International Rugby League (IRL) chief executive Nigel Wood has celebrated a year of progress for his organisation in an annual message to the membership.
For the first time, IRL hired full-time staff this year, with Wood highlighting the importance of this in his message.
"While the origins of our organisation can claim to be nearly a hundred years old, the truth is until 2015 we never employed a single person, let alone had any real Independence on the Board," he said.
"I believe we have made great strides over the past five years.
"We have some crucial appointments who will take up their positions early in 2020 to further strengthen the IRL in the areas of match officials and the judiciary.
"We will have professional independent leadership in both areas for the first time ever."
Wood also discussed preparations for the Rugby League World Cup 2021 (RLWC2021), with men, women and wheelchair tournaments set to take place in England.
"The Test match results over the past couple of months have really boosted the objective to grow the number of nations, over time, with the capability to win the World Cup," he said.
"We now know all the teams that will compete in RLWC2021 and I congratulate all those nations who have qualified for the competition during 2019.
"The competitions across the men’s, women’s and wheelchair games will be, without doubt, the best ever.
"With the full draw to start the year and tickets going on sale so far in advance, we are confident that the World Cup will achieve its own high expectations.
"Critically the international calendar has a really strong look for the year leading into the World Cup.
"There are confirmed competitions in Europe, Oceania, Middle East Africa and the Americas.
"Our associate members, Rugby League European Federation and Asia Pacific Rugby League will announce full details of dates and venues in the coming weeks, but this is a programme to excite the fans, players and is the perfect preparation for the best World Cup ever."
IRL used the year to rename from Rugby League International Federation, also unveiling a "bold and dynamic" fresh look to complement the change.
"A big step for the IRL in 2019 was the re-naming and re-branding," Wood said.
"As we all know those are the simple steps and it is up to us all now to deliver the strategic objectives that live up to the new and exciting look and feel of the organisation.
Wood concluded his message by explaining his hopes and plans for the upcoming year.
"International rugby league has never been stronger in any aspect and it is our duty to support growth, develop the infrastructure and provide the playing framework that allows the sport to flourish on an international stage," he said.
"There Is however zero room for complacency.
"There remain challenges that we have to positively address and with the goodwill of all stakeholders we will do.
"Growth itself presents a new set of challenges, so some of the recent schisms are to be expected.
"Our organisation will govern responsibly, professionally and with respect and courtesy to all, at all times."