got 70,000.
The decision not to host more games in New South Wales and to compete for audiences with the Ashes have undoubtedly affected the tournament’s popularity. Yet in 2008, when Australia last hosted, 15,000 watched their semi-final in Sydney, with the Brisbane game between England and New Zealand getting 8,000 more.
The fact is that the Australian public are not willing to turn out and support their national team in Rugby League, which may have implications for the future of the international game.