The Fiji Bati became road kill — no ifs and buts about it when the Kangaroos smashed them 54-6 in the first Rugby League World Cup semifinal in Brisbane last night.

That was predictable because Australia have been overwhelming favourites to lift the cup again on Saturday next week at the same venue, Suncorp Stadium.

However, the RLWC fairytale isn't over just yet because Mate Ma'a Tonga have a chance of keeping the South Pacific island campaign alive if they beat England tonight at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland.

But it would be a tragedy no to revisit last night's game to see what the RLWC organisers could have done better.


Again, none of these issues would or should have changed the result of a game the rampant Roos, under the tutelage of Mel Meninga, thoroughly deserved to win.

Perhaps the first thing that stuck out like sore thumb was the smattering of crowd.
If the Roos' dominance was so blatantly obvious why did the RLWC organisers stage the semifinal in Australia?

They could have played the match at a neutral venue in Port Morseby where the Cobbers would have still felt at home in humidity that would match, if not surpass, that of Brissy.

Considering it is a world cup, minnows Fiji had travelled 3602km from Townsville to Wellington last week and then cut a track back to Brisbane, which is 2500km as the crow flies one way.

The Roos had made a 3143km dash from Sydney to Darwin before covering 2846km from Darwin to Brissy but all within their comfort zone.

While the PNG stadium offers a capacity of only 14, 800, compared with Suncorp's 52,500, at least the RLWC playoff would have had a semifinal-type atmosphere.

Knowing the Aussies were assured a final in Brisbane, it seems as if the home fans wisely bought those tickets to reinforce rugby league is like the "Baseball World Series" in the United States.

A heaving PNG stadium, or any other South Pacific island nation for that matter, will do more for the code than a near-empty one in Australia or New Zealand.


Talking of neutrality, the next thing that hits right between the eyes is an Aussie-heavy match control — referee Gerard Sutton; Michael Wise and Chris Kendall (England) running the lines; and Sutton's brother, Bernard Sutton, the video ref last night.

Okay the argument is the best quality referees hail from the NRL but surely this smacks of test cricket appointments of the yesteryear.

It harks back to the days of rugby union tests in Suva, Fiji, when the All Blacks, Wallabies, NSW, Queensland and Auckland preferred to have some expatriate bank manager with club experience from downtown officiate rather than someone qualified from the school of refereeing.

How about a referee from Britain, New Zealand, or anywhere else but Australia, from the pool of 34 RLWC officials?

If the NRL is the yardstick of everything rugby league then it's puzzling that the semifinal didn't adopt two whistle blowers controlling the game and didn't have a bunker despite its flaws.

If they had they wouldn't have missed that late cheap shot from David Klemmer on Jarryd Hayne after his clearance kick in the opening minute or two of the game which left the Fiji playmaker lying on the ground dazed. Conveniently, Sky TV failed to offer an instant replay on the incident until during the halftime analysis.

Miraculously none of the other officials saw that either when Meninga, post-match, openly acknowledged Hayne was the player to negate.

So what was that about TV in Peru not replaying footage in the Fifa World Cup qualifier against the All Whites last week?

In fact, shades of that are evident in the Hockey league World Cup Finals in Auckland this week. Transparency must override any assertions of "quality" when vested interest rears its head, especially when it's international sport because who is best is often a subjective matter.

It happens in this part of the world more than anyone likes to admit and the NRL is notorious for it.

An incensed Hayne got up and retaliated against Roos fullback Billy Slater a few minutes later that certainly got Sutton's attention although it seems Hayne, a former Roos fullback, and Slater have some history.

All that does not absolve Hayne from, again, having another poor performance and losing his discipline that detracted from the game to further reinforce assumptions that the easiest way to beat islanders is to lure them into a brawl.

Fiji Bati were doing just fine for 15 minutes even though the penalty count was mounting against them although the ref's rulings of "too long" after tackles on ball carriers lacked consistency and was a grey matter of perception.

A 22-2 scoreline at halftime was not bad at all against the defending champions but Fiji were their own worst enemies.

Hayne and Henry Raiwalui kept running into each other when it was always obvious the former should have assumed the mantle of fullback but Fiji coach Mick Potter succumbed to politics in endorsing "nice bloke", captain Kevin Naiqama almost in ceremonial fashion of a governor-general who inspires the collective.

Potter knew Hayne wanted to play fullback but also realised he didn't have a suitable playmaker — no offence to Raiwalui or the back-up boys.

Naiqama simply didn't have the deft touches Hayne would have offered to milk more tries from the likes of Suliasi Vunivalu and Akuila Uate.

For the record, all the oohing and aahing about Valentine Holmes' six tries belies the fact that any winger would have finished off tries with the calibre of support play around the green-and-gold machine.

The hallmark of a pedigree winger is in his ability to conjure something out of nothing in a false economy - take a bow Vunivalu for scoring a try against the run of play and coming close to another although he would have got more had Naiqama and Hayne kept up.

Fiji, like Tonga and PNG, are protagonists in a revolution to change imperial attitudes in sport.

And, yes, the Kiwis would have suffered a similar fate against the Roos and it does accentuate how bad David Kidwell and his men are.

If anything, the first semifinal showed the gulf between the haves and have-nots in a code that has unsuspectingly lifted the half slip on what is an obstacle to sporting development in the southern hemisphere.

Tonga may keep the torch burning but a dream grand final win against the Roos will, no doubt, be best left to script writers in Hollywood.