With the trophy firmly and predictably in Australia's hands, all eyes turn to France for the next Rugby League World Cup in 2025. But there is clearly a lot of work to be done at the international level over the next three years.
This World Cup, Samoa's breakthrough performance in particular, has to be used as a springboard towards establishing a more regular interaction between the international teams, more end of season tours and more mid-season representative rounds. The best way to have a strong and more competitive World Cup in France is for all international teams to stay active over the interim period. Australia coach Mal Meninga certainly thinks so.
"I'm coach of the World Cup winners and like I've said many times, particularly the last few days, where to from now?" Meninga said after Australia's 30-10 victory in the final.
"I thought the whole tournament was excellent, a good showpiece, the final was great, it shows where international game is going to, to have Samoa in there which is great for the international game.
"We're looking forward to the decision makers making the next decision about where we go to. We need a schedule discussed and to work towards. We can only deal with the cards you're dealt with.
"The IRL are going to sit down before the end of the year, that's what I gather from this, so hopefully they do that and we have some sort of schedule sorted for the beginning of next year."
The problem is rugby league thrives at the club level, that's were the money is made and the bills are paid. Clubs are understandably reluctant to risk their stars in a more extensive representative calendar. On the Australian sporting landscape, in the codes that have international competition, rugby league is unique in that playing for your club is more financially significant than representing your country.
If you compare rugby league to sports that have a stronger international level, such as cricket or rugby union, you find that the club level of those two sports is merely the spawning ground for future representative talent. You might come across the occasional more experienced player who has either had their time at the top, or was never quite up to it, but you seldom see the superstars of either sport run out for a game at club level, which sits at the third tier of their structures. Above it you have the provincial competitions and at the top, the internationals. Players are barely paid to play at club level, professionalism comes at the provincial and international levels. Funding trickles down from the top, where the attendances and fan engagement are strongest.
Rugby league, with the NRL and Super League, is built in the reverse order. A first grade club contract is a professional contract; from there representative honours are the cherry on top of your career. The broadcast rights at club and Origin level fund the game, with attendances and fan engagement rounding out the picture. International rugby league has long taken the position of being a nice thing to have, as long as it doesn't cost too much or burden the players.
The rise of Samoa, to play in their first ever final, was the highlight of this World Cup. Their strength came from a core of players who could easily have been in the Australia squad. Those players chose to represent their heritage and the World Cup was all the better for it. Now there is talk of elevating Samoa to Tier 1, which would, under the current rules, make those players ineligible for State of Origin eligibility.
Would Jarome Luai, Brian To'o, Josh Papali'I and Junior Paulo be the same players at international level without their Origin experience? Should future superstars of the game, such as Stephen Crichton and Joseph Suaalii, be denied the opportunity to play Origin? Should Origin be a stage for developing international players of all nations, or exclusively as a trial to see which players are worthy of a Kangaroos jersey?
Australia has already won 12 of the 16 World Cups played; should we be that keen to win every World Cup trophy from here on, if it is to the detriment of the international game overall?
The roars of support for Samoa from the largely local crowd at Old Trafford would indicate that the world would be quite happy with fewer trophies heading Australia's way.
To strengthen international competition, you need to play more international games, and you want the best players representing the countries of their heritage. But, at what point do you ask a player born and raised in Australia to give up on his dream of playing Origin football?
It is a delicate balancing act, which will no doubt take up a lot of discussion before solutions are found. The powers running the game really need to move the needle a bit further in the direction of the international game, otherwise, Samoa's success will be the outlier rather than the norm.