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For the good of the game, we must cull the Kangaroos from the Rugby League World Cup

When you haven’t written anything for a while, you should always endeavour to come back with a bang. That’s why my Roar return is positioned around an opinion that I freely admit will be controversial to some. Specifically, that the Australian Kangaroos should be culled from the Rugby League World Cup.

Now before you accuse me of click-bait, allow me a chance to quickly explain myself. Put the pitchforks away for now, people.

My friends and I often play a game based upon answering this question: “What’s the hottest take you have, that you actually believe?” In other words, what spicy opinion do you have, that isn’t about seeking attention or being provocative for the sake of it, but rather, that you legitimately think.

Said pub game is the premise of this piece, because it was an answer I gave recently, and I genuinely believe there is merit in the Kangaroos not playing in the World Cup.

It would mean rugby league making massive changes to the way the World Cup is run, and ditching the traditional eligibility rules. The biggest shift being that Australian players should instead play for their country of heritage – including an Australian Indigenous team – not a Kangaroos squad.

In essence, redistributing the vast Australian talent across other teams.

So Victor Radley plays for England, Brian To’o suits up for Somoa, Latrell Mitchell proudly represents his Indigenous heritage, etc, etc. And none of those selections affect their eligibility for State of Origin, or future international representative honours.

The World Cup becomes a standalone tournament, held in a metaphorical vacuum.

Rather than seeing this as a weird and dramatic negative, it will make the World Cup unique; it actually provides it with a point of difference and a talking point.

Given this would be such a departure from the understanding of how other World Cups work – like rugby union and soccer (sorry, I meant ‘football’) – perhaps even a name change is in order, to clearly signify this is a different type of tournament. The Rugby League Worlds, or something similar.

James Tedesco

James Tedesco would line up for Italy under Ryan’s plan. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

There are a few reasons why I think this idea shouldn’t be dismissed as quickly as a Josh Addo-Carr sprint.

Firstly, and the elephant in the room we need to address immediately, so I’ll whisper it, but . . . not as many people care about the Kangaroos as you’d like to think.

Ouch. That elephant just sat on the Kangaroos.

Sadly, Kangaroos’ games don’t sell out, the TV ratings aren’t incredible, and few people truly shed a tear when they lose. It’s an uncomfortable truth, but a truth nonetheless, that the Australian rugby league team doesn’t capture the public’s hearts like other national teams.

In fact, many Aussies were actually supporting other countries in previous World Cups, even when they were playing Australia. It’s savvy to capitalise on that insight.

That may upset a few people, especially the traditionalists. Yet I’m not saying ditch the Kangaroos altogether. We need to hold on to their history, along with the fact many players aspire to pull on the green and gold jumper.

So the Kangaroos will live on in Tri-Nations series, Anzac Tests, and tours (remember those?). They simply won’t play in this tournament.

Damien Cook

Damien Cook of Australia (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Speaking of insights, such a move will confirm what we all already know: State of Origin is actually the pinnacle for most Australian players. This may even help NSW feel that way. Queensland certainly already do.

The other benefit of disbanding the Kangaroos for the tournament is that it makes it wide open. Australia goes into the World Cup as red-hot favourites.

The bookies have them at an unbackable $1.36 to win, so removing them would certainly make things more even, and more interesting.

Things are better when they’re interesting. Interesting equals interest.

I also love that the Indigenous team gets to properly represent Australia. The All-Stars game is an extremely strange concept to me, along with it being a bit gimmicky for a team and a culture that deserves much more. The Indigenous team playing in this tournament, and being the sole representation of this country, would be truly amazing.

Much like Swiss cheese, I’m sure this concept has a few holes in it. I’m equally sure Roarers will let me know about them. However, I do think it warrants discussion as a creative solution to a few of the issues facing the game: the desire to grow the game, increase interest in international rugby league, and the messy eligibility rules.

Above all else, my ultimate favourite aspect of this idea is that every single part of it will piss off Paul Kent.

Surely, we can all agree that can only be a good thing, and therefore worth doing?

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