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Hemispheres, and powerbrokers, collide over decision to postpone World Cup

It was a sentiment shared by a fellow Commissioner, Peter Beattie.

“You have to be living in the rarified atmosphere of northern Scotland not to understand the COVID outbreak in Australia,” said Beattie, who is also a director on the International Rugby League board. “We’ve got Sydney in five weeks of lockdown, we’ve got Brisbane and south-east Queensland in a lockdown. This was about protecting our players and I just found that divisive and provocative [commentary] unnecessary.

“I had to pinch myself to make sure Governor Macquarie wasn’t still in power.”

ARLC chairman Peter V’landys

“Today’s concerning COVID figures of 262 locally acquired cases and five deaths prove that postponement of the RLWC was the most sensible and correct decision to protect our players.

“We need to work together to make the World Cup successful. To try to be divisive on this occasion is frankly unhelpful and disappointing.”

There has been a stand-off in recent weeks as tournament organisers threatened to proceed with the competition in England this year despite the absence of the Kangaroos and Kiwis. They pointed to two separate surveys that indicated about 85 per cent of players wanted to participate and some consideration was given introducing an Indigenous and Maori side as replacements.

However, the non-release of up to 400 players, match officials and staffers ultimately forced their hand. After two days of solid deliberation the organisers opted to delay until next year.

This was a lesson, if any was required, about who really runs the game.

“Today is a solemn day for our sport,” RLWC2021 CEO John Dutton said during a Zoom call with journalists on Thursday night.

International Rugby League chair Troy Grant also participated in the virtual meeting. He had previously unloaded on the ARLC over its decision, but chose not to double down when quizzed about the postponement call.

“There is some relationship building to be done,” Grant said.

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All 16 NRL clubs were pushing for the World Cup to be delayed by 12 months and they got their wish. Sources with knowledge of the situation said the decision was reached after the British government committed to stumping up the $47.5 million required to host the event next year.

It’s a decision the ARLC will likely support, but the intervening period must be used to mend relations.

“We have been called cowards, but I will always protect the players,” V’landys said.

“I was not going to take the risk where they were going to spend 14 days in a hotel room isolated in England and then another 14 days in Australia. That’s 28 days and no matter how mentally strong you are, that would be unbearable.

“They can do all their name calling and excuses, but that doesn’t wash with me.”

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