Dave Craven: Time for Australia to talk to rest of the world over calendar

WHAT a bizarre change of tact we are now seeing from Australia when it comes to international rugby league.

England's Jake Connor touches down for his first international try on debut against New Zealand.
England's Jake Connor touches down for his first international try on debut against New Zealand.

For so long, they have openly conceded that their own club game and the decorated State of Origin has essentially ruled when it comes to the most important matters on their agenda.

The Kangaroos and building international profile seemed always to limp in in the bronze medal position despite pleas from the rest of rugby league’s worldwide community.

However, not only have they now finally come to the table, they also seem to have taken the table over, throwing everything else off it to champion their own masterplan.

You don’t want to criticise – the sport needs Australia to be committed to international rugby league – and in many ways they need to be applauded for finally being pro-active.

But surely there’s better ways and means of doing it?

It seems, for instance, their plans have not even been discussed with other governing bodies before being made public.

Certainly, the RFL and New Zealand Rugby League were both taken aback by the views outlined by the Australian Rugby League earlier this week.

It was a development that bares some resemblances to the recent botched press conference unveiling new Super League chief executive Robert Elstone when plans for the sport’s structure were revealed as fact before actually being voted through.

Maybe this is the way things are now done at this level; just throw things out there and see what happens.

For those that didn’t see the statement, ARL commision chairman Peter Beattie and NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg unveiled a four-year plan for international rugby league – something everyone agrees needs to be done – but it differed in many ways to the one already agreed with the Rugby League International Federation barely 12 months ago.

Principally, Beattie and Greenberg detailed how they want the Kangaroos to tour the UK next year – when the RLIF had already announced a Great Britain Lions tour of Australia in 2019.

Initially, the RLIF had the Green and Golds coming here in 2020 building up to the 2021 World Cup but Australia’s plans now see that itinerary switched around. Furthermore, in Beattie and Greenberg’s blueprint, there was no mention of the Denver Test between England and New Zealand, staged last month as the first of three annual meetings between the sides in America.

However, the Australians – against a mid-season Test in the US – have pencilled in New Zealand playing Pacific Island teams during the representative round over the next two years.

All of this should make for some interesting dialogue when the governing bodies do meet in Singapore later this month to try and finalise what the international calendar will look like.

There is plenty to like about Beattie’s ambition and desire to fully involve Australia rugby league in the process.

But, obviously there are still plenty of obstacles to overcome before a clearer picture emerges.

As RLIF chief executive Nigel Wood said, it is “certainly commendable that Australia is now positively engaged in discussing the future of international rugby league” and it is imperative they stay at that table.

Everyone will get their chance to put plans forward at that imminent meeting. And that, alone, is an exciting prospect.