IN mid-2008, one tiresome, routine afternoon at the Daily Telegraph‘s offices in Surry Hills, Sydney, I received an anonymous phone call.
“I have a story that might interest you,” the caller said enticingly. “It’s about Sonny Bill Williams.”
Tell me more, I replied. “I want to get paid,” the caller responded. At this point, internally, I switched off. I don’t agree with paying for stories but I also realised I had a duty to the paper to inform them of the offer.
“I can’t just agree to pay you for any story about Sonny Bill Williams,” I said to our mysterious informant, “tell me more.”
“Did you know he was going to Samoa to meet the king?”
This morsel of information sounded vaguely familiar. I told my caller to ring me back in an hour or so. I picked up the phone to the Bulldogs. “Yes, he’s going there on the weekend while he’s out injured,” I was told. “He’s going to become the face of Samoan tourism – we helped arrange it.”
When deep throat called back, I told him the club knew all about the trip. “Yes, but do they know the real reason he is going?” Our man would go no further. I informed my immediate superior of the call, handed over the number of the informant and thought nothing more of it.
A couple of weeks later, this reporter covered the Bulldogs’ clash with Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium. Williams was not talking to the Daily Telegraph by this stage – his colourful agent Khoder Nasser was firmly in the rival Fairfax camp with the Tele’ often very critical of another of his clients, rugby league player-cum-boxer Anthony Mundine.
But I thought there might be a circuitous route of getting something out of the great SBW. “Did you say anything out there on the field, mate?” I asked him.
“Huh?” he replied.
“To the TV. Did you say anything interesting to them at fulltime?”
“Nah, just the same old crap.”
For a fellow who was only 23 at the time, this comment struck me as being rather world-weary – and a tacit acknowledgement that most of his exchanges with the media were already in the currency of cliches.
That’s if there was any exchange at all. At the time, Williams was not pulling his weight at the Dogs in terms of media commitments, refusing almost every request.
There were those who would tell you this annoyed his team-mates – the extent to which this was true, I don’t know.
In any case, since Williams played against the Broncos that day, he has not crossed a rugby league sideline in a competitive capacity.
By the next weekend, he was gone. When anonymous customs officials started calling Ray Hadley’s open line show the following Saturday, saying they had seen Williams board a plane bound for Europe, I was immediately put in mind of my own anonymous call a couple of weeks before.
The reason for the weekend in Apia soon became apparent. SBW had visited Samoan government officials to get a passport, which allowed him to circumvent the French Rugby Union’s import regulations via the Kolpak ruling and sign with Toulon.
“We helped him build up some contacts in the Samoan community for him to get an audience with the king and the prime minister to become the face of tourism Samoa,” said Keith Onslow, the Bulldogs development manager.
“He was learning Samoan from a church minister in Leichhardt. He was exploring his genealogy.”
When Williams arrived in London, he was ushered into the Samoan embassy by the back door to receive his passport. From there, it was onto Toulon and a new career in rugby union. He hasn’t played league since.
Williams is expected – by some at least – to return to our heaving bosom on March 7, 2013, when Sydney Roosters host bitter rivals South Sydney at Allianz Stadium.
There are those who doubt this will actually occur. More of that later.
But first I want to address what we have learned about the nature of sporting celebrity in this century from the last four years. Initially, there was universal outrage about Williams’ “dead of night” (he actually departed during the day) flight from Australia.
But the general mood has not just softened since – it has changed in nature.
Williams’s success in rugby union, in becoming an All Black, has made him the sort of athletic commodity that Nasser no doubt evisaged when he negotiated that deal with Toulon four years ago and orchestrated a covert scheme to get SBW a Samoan passport.
Williams, now 27, has succeeded in becoming an individual brand in a team sport – in a similar fashion, if on a smaller scale, than David Beckham or Michael Jordan. He fronted a Sydney Roosters media conference announcing his (12-month-only) return not in a tricolours polo shirt but in a fancy jacket with a hanky tucked daintily in the pocket.
As you’ll be aware, he plans to box before the season starts, play rugby league, and then probably go play Japanese rugby union instead of taking part in our World Cup.
Yes, the Bulldogs were compensated for his breach of contract in leaving mid-season. But his departure has not just been forgiven – it’s been rewarded.
Like Israel Folau, his time out of rugby league has somehow given him added gravitas and prestige, which we now covet as an endorsement of how great our sport is. His actions set an example for others – not necessarily a good one.
Williams’ return has been termed “a circus” countless times. But circuses most often start on time.
Although Nasser was never quoted, he didn’t dispute reports that had the season started with Canterbury hosting Sydney Roosters, Williams would have boycotted the game because he not want to line the pockets of his former club. Has the game ever known such a militant, individualistic player?
As it stands, many doubt Williams will suit up for round one anyway. He has a pectoral muscle problem, the severity of which is shrouded in mystery.
