The sort of shameful behaviour that led to former rugby league internationalists being stopped from coaching youngsters largely became consigned to history, of course, when rugby union turned professional in 2005.
Since then, the changed nature of the relationship between the codes, while still at times cool when leading lights are persuaded to switch from one to the other, is much healthier.
Market forces are curious things, though, and while many involved in the 15-a-side game now feel its players have become pampered and detached from the sport's grassroots, it is now one of league's biggest stars who finds himself playing for the love of the game at the age of 30.
There is no more significant player in British rugby league than Brough, whose performances as Huddersfield Giants' playmaker this season earned him selection by his fellow professionals for the coveted Man of Steel award.
"I was honoured when the Super League players picked me to be in the top three and then, on the night, you're nervous sitting there having your meal. When he shouted my name out I couldn't believe that I had got the award and that people felt I deserved it. That was pretty special for me," said Brough.
Many consequently believe he should be in the England squad, but Brough, who, like every member of the Scotland squad qualifies through bloodlines, has represented Scotland for eight years and is deeply proud to do so.
"Captaining any side is a great honour but captaining Scotland in a World Cup year is extra special," he said. "You do have a bit of weight on your shoulders because people are expecting you to fail all the time, but we've got over that now, we're past all that. We'll just go out, do our best and that'll be that. If we go out out and don't perform there's a problem, but if we give 100% we'll be happy."
If that could be misinterpreted as slightly negative, it is merely an attempt to keep things in perspective given the scale of the task facing the Scots. This is by far the strongest squad they have assembled, with a trio of Super League players and three more from Australia's National Rugby League as well as various part-time professionals from the British game's lower divisions.
The remarkable thing, though, is that the leading lights among them are effectively risking career and limb for the prospect of no real reward.
"To be fair, we've struggled with finance in the past at Scotland Rugby League; that's no secret," said Brough. "We don't really get paid. It's pretty much you get your kit, you're put up in hotels and you get fed, whereas others go on tours, they get money. We've got a group of lads who come to Scotland knowing they're not going to make big amounts of money and that's why we have a good tight-knit group. Everybody knows that when you go to Scotland that's what you get, and that's the bottom line."
Nor is there any sort of pecking order within the group. "Having NRL and Super League players in your squad is always good, but everybody's treated the same in our squad," said Brough. "There's nobody better than anybody else, everybody has the same amount of respect."
In a sporting world heavily influenced by spin doctors it was also refreshing that Brough, trusted by his team's management to speak for himself and unaccompanied by any sort of minders, felt he could be candid about the circumstances that led to him leading Scotland this time around.
"Steve McCormack [Scotland's coach[ has put his faith in me the last eight years I've played for Scotland, so as soon as he rang me I said I'd play and that was that," he said. "I got a call off Steve McNamara [England's head coach] in February saying I wasn't selected in his squad and Steve McCormack rang me up straight away and I said I'd be honoured to play. Then he asked me to be captain and that made me a bit more proud as well."
So, while England were kicking the tournament off after a glitzy opening ceremony in Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, Brough and his team-mates were readying themselves for their opener against Tonga at Workington's Derwent Park among like-minded people.
"I've played here in West Cumbria a couple of times in my career and it's always very vocal so when they're behind us, eight or nine thousand of them coming on Tuesday, it should give us a real lift and a buzz," said Brough. "They are all wishing us luck and telling us they'll be there on Tuesday night, cheering us on and that's been the focus for the lads; to mix in with Workington people and they've obviously backed us so we hope we can give them a bit back by playing as well as we can."
The Italians having shown an impressive hand, the Scots now look like outsiders, but somehow that seems to fit with their 5ft 8in, 13½-stone captain who has done so much more than survive in what is a brutal world.
"We have a good blend and we've also got a bit of the unknown as well which makes us a bit unpredictable," said Brough. "People don't know what we've got in our armoury and what we haven't got, so we'll be going out there fully committed on Tuesday night and we will, I guarantee, give 100% to try to progress to that quarter-final by winning those three stage games."