By Jeff Wall, Crikey’s rugby
league writer

The ridiculously long 2005 rugby league season ends this
Sunday morning when the Kangaroos meet the Kiwis in the Tri-Nations final in
Leeds. And the weather forecast for Sunday morning (our time)
is surely telling rugby league officialdom something – rain, hail, possible
snow, and a minus zero temperature. Surely the game’s stars, highly paid though they are,
deserve better?

And regardless of the weather, it won’t be a game for
the faint-hearted. The Kiwis genuinely, and perhaps rightly, believe they are a
real chance of ending the Kangaroos’ 20 year domination of the international
scene. But the Kangaroos know the reputation of the national
team is on the line – a point driven home by one of the game’s greats, Bob
McCarthy, who was given the honour of handing out the test jumpers to team
members.

Even though the international rugby league season is
hardly “international,” the record of the Kangaroos is an exceptional
one but this year their dominance has been under more pressure than
ever. And that is good for rugby league.

I expect the Kangaroos to win – how’s this for one to
seven in any team: Minichiello, Gasnier, Cooper, Tait, King, Barrett, and Gower. And the
game’s best two players, Johns and Lockyer are out
injured!

The Kiwis best hope is that the expected dreadful
weather conditions might slow the Kangaroos down. And their second best hope might be the referee. Despite
having been named international referee of the year, Tim Mander, has been overlooked for England’s Steve
Ganson. He is a very ordinary conveyance – not the kind of
referee you want for what may turn out to be a stand ’em up, knock ’em down
contest!

The 2005 season for most of the Kangaroos and Kiwis
really began with trial games in February – that makes it a TEN month
season. The game’s administrators really need to ask themselves
whether this is fair to the players who represent at the highest
level.

The Wallabies end their season this weekend as
well, but the situation is not comparable as the Wallabies have an effective
“break” between the end of the local representative season and their overseas
tour. For my money, ten months of non-stop demanding football
is just too much.

Next week, I will give my annual “awards” and once
again I hope the game’s female fans will send me their nominations for “pin-up
player of the year.” I had a deluge of nominations last year with the eventual
winner being the Bulldogs’ Sonny Bill Williams.

Nominations should be sent to [email protected] by
next Tuesday.