In November, the ever-quotable Roosters doctor John Orchard told the Telegraph Williams could be out until mid-April.
“We’re not treating round one as a grand final,” Orchard said. “In fact, we’re treating it as the complete opposite. The earliest recovery for this sort of operation is three months to five months. Obviously he’ll be around the mid-point of that when (round one arrives).
“From a medical staff point of view, we have to take the emotion out of it. Obviously round one will be built up as a big occasion, but we need to put the blinkers on and work out if he’s trained adequately, would we let any other player play this particular game (after similar surgery), speak with surgeons and so on.
“We don’t want him to come back early and risk re-injuring it.
“We’ll let him come back when we’re convinced, rather than worry about other factors that are non-medical.”
With more players – such as Benji Marshall – testing the waters of multi-sports careers, Williams departure in the middle of the 2008 NRL season may one day be regarded as somewhat historic.
So do I regret not continuing my conversation with that deep throat? Not paying him, or trying to convince my bosses to do so? It would have been front page news and easily the biggest story of my career…
But no, I have never had one ounce of regret. Paying for stories is just wrong, isn’t it?
Filed for: FORTY-20 MAGAZINE
THERE are signs from all sorts of places that rugby league is about to enter a period of intense self-examination and on-field change.
By the time many of you will have read this, two Boxing Day games in England will have trialled three experimental alterations to the laws of the game.
At the Leeds-Wakefield and Batley-Dewsbury friendlies, the attacking team was permitted to pack five players into the scrum, giving it one extra attacking player.
Charge-downs did not result in a restarted tackle count –which meant that if you successfully charged down a kick on the final tackle, you get the ball whether you come up with it or not.
And when an attacking team kicks the ball dead, the defending side got the ball on the 40m line, rather than the 22 – a new disincentive to the negative ploy of booting it out to take the steam out of a dangerous opposition.
In next year’s All Stars game at Suncorp Stadium, there is also expected to be a raft of experimental rules – although they haven’t been finalised yet.
And on Christmas Day, the Northern Territory News carried a story about rugby union and rugby league players training together, with a view to a hybrid game being played in Darwin.
People in areas where rugby league is not a dominant sport are constantly exasperated about this tinkering with the rules. No sooner have they explained to new converts what the game is, than it changes.
However, league has always changed rules to attract more spectators and maximise profits. Remember, in 1895 the Northern Union looked exactly like rugby union.
Our lack of stuffy hierarchy and our modest geographical footprint allowed us to bring in new things without having to get approval from too many people. There has always been a healthy lack of reverence for sanctity of the rule book in rugby league.
If Rugby union is an old world country, rugby league is an adventurous, spirited new world nation.
But things are starting to get a little out of hand. Our only two fulltime professional competitions are growing apart at a rate of knots because of “local” rules and rule interpretations. There are increasing pressures that even internationals are not played under international rules!
It’s one thing to have a sport that itself represents a rebellion against the old order. It’s another to have the rebels fighting amongst themselves.
We need to acknowledge that the NRL and Super League are our shopfronts – and if you fiddle with the shopfront too much, confused customers may not come in.
By all means, retain our sense of innovation. But let’s not introduce major changes without the permission of an international governing body and due consideration for how it affects all levels of the game.
That means using some of next year’s World Cup funds to actually give the RLIF an address and a staff member or two.
Then set out protocols for rule changes – and stick to them.
COMMENTS time and I’ll give myself a New Years uppercut for using Greg Inglis as an example of whether you can deliberately have your child born in NSW or Queensland in order to qualify him for that state.
THE mercury in Minneapolis is plunging mercilessly past zero as Middle America wallows in snow. Vince Neil, however, is waltzing down the hotel corridor towards his multi-room penthouse in a sleeveless v-neck shirt and blue boxer shorts.
His dirty blonde hair spews out from under a neatly reversed baseball cap, just like the one he wears in all those celebrity golf tournaments.
The shortish screamer, 28 and one-forth Mexican, is what hundreds of thousands of white teenage males see as rebellion. American-style rebellion, that is. Capitalist anarchism. Or, as Jon Bon Jovi once said of Neil, “the Rolex Axl Rose”.
“What does that mean?” Neil asks when I repeat that quote safely inside his palatial quarters.
Perhaps it means there is some contradiction about singing about rebellion and life on the streets and being filmed riding in a limousine jacuzzi down Sunset Strip with a bunch of bare-breasted models.
“Everybody’s entitled to their opinion. He’s just run out of insults, he’s run out of things to say.”
The nine-year-old Los Angeles-based quartet, of course, hasn’t seen eye-to-eye with Jon Bon Jovi since last year’s Moscow Peace Festival when Bon Jovi used fireworks and the Crue weren’t allowed to.
They axed manager Doc McGhee – a man with a similarly less-than-saintly past – and proceeded to slag off Jon Bon Jovi as a “candy-ass lying asshole” to the world’s music press.
