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Leading commentator champions Scotland's cause in the other code

Scotland's rugby league team lit up their World Cup but they cannot expect handouts from the British game's governing body to help them build on their success according to one of the sport's best known commentators.

Danny Brough celebrates after kicking the winning points during the World Cup match against Tonga at Derwent Park, Workington.
Danny Brough celebrates after kicking the winning points during the World Cup match against Tonga at Derwent Park, Workington.

As we prepared to watch Saturday's tournament final in the Old Trafford press room, I eavesdropped on a video interview being given by Martyn Sadler, editor of Rugby League Express and the TotalRugbyLeague website during which he was raving about Scotland's World Cup contribution. I asked him to elaborate.

"Apart from the England v New Zealand match I thought the Scotland v Tonga match was the best," he then told me. "The Scots were unheralded. They were captained by Danny Brough, who is a great player, but the rest of the squad were not really thought to be capable of doing very much in this tournament.

"They had a lot of players from the part-time level below Super League and the Tongans came and they were full of NRL players, some of whom are players of great repute in the NRL, and everybody thought they'd run up a fairly big score.

"I'm trying to think back to what the odds were, but I think you could have got something like seven to one against the Scots to win that game and I just thought the way they came out and combined and showed such commitment to each other and to winning the game is actually what a World Cup is all about? They weren't overawed by their opponents, who were a much bigger side. They just laid into them and the crowd got onside that night."

"They got to the quarter-final, put up a great show against New Zealand and were a bit unlucky to be beaten by as many points as they were. I was talking to a New Zealand journalist the other day who was raving about Danny Brough and saying he was the player of the tournament in his view. The Scottish players all want to play for Scotland again, that's fairly clear, so it's very important that rugby league is able to give them that opportunity."

In that light he might, as a professional commentator who has previously been prepared to call the sport's administrators to task, be expected to join the criticism of the Rugby Football League's decision to withdraw funding from Scotland at the same time as that success was happening. Instead, however, he explained the realities.

"The trouble is the RFL tends to plead poverty. In this sport we don't have a lot of spare financial capacity and that's always been a drawback. Everything's done on the cheap," said Sadler. "The Scottish rugby union lads will be at a World Cup in a couple of years' time and the way that they're accommodated and paid for will be a lot more luxurious. That's fine because they're a well-established team, but rugby league has a niche in Scotland or can have a niche in Scotland and can appeal to people who enjoy watching this sort of collision game."

Without realising he was doing so, Sadler was effectively issuing a challenge to the Scottish government to demonstrate in sport what they claim they will be able to achieve if they have control of the entire national budget, by showing the flexibility to identify changing situations and react accordingly.

"Scotland may be an independent nation fairly soon of course as we know, but whatever happens I hope the Scottish people somehow find a way to get behind their rugby league team and recognise how much Scotland means to them," he said.

"A lot of criticism was made because most of them weren't born in Scotland, but none the less I think it's important to realise that the others have the zeal of converts and tend to be more enthusiastic. Their performances gave Scotland an awful lot to be proud of so I would like to think that perhaps at some stage the Scottish government, sportscotland and so on might recognise what they did.

"I was just reading that Fiji have just got a new sponsorship deal with Vodafone who are putting in a million dollars a year and that's come directly from their performances here, so the potential is there and hopefully the Scots and all the other countries will be able to benefit in a similar way," said Sadler.

For by no means the first time, the words of Scotland's bard come to mind as the opportunity is provided to see ourselves as others see us.

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