What's in store for '94: Rugby League

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The Independent Online
Everything this coming year should be geared towards the arrival of the Australians in October, which will bring Great Britain their best chance of winning an Ashes series here since the Sixties.

The game is at a high at international level in this country, following a startlingly comprehensive whitewash of New Zealand. Past experience has shown that it is all too easy to be carried away on waves of optimism, but, at the very least, the Test side are the best prepared they have been for the Kangaroos for a couple of decades.

With the possible exception of Jonathan Davies - who showed no signs of ageing against the Kiwis - the current side are in their prime or are building up to it. Some of the best players - Paul Newlove, Jason Robinson, Andy Farrell - are some of the youngest, and that is another reason to be cheerful. Injury and the normal overload on our leading players permitting, we will put a side packed with pace, power and enterprise out on to Wembley, Old Trafford and Elland Road this autumn. So will Australia, and reports of some of their likely newcomers are daunting.

Nothing would do the domestic game more good than a series win over Australia. Threats to its well-being lie in the financial plight of most clubs and the fear that Australia and New Zealand will head-hunt the best British talent to flesh out the expanded Winfield Cup.

The latter threat is likely to turn into a medium-sized storm in a tea cup; the former will be a continuing problem that is not going to be solved by talk of salary caps - fine in theory, but wholly unworkable in practice.

Wigan have as much trouble balancing their books as anyone, but they have again spent heavily on Va'aiga Tuigamala, who will be the most eagerly watched newcomer of 1994.

Anything he achieves in the second half of this season will be a bonus, because Tuigamala is essentially an investment for 1994-95 onwards. With or without him in the first team, however, it is hard to imagine Wigan finishing the league season without a fifth championship in a row and an invitation to Australia to play the Brisbane Broncos for the World Club Challenge in June.

One thing I can dimly see, though, looking at the tea leaves, is a foul day on a ramshackle ground and Wigan going out of the Challenge Cup in an early round. The trouble is that there is no date on the scene.

(Photograph omitted)