Motley Crue may now be sober and three-quarters married (bassist and founder Nikki Sixx will marry Brandi Brandt in May) but never let it be said they are candy asses.
Didn’t Vince punch out Guns N’Roses’ Izzy Stradlin in at last year’s American Music Awards for pinching his wife on the breast?
“Izzy fucked around with Vince’s wife so he punched him out,” Sixx says, turning his attention to Guns singer Rose. “And if Axl doesn’t shut up, he’s going to start something too.
“We don’t lie to our fans. We’re an honest band. We keep everything on the table.
“When I heroine overdosed, we told the truth.
“When everything’s gone down, accidents, divorces, bad times, good times, we’ve always told the truth.”
In 1987, the Crue’s severe drug problems forced them to cancel a sold-out tour of Britain that left them hugely out-of-pocket and with a poor reputation in that country.
Clearly, Motley Crue has not ALWAYS told the truth; the band did not admit its drug problems had caused that cancelation until recently.
“Sometimes it’s better not to tell the truth at the time … solve your problems and then talk about it,” says guitarist Mick Mars.
NIKKI Sixx is watching the MTV request program like an expectant father. In between trying to guess the bra size of the female VJ, he is wait to see the chart position of the latest Crue single.
Resplendent in a terry-towelling t-shirt and old blue jeans, he gets up from his couch to turn down request number two, KISS’ “Forever”. “This song blows,” he says with disgust.
His disappointment is short-lived, however, with sickly Dr Feelgood single “Without You” topping the chart as expected.
Sixx was born Frank Carlon Serafano 30 years ago in San Jose, California. He grew up with his grandparents after his mother left his father for a musician in Frank Sinatra’s band.
Motley Crue’s founder and chief songwriter, Sixx claims to have got his first guitar by walking into a music store with an empty guitar case and asking for a job. When the manager turned his back to get an application form, Sixx reputedly stuck the guitar in his case.
Though amiable, Sixx is visibly tiring of my line of questioning, about how much of Motley Crue’s success to date has relied on their decadent image.
“The point is, we just got sick of being off-stage what we were on-stage,” he says, earnestly.
“I don’t think we have an image, I just think it’s music right now. ”
But were you, at any stage, more interested in being rock stars than musicians?
Drummer Tommy Lee would later admit to finding the band’s non-musical influence over its fans somewhat sobering. He comments: “You’ll see a kid with a fag go ‘Crue Rules’ and chug a bottle of Jack. You go to yourself ‘fuck, that kid’s only 15. In two years, he’ll be a basket case’. His dad will beat him for coming home late’. Lee says, however, he’s not responsible for this. “Eveeyone’s responsible for themselves,” he says.
Sixx left LA glam band London in 1981 and set about starting his own band. Lee, who was then a bass player, was the first to come to the party. Next came Bob Deal (aka Mick Mars), who had advertised in a trade magazine: “Loud, rude, aggressive guitarist available”.
The oft-quoted snippet from Sixx, which appears in the band’s biography, says: “We didn’t even have to hear him play. We went: ‘This is the guy, he’s disgusting.'”
As the man who shaped the multi-platinum four-piece’s fearsome image, Sixx is now set on longevity. He sees the success of Dr Feelgood as a sign Motley Crue will now step into some sort of honest rock’n’roll ascention, built by the likes of Cream and Mott The Hoople.
“What ever happened to those bands?” he asks rhetorically. “What ever happened to the Stones, Aerosmith, Mott The Hoople, old Queen? What ever happened to the real shit, living and breathing for one thing that was most important in your life and that was rock’n’roll?
“What’s going on in the music business? Why is everybody so into this, the money, money, money, greed, greed, greed shit?
“It’s so sad, so fabricated, so corporate.”
While his statements appear somewhat shallow in the light of Motley Crue’s shamelessly exhibitionist past, Sixx seems an important difference between his band and other pop-metal acts, like Bon Jovi.
“We never sold out,” he aserts. “It’s never been, like, ‘let’s get in Desmond Child and write a hit single’ As far as we’re concerned, using outside writers is a sell-out. ”
To some Motley Crue fans, however, sobriety is a sellout in itself. American rock fanzines have been flooded with letters from teenagers disillusioned with idols who inspired them to drink in the first place now giving up the habit.
Sixx says staying sober has so far been ‘a breeze’ and he has no trouble with the image of going home after a gig with an orange juice. “An orange juice in a tight black dress,” he smirks.
“If it’s three naked hookers and a fucking midget and three porno movies running simultaneously in our dressingroom that keeps us going crazy, if that keeps us sober, then that’s what we do.
“Just because you’re sober, doesn’t mean you have to be normal. We’re not normal people, we’re a little off the deep end anyway.
“We don’t let those – what we consider – boring people backstage, the people with the drugs, the fucked up chicks that are slurring and can hardly walk.”
