The absurd timing of the world club
championship of rugby league is surely demonstrated by the fact that the
reigning NRL champions, the Wests Tigers, have to open their 2006 season in
Gunnedah, NSW, tonight.

The temperature in Gunnedah has apparently
been in the 30s this week, and on Sunday the Tigers will fly to the UK to
take on the Super League champions, the Bradford Bulls. England
remains in the grip of a very cold winter – with sub zero temperatures still
very common.

The Tigers simply need some match practice
before taking on the UK League champions next weekend.

Tonight’s match against Division Four in
Gunnedah might be a stroll in the park for the Tigers, but is it really fair to
players to expect them to perform in oppressive heat? And then travel 17,000km
to play in freezing temperatures?

The solution surely lies in re-programming
the world club championship to a more sensible date. Playing it before the
start of both of the NRL and Super League seasons makes little sense.

The NRL and the AFL in recent years have
adopted a sensible approach to playing football in the summer heat. The NRL
season proper won’t start until mid-March, while the AFL season won’t get under
way until April (but that’s also because of the Commonwealth Games).

Both codes will have limited pre-season
trials, but generally at night with interchange rules relaxed to take into
account climate factors.

Tonight’s trial game in Gunnedah will be a boon
for the local economy, but there must be a better way to structure the timing
of what is supposed to be the world club championship of rugby league.