Whilst two of the three hosts of this year's World Cup can hold their heads up high for the number of spectators that they have managed to attract for their respective group fixtures, Australia can simply hang theirs in shame. Papua New Guinea sold out their three group games in Port Moresby and New Zealand averaged 18,000 for their three opening matches, meanwhile, the crowds in Australia have been downright shambolic. But, why is this?

Look back to 2013

At the 2013 World Cup - hosted in England, Wales, Ireland and France - England managed to attract an average crowd of just over 31,500 in their three group games.

Wind the clock forward to the 2017 tournament and Australia - who are ranked No.1 in the world don't forget - averaged just over 18,700 fans in their opening three matches. This statistic becomes even more laughable when considering that under 23,000 spectators went to watch Australia's opening game against England at Melbourne's Rectangular Stadium; 23,000 sounds like quite a lot of people, but, the corresponding fixture in the 2013 competition saw over 45,000 people flock to Cardiff's Millennium Stadium. For the Millennium Stadium to attract 45,000 people in what is traditionally a Rugby Union heartland was sensational and kudos to the organisers who worked their socks off non-stop to deliver a successful World Cup.

The fact is though that Melbourne boasts one of the most successful NRL teams ever (Melbourne Storm), has a beautiful climate, is the second-most populated city in Australia and Oceania, and has a large number of ex-pats living there, why then, were there still 7,000 empty seats at the opening game of a World Cup between the ancient foes?

In fact, more than 20,000 turned out to witness Melbourne Storm beat Canberra Raiders 32-6 at Melbourne's AAMI Park in September this year. Just 3,000 more went to watch the national side against England.

And, in the quarter-finals last weekend at the same Rectangular Stadium in Melbourne, a mere 10,500 spectators turned up to watch England do battle against PNG.

In 2013, a remarkable 16,000 fans watched New Zealand thrash Samoa 40-4 at Leeds Rhinos' Headingley in the quarter-finals. The contrast could not be greater. Even Australia's quarter-final this tournament prompted just shy of 14,000 fans - although it was a sell-out and was held in Darwin which is Aussie Rules territory - whilst England's quarter-final against France in 2013 attracted over 22,000.

Lack of advertising

Australia's crowds are therefore disappointing, but, why is this? A lot of fingers have been pointed at the Rugby League World Cup organisers for failing to generate substantial publicity for the tournament. In fact, legendary NRL commentator, Andrew Voss, had this to say on the inadequate attempt to interest locals to go to upcoming matches: "I got the shock of my life last week to see a bloke wrapping League World Cup posters around telegraph poles to advertise the England-Lebanon game. Seriously?

Someone signed off on that? Talk about cheapening your product."

Rugby League journalists that have travelled to Australia have also shown their concerns about the lack of broadcasting; they believe that a person walking down the street would have no clue that a World Cup was currently happening. Only in Perth - a city that is desperately trying to join the NRL - was there any real enthusiasm to try to attract more spectators to the England-France game. Perhaps this is why nearly 15,000 attended the England-France game in Perth as opposed to the 10,000 at the England-Lebanon game held in Sydney.

Yet, could the dismal turnout in Sydney be down to the genuine lack of interest amongst Australians instead?

The World Cup not important?

Whilst crowds for matches involving Australia have been generally poor, they have still been far greater than the crowds for fixtures where teams other than Australia have been playing. Samoa's 14-14 draw with Scotland at Barlow Park in Cairns drew in the lowest crowd of the World Cup so far as just 4,309 people turned out, despite the match being integral to both sides' hopes of making it through Group B.

There is a distinct apathy throughout the whole of Australia towards this year's World Cup; it seems as though, for Australian Rugby League fans, that the NRL and the State of Origin series hold much more significance than Test match Rugby League.

This is even where the Test match Rugby League is played in a competition as exciting as a quadrennial World Cup where the worlds best are pitched against each other for the right to be called "World Champions".

And, even some of the Aussie players have made it clear that Test rugby comes second or even third in their priorities. This attitude stinks; isn't representing your country supposed to be the greatest accolade any sportsman or woman can achieve whilst playing the sport they love? It is an attitude however, that certainly looks as though it's been transferred to the Australian population as a whole.

The second game of the State of Origin Series of 2017, for example, saw 82,000 fill the ANZ Stadium in Sydney. Compare that to the mere 10,000 that turned out for the England-Lebanon game in the same city and the difference in enthusiasm is striking. And, when comparing the lowly turnouts to the sell-out crowds in Port Moresby where Rugby League is the heart and soul of the country and the difference is even greater.

The final of this year's World Cup is already a sell-out at the 52,000 capacity Brisbane Stadium. That is likely to be more than double the figure for the second-highest crowd preceding that occasion and the reason is simple: Australians assume that they are going to see their nation be crowned champions once more.

This arrogance is perhaps justified with how the Kangaroos have dominated the world in recent years, but, with the performances of the likes of Lebanon, Tonga, Fiji and PNG the exit of New Zealand at the quarter-final stage at this year's World Cup, times are changing on the international stage; this is something that needs to be supported.