Nevertheless, Motley Crue’s image amongst the sober is not being helped by quotes from Sixx like: “This is a male-dominated world and we’re dominant males”. He looks surprised when I tell him some people may find this offensive. “Do they?”
“It’s only my opinion. Women, they have more power and more strength than any man. This is still a male dominated world, man always comes first. Conflict is so fucking important. It creates everything: good, bad, man, woman…”
He will marry his girlfriend, Bandi Brandt, a model he started dating before travelling to Vanvouver to record Dr Feelgood, after the Australian tour in May.
“It’s cool but I’d rather not say too much about it,” Sixx says coyly. “Who told you about it anyway?”
“NIKKI is getting married in May,” Vince Neil says early in our interview the day before. in a southern California drawl that threatens to add “dude” to every sentence.
“Just because you’re married doesn’t mean you can’t rock’n’roll.”
Neil has been married for two years to an LA mud wrestler known mainly as Sharise. Some time ago, it is alleged Guns N’Roses Stradlin accosted here at a famous LA club called the Cathouse.
By means of retribution, the blond frontman approached Stradlin after last year’s American Music Awards and punched him.
Neil: “We never ever said shit about other bands cause we like everybody. But when people start pushing your buttons you have to react. I think it’s pretty immature of bands to do that.
“I only speak out against people who fuck me over, whereas you take someone one like Axl, he gets on the soapbox about everything and everybody in the world.
“When I punched Izzy, Axl made a whole bunch of lies about it and made a big deal out of the whole story, put out a press release that was a complete lie.
‘Funny thing was, you never heard from Izzy. Izzy never put out a press release because he knew exactly what happened.
‘Now Axi has said a bunch of stuff about Nikki. It’s a shame, Axl used to be a nice guy.”
Nell says he is excited about going to Australia, but Sixx claims his singer feels uncomfortable outside the US. “Vince and Mick are American guys, they like their hamburgers at 12 o’clock every day. I like to experience other cultures more.”
According to Vince, 1987’s drug problems not only cost Europe the chance to see Motley Crue live, it also cost Australia.
“We were gonna go on the Girls, Girls, Girls tour and we ended up cancelling the last part of the tour. We were going to go to Australia after Europe. It’s like everybody’s been there but us.”
Neil became withdrawn, grew a beard and pulled out of from public life after his December 1984 accident, which killed Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle and seriously injured two others.
Neil, who had been driving a Ford Pantera back from a beer run, was convicted of vehicular manslaughter while under the influence of alcohol.
He was forced to pay $2.6 million in settlements, do 200 hours of community service and spend 20 days in jail.
Part of his probation was that he was to stay straight on the following tour, the Girls, Girls, Girls tour, but he now admits he was “more fucked up than anyone on that tour”
“At the end of that tour, nobody talked to each other, “he says. “We’d see each other at the gigs and then we’d all go our separate ways.
“It came to the point where we were gonna break up because we just couldn’t go on doing what we were doing and be successful.”
He glares at the ceiling and lets out a light chuckle when I ask if there’s any truth in the rumour he had a luxury jail cell and was visited regularly by Playboy bunnies, compliments of Hugh Hefner.
“Nah, it was jail! It was still jail, I mean it wasn’t like this! I had to feed the other prisoners, clean up the jail cells, wash police cars and stuff like that. I was with two other prisoners. One guy was a Ferrari thief, the other guy was a jewel thief or something like that.”
Neil was even swifter in denying two other rumours — that he takes steroid shots before every show and that all his stage raps are written out for him by Sixx.
“Every audience is different, it’s always all been ad-lib,” he says.
It is hard to imagine how anything in Motley Crue’s state of the art, million dollar arena extravaganza could be ad-lib.
The show begins with a laser image against a suspended screen, the character changing faces from demonic (Shout At The Devil) to theatrical (Theatre of Pain) to sleazy (Girls, Girls , Girls) and finally into a doctor.
Backing singers the Nasty Habits — Donna McDanniel and Emma Canyn — are silhouetted atop the huge catwalks and powerful hydraulic lifts fire the four Crue members up from below the stage.
They kick in with ’Kickstart My Heart, a song inspired by Sixx’s near death, in which Neil sings: “When we started this band, all we needed was a laugh. Years gone by, I’d say we’ve kicked some ass, when I hit the stage, in a fit of rage, adrenalin running through my veins, I’d say we’re still kickin’ ass. ”
At the height of the mayhem, Tommy Lee’s saucer-shaped drumkit rises like a UFO and moves along a ceiling-bound track out over the audience, lowering to within metres of its collective head.
He beats out drum sequences from classic songs by the likes of AC /DC and Cream, and the kit returns to its rear stage slot majestically. Wearing nothing but a studded g-strlng, Lee turns his back to the audience and exposes hs backside.
