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World Cup vies for attention as Aussie rugby battles drugs scandals

Sydeny: The top overseas cricketers may be in Australia for the World Cup, but the local media`s fascination is on a drugs scandal infiltrating the two rival rugby codes.

The back page headlines have been all about a drug scandal involving high-profile rugby union convert Karmichael Hunt and two players from the National Rugby League club Gold Coast Titans with reports of more players likely to be implicated.

Hunt, a former Australian rugby league international who switched to Super Rugby outfit Queensland Reds from Aussie Rules, and Titans pair Jamie Dowling and Beau Falloon are all scheduled to appear in a Gold Coast court next month facing allegations of supplying a dangerous drug. 

All have been stood down by their clubs.

But reports say that an ongoing Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission operation could yet see more players, both current and retired, face court.

And that has cornered the media`s attention and deflected a large part of the focus off the World Cup, which is being staged in Australia and New Zealand over six weeks.

Even the weather hasn`t helped the World Cup with Australia`s match against Bangladesh washed out by cyclonic conditions in Brisbane on Saturday, meaning the national cricket team will not have played before their own fans for two and a half weeks by the time they face Afghanistan in Perth on March 4.

Australia`s next game is against New Zealand in Auckland next Saturday.

So that will also conspire to suck more media attention from the World Cup as the football codes -- NRL, Super Rugby and AFL -- get their winter seasons into full swing.

Football`s A-League season, buoyed by Australia`s win in last month`s Asian Cup at home, has been underway since October and ends in May.

Australia has often been described as the one of the most crowded sports markets in the world, entertaining four well-supported football codes and all jostling for media and fans support in the same market.

It is against this backdrop that the ICC has scheduled its four-yearly World Cup in Australia and New Zealand at the tailend of the summer cricket season and butting up against the football seasons.

So while the World Cup cricket meanders its way towards a March 29 final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground it will have to contend with the local media`s appetite for football as well.

One upside for World up organisers is that the crowds have been healthy for the pool games with almost 85,000 for Australia`s opener against England at the MCG and 47,000 for India`s match with Pakistan in Adelaide and strong turnouts at other centres. 

From Zee News

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