World Cup boss Jon Dutton believes delay can help them 'build back better'

JON Dutton is definitely not watching the fruits of his Rugby League World Cup labours – nor is he getting angry that he is not.

Instead, he is looking forward. Crucially, so is the NRL, raising the prospect of Australia and New Zealand taking part next year.

Had things been 'normal,' tournament chief executive Dutton would be here, there and everywhere watching matches during the showpiece's group stage.

However, the Kangaroos’ and Kiwis’ withdrawal if it was played this year – down in no small part to scheming NRL clubs putting themselves before countries – forced a postponement until 2022.

That meant extra costs in terms of wages for the organising team and relying on a whole lot of goodwill, from both venues and the UK Government.

But instead of wallowing, he believes some good can emerge from the mess as a revised schedule for the tournament, which will now take place between October 15 and November 19, 2022, will be released this month.

Dutton said: “We’ve got over the disappointment. We felt sorry for ourselves for a couple of weeks. Now we’re focused on delivering something that’s going to be even bigger and better.

“We’ve learned a few lessons from everything we’ve been through but we’re excited about what we’re now capable of doing next year.

“The lessons centred around relationships. We’ve had to rebuild some and we’ll be in a better place for doing that.

“In the heat of the moment and the Covid-19 planning there were maybe some things we wouldn’t have been able to do, which we can next year.

“Things like community engagement and access to the teams – the things that make the tournament special.

“There’s been a cost with the postponement, we’ve a company to keep running, but that’s more about wages rather than commercial income – all our partners have stayed with us and we see nothing but opportunity looking forward.

“I didn't think about what I’d be doing when the tournament should've started. One thing I wasn't doing, though, was feeling sorry for myself.

“October 15 and November 19 next year are far more important than what should have happened on Saturday, the opening game.”

Chief relationships to rebuild are the ones shattered with the Australian Rugby League Commission and New Zealand Rugby League for the way they acted.

Cricket sides from both are in the Middle East for the World T20, rugby union sides from both will be in this country for the Autumn Internationals.

But Dutton is confident things are starting to look better in terms of a repeat not happening next year – and support from the Government remains.

He added: “We’ve had some really positive conversations and things are looking forward, not looking back. We can either waste a lot of time looking at what happened and why or we can look forward.

“And I feel they’re looking forward too. Everyone appreciates that international rugby league has a part to play in the future growth of the sport.

“The Government remains also absolutely committed. We’re working hand in hand with them and if it wasn’t for their support, we wouldn’t be in the position we’re in.

“And without wishing to sound political, we can build back better.”

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