“I almost got arrested for that once,” Lee, an excitable ball of enthusiasm , says after the show. ‘It’s just ‘fun.”
Of all the members of Motley Crue, Lee is least affected by superstardom’s trappings, despite being married to an actress.
“Being on the road really makes you want to have a girlfriend,” he says. “And hen you’re out there, I suppose the next best thing is getting laid.”
Motioning towards an old brown suitcase, Lee says: “It’s like, there’s my life. It’s really nice to call home and go how are my dogs, how are you. It’s cool, I really dig being married.”
Born in Athens, Greece, Lee took to only coed volleyball and art at school. He was just 17 when the band formed.
Tapping his knee feverishly, he says it’s the first time he’s ever done an interview after a show.
“I would never have done one before we got straight, but I got so much energy now that I don’t know what to do with it,” he says.
“Not one day goes by when I don’t want to rip the fuckin’ door off and scream ‘give me a fuckin drink’. I swear, every day. It’s a disease.
“When this tour is fuckin’ over, I’m going to get fucked up. I swear. I’ve worked hard.”
Lee is distracted for a minute. “Hey, you know Midnight Oil? Can you go out in the desert like that and drive around in one of those those old trucks?”
Tommy Lee’s birthday is on October 3. Last year he had an unexpected birthday present when Motley Crue went to number one on the US album chart for the first time.
“We get no respect, everyone fuckin’ hates us, the press don’t like us, they say we can’t play. Going to number one was like a big “fukk you’!
“It wasn’t … there’s a lot of this shit that goes on, political buying the number one spot. Anybody can have a number one spot. If your record company pulls out enough dough and pays off the right people, it can happen.”
It is hard to imagine a knockabout skin n’bones joker like Tommy being embroiled in the drug-fuel intrigue that almost killed Motley Crue.
“Me and Nikki were slugging it out in Japan, Vince had a gun pulled on him,” he assures me. “This Japanese mafia guy. This is how fuckod up he was. This Japanese mafia guy was at a table with two nice American blondes on (his) arm. Vince went up to him and said ;fuck you’ and pushed over his table, knocked this bottle of champagne over his girls and him. Vince didn’t know who he was, he thought he was some little Japanese man.
“He reached in his Japanese suit and pulled out a gun. Our security guys dove in and eventually threw him out.
“At that same club, Nikki and I were really drunk, we’d been on tour a long time and we were getting on each other’s nerves. When you’re drinking and been on drugs you snap really quickly. I thought he’d said something to me that he said he didn’t really say. And I fuckin’ punched him, and he punched me. These little Japanese girls are crying, seeing two members of Motley Crue fighting, going no, no. People were going wow, what???.”
Lee was the mn who allegedly punched former manager Dcc McGhee in Moscow when Bon Jovi’s fireworks went off at the Peace Festival. Jon Bon Jovi, who it was originally rumoured had been punched by Lee, told Juke shortly after: “Not punching me. If he had’ve punched me, I would have belted his fuckin’ head in, he wouldn’t be alive to talk about it.”
Lee has since denied doing anything but pushing McGhee.
“No-one in our camp has changed,” Lee asserts. “And I’ve seen a lot of people change.
“I remember when Jon Bon Jovi was nothing, nobody knew who the fuck this kid was. He was begging our manager Dcc ‘please, please let me hang out with the Crue, let me spend just a couple of days on the bus. I want to see what a fuckin’ real tour’s like’. So Jonny comes out with us, we show him the ropes of the road, we put him on our bus, get him fucked by this bunch of girls, get him drunk…, show him what the arenas are like, we’re playing these big gigs. He was just like “wow.. .this is great’.
“Then the fuckln’ guy has some success and all of a sudden he won’t talk to us. All of a sudden we’re dickheads. We’re like “fuck that guy, man. We showed that guy what rock n’roll is all about, we took him out and showed him the real shit”. He’s just being too fuckin’ cool.”
Lee’s solo is the highlight of the show. “I always wanted to be a guitar player or a singer- up front. So I decided to take my solo to the people.’
Guitarist Mick Mars, meanwhile, plays a short solo and barely leaves his corner of the stage.
“Mick wanted to do something with holograms where he plays with himself, battles with this image of himself and disappears and shit,” says Lee.
“We never had time to got it together, so maybe next time.”
“YEAH, i guess it pisses me off,” Mick Mars says with a warm, almost shy, grin.
Mars, polite and quietly spoken, is not referring to his solo. He’s refering to the fact that a lot of people think he’s a shitty guitarist.
“I had this guy from a guitar magazine do an interview the other day and he says ‘my editor asked why do you want to interview Mick Mars? He’s a shitty guitarist..
“I felt like going ‘fuck you’.”
At 36, Mars has been changed the most by not drinking. Sitting between two guitars on a sofa, he explains that this is the first tour on which he hasn’t been drunk before taking the stage. He also explains that while the other members of Motley Crue deny that Dr Feelgood was a deliberate attempt a having a hit album, it WAS the goal.
