BONDI BEAT: March 2011

STEVE MASCORD

SINCE this is Rugby League World’s big preview issue, you have no doubt turned to Bondi Beat expecting some prognostications for the year ahead.

I could give you my top eight and predict who is going to be in the grand final but that would be a) boring and b) wrong. I could tell you who is going to win the State of Origin series but let’s face it, I don’t really know who is going to win the State of Origin series.

So let’s go for for some predictions that don’t rely on players doing what they are supposed to do – on the field at least. Here’s a few forecasts for what will be making the news in rugby league this year.

1.       WAYNE BENNETT to join South Sydney in 2012. John Lang’s tenure at South Sydney was only intended to be for a couple of years. Bennett might like to return to Queensland but North Queensland has Neil Henry for two more seasons at least. It would be nice for Lang – who is under pressure this year given the recruitment of Greg Inglis – to make the finals with the bunnies and then hand the reigns over to Bennett, who will no doubt deliver a premiership;

2.       MELBOURNE will have some tough times. They are putting on brave faces down at AAMI Park but losing the likes of Greg Inglis, Brett Finch, Ryan Hoffman and Jeff Lima is not going to leave a warm glow anywhere. Under Mark Murray, the Storm found out the exact size of their “core support” on plenty of afternoons. Melbourne may well make the finals but before they do they may find out what it is like to be Harlequins, playing before smallish crowds in hostile territory;

3.       The INDEPENDENT COMMISSION will not be all sweetness and light. The IC will do what is right for rugby league in Australia, including streamlining the administrative structure, but the NRL clubs and junior development will benefit while international football will suffer somewhat. As we said last month, Russell Crowe’s proposal for a World Club Challenge in Las Vegas is a test case;

4.       ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA will continue down the road to being rugby league’s Man U. After the grand final, they didn’t even let reporters into the room OUTSIDE the dressingroom. They hassled for a better financial deal than previous WCC clubs, at one point suggesting they may not even go to Wigan. While it would be unfair to describe the Dragons as hostile or unfriendly, they don’t have the outsider insecurity that makes fellow juggernauts the Broncos a more open club. Further success will make St George Illawarra more aloof and, sadly, encourage other clubs to go down the same track;

5.       RICKY STUART’s tenure as NSW coach will define him as a coach and as a person. Ricky has a tough juggling act ahead of him as fulltime Blues boss: on one hand, “passion” is the currency of the job. On the other hand, Stuart needs to keep that emotion in check when dealing with those outside the team, bearing in mind his last stint as a representative coach. If Stuart can be a motivator and a diplomat at the same time, the Blues can end Queensland’s dominance and he can put himself in the frame for a return to club coaching.REGULAR readers of this column would realise the trepidation with which we greet the increasing pervasiveness of betting in rugby league, particularly in Australia.

Exhibit A: Ryan Tandy and Brad Murray being called before the NSW Crime Commission to answer questions about that infamous North Queensland-Canterbury game last year. Exhibit B: Penrith’s CUA Stadium is about to be renamed Centrebet Stadium.

I’m telling you, it will end in tears.

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IF there’s a positive thing to come out of the launch of an AFL side in western Sydney, it’s the effect it’s had on Penrith, Wests Tigers and Parramatta. In some instances, it’s almost as if they are one mega-club, fielding three teams against the foreign invaders.

In January, all three clubs banded together to help out flood-ravaged areas of Queensland. The well-paid pro footballers got their hands dirty – and very, very wet – cleaning out backyards, gyms in and around Ipswich.

Sure, they were wearing their official sponsored training shirts and the media was kept well informed. But if people are going to benefit in such a profound way from the battle of the codes out west, who’s complaining?

While on training gear, here’s another example of how far South Sydney have come under the stewardship of Russell Crowe and Peter Holmes A Court: they now have a lucrative sponsor just for their training shirts. That’s right, they generate so much exposure that someone is willing to pay to be on their shirts when they trot around Redfern Oval on a Tuesday afternoon.

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And SO, as would-be neighbours Newcastle get closer to privatisation, the Central Coast Bears will be a privately-owned club if they gain entry to the NRL in 2013.

Non-bank lender Mortgage House wants to buy the would-be expansion franchise outright, creating the interesting scenario of a vote having to be taken involving members of a club which is yet to play its first game.

Bondi Beat reckons the Bears are a no-brainer for the Independent Commission – many North Sydney fans have been alienated since the failed merger with Manly and the Central Coast only just missed the boat last time the competition expanded.

Perth should be the 18th team.

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APPARENTLY when new Warrington signing Joel Monaghan was trotted out to the media the other day, team-mate Lee Briers made dog noises in the background. Or so I read.

I’ll throw this one out to you: is this a bad look or does it show rugby league’s humorous, forgiving side? I can’t make up my mind.

On one hand, what Joel did with that dog on Mad Monday was considered bad enough to get him sacked and earned the game tawdry headlines around the world. So, having a senior player make light of it in front of the media could be interpreted as a sign the average player finds nothing wrong in engaging in sex acts with dogs.

On the other hand, Monaghan is going to be teased and sledged by rivals anyway so what’s the big deal about the Welsh international getting in first?

Tell me what you think, either on the forums on totalrl.com or by emailing me at stevemascord@hotmail.com.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD 

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