What can we take away from the World Club Series 2015?by Leana Kell
The World Club Series 2015 came to a magnificent close on Monday when the NRL South City Rabbitohs clinched a record 39-0 win over the British Super League champions, St Helens.
Prior to the games, leading figures in Rugby League expressed their opinions on the changes to the World Club Series with Bradford Bulls chief Robbie Hunter-Paul saying he believed the Series was "a bit of mismatch", whilst Wakefield's Australian head coach James Webster said he liked the new format and hoped it would help raise the international profile of the sport.
Below we look at what the changes to the World Club Series means for British rugby league in the future.
A growth in support for Rugby League
This year's World Club Series was very well supported by a crowd totalling more than 51,000 spectators over the three days of the competition. South Sydney captain, Greg Inglis, said: "I loved it. The whole of England has jumped behind it and the world has too. The Aussie teams come over and really enjoy it. Every single game was a sell-out so I think it should continue." Russell Crowe even skipped the Oscars to watch his team, the South Sydney Rabbitohs win the highly coveted title. He is keen to see the competition expanded further and held at the end of each season - he's even suggested Las Vegas as a potential neutral venue!
A marquee player allowance suggested
Salary caps is a recurring issue within rugby league. In England, we spend nearly £2 million on our talent squad, whilst the Aussies spend nearly double this amount - this makes a huge difference to the type of players the Aussies are able to take on. Jamie Peacock from Leeds Rhinos said:"If you can spend double what another team can - in any walk of life talent goes where the money is and I feel that is where the difference is." He has suggested that a marquee player allowance should come in to the game in the future to help to ease the gap.
The style of NRL rugby brings new challenges for British players
Despite the ease at which the Saints were beaten by the Rabittohs, battling performances were upheld by the other two competing teams, Warrington and Wigan, who pushed St George Illawarra and Brisbane Broncos all the way. The Super League Challenge provides the English teams with more experience - the more times they can come up against the Aussies, the more chances they have to learn how to cope with the physicality and the difference in player tactics and apply what they have learnt to future games. Wigan Warriors coach Shaun Wane said: "It shows us a level that they can play at in the NRL and it will do my own team good to play in that sort of game."
New doors have been opened for rugby league across the world
Following this year's series, Brisbane has made known it is keen to host Super League opposition and the NRL in the future and is already examining the feasibility of taking the tournament to Australia. The Rabbitohs' former Wigan coach Michael Maguire believes the series can produce spin-offs away from the playing field, he said: "I think for us as a club globally it opens up so many doors, particularly for our sponsors. It opens us up to the world. Financially, for clubs it's going to be a big interest."
The World Club Series moving forward
It's almost certain the series will take on the same new format in 2016, but whether it has a long-term future will be determined at the next tournament review. Certainly the series caught the attention of the world's media and the game of rugby league gained immediate support from existing fans as well as new ones throughout the tournament, who revelled in watching some of the best players in the world take on the challenge.