“For me, it was a chance to prove I could play,” he says. “I may not be the fastest guitarist in the world but I do what I do and I do it well.”
Underneath the Dr. Feelgood stage is a small room where the three of them disappear while Mars does his ten-minute solo spot. He’s never been given his solo spot before, and he now realises that he can play well.
Onstage he has a rack of three country-steel guitars set up like keyboards, which he uses to play the opening slide rift of “Slice Of Your Pie”. His love for ‘60s white blues guitarists like Michael Bloomfield, Paul Butterfield, Leslie West and Alvin Lee of Ten Years After has always been there, but it took producer Bob Rock to wring it out during the Feelgood sessions, giving the entire LP a definite punch. Mars was responsible for four of the best tunes on the album.
Although he grew up in California, he was born in Huntington, Indiana. Today, when you drive into town, you’ll see a sign proclaiming Home Of Mick Mars. Another famous person from that town is US Vice-President Danforth Quayle.
Married three times already, he dates Canyn, one of the backing singers. He’s the only one of the four who prefers cars to bikes. He drives a Corvette. The others move around mostly in Harley Davidsons.
Mars and Sixx first hit it off because they shared the same hair dye. Mars’ slide work sounds very much like Peter Wells. He says he hasn’t heard Rose Tattoo records, and that it goes back further to blues guys like John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters.
“Without being egotistical, hopefully I can use whatever position I have, to turn our fans in that direction.”
Three years ago he could not be animated without alcohol. Nowadays he looks at anyone whos strung out on dope or drink and think “they’ve copped out of life.”
AS HE sprints from his limo into the 16,000s eat arena that plays host to Motley Crue tonight, a T-shirt falls from the air and lands on Nikki Sixx’s head. Glancing upwards, he sees three pubescent girls grinning and screaming.
“Here” he beckons “you want it back?”
“Only if it’s been touched by you” the blonde in the middle yells back.
In the dressing room, as he warms up to go on. Vince Neil laughs about the incident.
“I don’t think anyone in the band thinks of themselves as rock stars,” he says. “Pretty much every night we wonder ‘is anyone going to show up tonight.’ I still think of us as the same bone- heads that played the Whiskey A Go Go club.”
In the dressing rooms, all the four put on eyeliners. Nikki, who shed 30 pounds before the tour so he could go onstage shirtless, is the only one who wears leather and studs. Mick and Vince were T-shirts and vests, Tommy a brief bikini and torn off gloves. A string vest is all that covers his 6’4” body. The Japanese tattoo on his arm catches the dressing room’s fluroscent light and looks magnificent.
Outside, the crowd roars louder. The air of excitement thickens. “OK boys” Nikki calls out “lets go and do it”.
They stumble through the darkness, helped along by roadies with torches, up the stairs and then, whooosh!, the spotlight hits, and the crowd’s screams are mesmerising. It’s the ultimate thrill, a moment that the four keep trying to recapture in their lives away from the stage…
These are questions normally associated with major world events like the shooting of JFK or September 11 and I am referring to another milestone we’ll never forget.
The RFL trialling wacky rule changes on Boxing Day.
Chances are, you were finalising your Christmas shopping, greeting visiting relatives or making mince pies when news reached you that Red Hall was attempting to out-NRL the NRL by fiddling with our game over the festive season.
There is even a chance you were pissed at the time and woke up on Christmas morning thinking you’d imagined the whole thing.
For the Leeds-Wakefield and Dewsbury-Batley games, the attacking team can pack five players into the scrum, giving them an extra man to attack.
Also, the tackle count will not start again from a charge-down and if the ball is kicked dead from a team’s own half, the opposition will resume play with a 40-metre tap rather than one at the quarter-way line.
In the view of this columnist, all of these rules have merit – but why wait so long to announce them? Surely the four clubs involved would have loved to use the novelty of the trials to help sell tickets.
The media goes into stasis at this time of the year – not even the Press Association had reported the trials when I looked – so the whole thing looks disorganised and last minute.
Let’s look at the changes one-by-one.
Obviously, the aim of the first is to encourage more attack from the scrum – something of a lost art. But it also shows that the scrum itself is like the human tailbone – a remnant of ancient times which has withered away.
Imagine telling players of 30 years ago that you could have five against six in a scrum and the team with five players would still win because no-one was really allowed to push!
Personally, I’d like to see the team with six actually have a go at shoving their short-staffed opponents off the ball. We’ve made the scrum look stupid (it was a charade but a comfortable, friendly one) – now we’re rubbing it’s nose in its own stupidity!
By failing to restart the tackle count from a chargedown, there will be more incentive to attempt them. Do chargedowns make rugby league more exciting? I’m not sure they do and I’m not sure coaches will instruct their players to harass the kicker any more than they already do.
I like the third rule the best. Kicking the ball dead to keep it away from dangerous opponents and give yourselves a breather is a blight on rugby league.
Throughout its evolution, our game has prided itself on removing stoppages and making it harder and harder for its participants.
By giving the defending team more of a territorial advantage when the ball is kicked dead, it should be an effective deterrent to this negative ploy.
SALFORD’s woes raise an interesting philosophical debate.
ONE aspect of the ARL Commission’s moves to abolish the shoulder charge has been overlooked in all the din of resistance.
I’ve already had my say on the issue. I thought Dr Jack Kazandjian was nuts when he ran onto the field in Jacksonville and stopped an international to argue with Phil Bentham because a Jamaican player (Jamaine Wray, for memory) was concussed.
American sports were obsessed with concussion at the time. A Jamaican player told me “he doesn’t understand rugby league. Playing concussed is what we do”.
But Dr Jack was proven right. Within a year or so, his rules for concussion were more or less adopted by the NRL.
So when medicos call for the banning of the shoulder charge and we all say they’re making the game soft, I am reluctant to make the same error in judgement twice.
The medicos are usually right.
We are getting less blood-thirsty in our entertainment tastes and eventually body-contact sport will die out completely – although not until long after all of us are dead.
The point I am trying to make is that at least the ARL Commission had the good grace to say they would lobby the RLIF to outlaw the shoulder charge worldwide.
In my time, that’s a first. When it comes to rule changes, the Australian authorities previously didn’t seem to know that the RLIF exists.
THE NRL may now be flushed with funds and ready to raid Super League but it has found a new rival – Japanese rugby union.
Wests Tigers star and New Zealand captain Benji Marshall, who has three years to run on his contract at Concord, recently asked for a release to play the next off-season (I know, we have a World Cup) in the Land Of The Rising Yen.
The request, from agent Martin Tauber, was immediately refused but Sonny Bill Williams decision to play in Japan after his deal with the NZRU expired – and then sign with Sydney Roosters when everyone knew that’s exactly what he planned – has set a dangerous precedent.
According to agents, more and more players will sign one-year deals, go to Japan, and secretly agree to return the following NRL season on another one year deal.
As I’ve written elsewhere, the antidote is simple – in exchange for the pay rise associated with the new TV deal, players should be contracted from January 1 to December 31. You talk about professionalism – denying yourself an off-season of rest and recuperation is decidedly unprofessional.
Now, there are those of you who might see this as hypocritical of me, given that my byline has been known to appear in more than one publication. Good point – but I deliberately threw away job security, holidays, sick pay and more by quitting newspapers.
So, NRL stars, if you want to play rugby union in the off-season, then maybe you should sign a match-payments-only deal with your club.
SHOULD Brisbane and Sydney have to bid to host State Of Origin games?
ARLC chairman John Grant keeps talking about “the business” of rugby league and his commission initially wanted the states to bid for all three matches next season.
In the end, the traditional homes of the series were given one match each. The third game of 2015 was put up for tender and will probably go to Melbourne. Whether money is changing hands for the third game of any other series over the next four years has not been revealed.
In Bondi Beat’s opinion, charging for at least one match each year makes sense. Our game can make a lot of money from such arrangements.
FIRST the shoulder charge, then the benefit of the doubt rule.
After my ABC colleague (ex-ABC colleague, I guess) Daniel Anderson was appointed referees boss recently, one of the NRL’s most controversial rules seemed to be on borrowed time.
Personally, I think benefit of the doubt is a stupid rule. As we saw with ‘The Hand Of Foran’ during the NRL finals series, it has got to the point where if there is a two per cent chance of it being a try, it’s awarded.
Referees Steve Lyons and Tony De Las Heras, touch judges David Abood and Gavin West and their bosses Stuart Raper and Bill Harrigan were all given the heave-ho at the end of last season.
I am not sure the absence of the benefit-of-the-doubt rule would have saved all of them but it would have helped some.
HERE in magazine world, we are not in the business of plugging other magazines – unless they are online and completely free!
Congrats to the people behind ‘International’ magazine, a completely online publication that has been put out by the Rugby League Planet website and a company called Consultivity.
In past columns, we have suggested that the Rugby League International Federation should be selling memberships and publishing just such a magazine itself. Maybe Consultivity is getting in on the bottom floor and showing the RLIF what can be done.
If so, congratulations. It’s a great start and I hope the people at … well, the RLIF doesn’t have a physical address, does it … are taking notice. Just in case, I sent a link to Scott Carter and Tas Baitieri.
The second edition of ‘International’ has Olivier Elima on the cover.
NO, there was no pre-season Nines tournament in the NRL draw announced recently. But I am told it has already been pencilled in for 2014.
There should be an interesting tour at the end of that season, too, I am told….
Meanwhile, news that the West Coast Pirates are considering entering Super League should not have been a surprise to readers of this column. We reported it a good month before it appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald.
I HAD lovely, if unexpected, end to my rugby league season.
At the end of November, Bondi Beat had the pleasure of travelling to Barcelona for the bucks weekend (on a Tuesday and Wednesday, coz we all work weekends, right) of BBC commentator David Woods.
Dave married journalists Julie Stott on November 25.
Anyway, I spotted some familiar faces boarding my RyanAir flight from Liverpool to the Catalan capital – the French team, fresh from their 48-4 pizzling by the English in the Four Nations final.
Strolling into the Barca warmth, chatting about rugby league with the aforementioned Olivier Elima – a fitting end to a year that started in freezing cold at Headingley.
I won’t call it a fitting start to the off-season – because I’m still sitting here writing this column, aren’t I?
GIVEN the space this column has devoted to State Of Origin eligibility over the past 12 months, it’s as plain as the nose on the face of someone with quite a big nose that we have to address the ARLC’s decision on the issue this week.
The first aspect of the decision – that you must live in a state before the age of 13 in order to be eligible for that state – which is interesting is the way it surprised everyone.
Have you ever known rugby league to keep a secret like that right up until it was announced?
Once again, the commission has shown some grace by conducting its investigations, taking recommendations, and handing down decisions away from the glare of the media and the confusion of incremental leaks.
As Discord has said before, this sort united, organised behaviour is bad for beat reporters like us but good for the game.
OK, a few questions thrown up by the ruling.
1)Can Greg Inglis still have his offspring born in Queensland and qualify for the Maroons if that child continues to live south of the border?
The question of what constitutes “living” in a state has not be explained. If you get straight out of hospital after being welcomed into the world and are then whisked to another state, who do you play for?
(NB: As a reader pointed out, Greg Inglis is a bad example for this question as due to the father-and-son rule, his son will automatically be eligible for Queensland)
2)What happens to players raised in other Australian states?
This is NOT a problem, in my view. If you were raised in Western Australia or Northern Territory, why SHOULD you play for NSW or Queensland? Wouldn’t it be great to see those states play curtain-raisers to Origin with NRL players involved? NSW and Queensland nicking those players previously was unseemly and destructive.
3)Will clubs steal Kiwi players under the age of 12?
New Zealand high performance manager Tony Kemp seems to think so but there appears to be a misapprehension across the Tasman that the clubs work for NSW and Queensland. They do not. Club recruiters work for their clubs and there is no reason they will start signing tiny kids to help State Of Origin teams. If clubs don’t sign 11-year-olds from New Zealand now, these new rules provide absolutely no incentive for them to start.
4)Can players represent an Australian state and a foreign country in the same year?
Sadly, the answer still appears to be ‘no’. What the ruling has done is ease the problem which caused us to back that change. It would have been nice – but for the time being this regulation will slow the terrible trend of players who go to Australia purely to play professional rugby league then representing Australia. That was hurting the game and now won’t happen as often. If you move with your family for economic reasons at a young age, you can play for Origin. If you go because an NRL club offered you a contract, you represent where you come from. There’s beauty in it….
5)Does the rule apply to Australia?
OK, you still have to be eligible to play for Australia if you want to take part in Origin. But what if you moved here AFTER the age of 13 and still want to represent Australia? Will you be eligible? Certainly, on residency grounds, you will be. That rule applies equally to all countries. So we’ll have the completely new situation of men turning out in green and gold who are unable to ever play Origin! The first man to do this will be one helluva player, though..
6)So, can Feleti Mateo, Akuila Uate, Jarryd Hayne and Tariq Sims go back to representing other countries at the World Cup if they miss out on Australian selection?
They haven’t told us yet. Please let us know. And please let the answer be “yes”.
DISCORD also likes – and campaigned in our own small way for – the abolition of Benefit Of The Doubt.
But how about what they’ve replaced it with?
If a referee makes a series of try calls on the field which are subsequently over-ruled by the video ref, but is otherwise officiating well, is having a shocker – even though no mistakes have actually been made – or are we supposed to overlook it?
Will it count against him in appointments? Will it dent his confidence to “go public” with his opinion only to be over-ruled repeatedly?
Personally, I believe the more up-front and transparent we are at all stages of the decision-making process, the better.
But these are all issues worth considering.
ON the shoulder charge, my understanding is that very little will actually change next season – in what will be seen by many as a softening of a stance that was unwelcome in many areas.
As long as the arm is out and not tucked in, all the same hits will occur. It’s like challenging a kicker. If you get there too late or don’t wrap your arms around him, you’re in trouble but people still do it.
Sonny, just remember to have your arm out when you smash blokes and you’re sweet.
Also, unless there is high contact, the incidents will not even be reviewed on Monday.
LAST week’s column appeared in, at last count, three forms so I understand it was hard for you to leave comments. You can find an unedited version of it over at stevemascord.com.