BONDI BEAT: October 2012

By STEVE MASCORD

TWO decisions in the past month have the capacity to be very good for rugby league players but extremely challenging for the game in England.

The first of these is somewhat self-explanatory, even though you may not have actually had a think about it yet. The NRL’s new A$1.025 billion TV deal is set to result in a $6 million salary cap for all clubs, straight off the bat plus a host of other benefits for players including a hand-out straight from headquarters.

We are already seeing the trickle of players from Super League to Australasia become a healthy little creek. It may not be long until we are confronted with roaring rapids.

The old flow in the other direction has already stopped to such an extent that the current world champions signed Mitch Achurch, a fringe first grader from Penrith, to a four-year contract. There must be a real fear that Super League will become a finishing school for the NRL and be denuded of its biggest stars over the next five years.

At least that will keep them in rugby league. It may even poke those Leeds businessmen who were discussing a team in the NRL a couple of years back to actually do something.

The second threat is a little more shadowy, a little more vague and relies on some guesswork.

One of the main reasons the United States v Melbourne game on October 20 was called off recently was the breakdown in the relationship between Grand Prix Sports – the big American corporation that has been talking about taking the World Club Challenge to Los Angeles – and the American National Rugby League.

A former Grand Prix employee went out on her own to attempt to promote the game but the Storm set a deadline for financial guarantees that the Americans could not meet (the Americans will play Queensland Indigenous on October 27. The mooted tour of France is also off).

Why did the AMNRL and Grand Prix Sports fall out? Bondi Beat is told the company was keen to get things done regardless of the consequences. They gave the impression they believed they could stage rugby league events whether they were sanctioned by the applicable governing bodies or not.

I stress that was a perception by those involved in the negotiations – who knows if it’s a reality. But the working group planning the future of the WCC has also snubbed Grand Prix, discounting Los Angeles as a venue and questioning the seriousness of the group’s interest.

So, if these yanks wanted to just come and poach some of our players without asking nicely, there is now precious little we can do to stop them since the lines of communication are well and truly down. Looking right or left from England, the forecast looks a little gloomy.

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IT seems the Four Nations are here to stay, if the new NRL TV deal is any indication.

Bondi Beat hears that on his recent visit to these shores, Rugby Football League chief executive Nigel Wood – at the very least – discussed the idea of tours replacing the all-in tournament which was first mooted by Maurice Lindsay back in 1995.

There is a push to have a revived tour at the end of 2014 – the exact slot in which the clubs want to stage their extended World Club Challenge at a neutral venue. Expect some conflict there – particularly since there is presumable now pressure to hold a Four Nations at the same time!

Anyways …. the NRL TV deal specifically mentions a Four Nations. Why is the ARL Commission selling a property that should be the domain of the RLIF? Good point….

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BACK when I worked for the daily press on a fulltime basis, I was always frightened that my interests in the less mainstream aspects of our game would bring me undone.

I was once called on the way back from a World Cup qualifier at Penrith to check in on presentation night at Wests Tigers, where some drunken atrocity was rumoured to have occurred. I always felt I would get more respect from my editors in the event of being uncontactable if I was asleep in a pub rather than at a far-flung rugby league game contested by “Nevilles”.

Just was well I don’t still work for the papers.

On the day I set off for Wembley in August, the NRL signed its new A$1.025 billion television deal, Laurie Daley was appointed NSW coach for the next couple of years, Brian McClennan was sacked by the Warriors, Ben Hornby retired, Issac Luke was dropped and David Gallop was announced as the new chief executive of Football Federation Australia.

Back when I was at the papers, my trip would have been cancelled (or delayed) and the money may have gone down the drain. As it was, I was happy to leave it to my hard working colleagues while I decided between beef and chicken somewhere over Western Australia.

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BLUEY’ McClennan’s sacking is bad news for all Super League coaches hoping to eventually get a start in the NRL.

McClennan’s effort in ending 24 years of Australian dominance of international football is one of the coaching achievements of this generation and yet he was given just 24 games to prove he had what it takes to make it in the NRL. To say it’s a tough school is to state the bleeding obvious.

The likes of Tony Smith, Nathan Brown, Craig Sandercock, Peter Gentle and the rest will now find it so much harder to get a start back home – even though Michael Maguire has obviously made a bird of leading the rabbits. Certainly, head coaching positions for any of the above would seem unlikely and they will be forced to go through the route currently occupied by Terry Matterson and Justin Morgan – as assistants – if they want to be gainfully employed at home.

That hasn’t stopped Smith from engaging his former Illawarra team-mate David Riolo to have a look around for next year, though. Smith would relish the opportunity to replace McClennan in Auckland – far from the aggro between his brother Brian and the Sydney press – but as I said, that’s a very, very long shot.

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I RECENTLY had a long chat with Craig Gower on a sunny afternoon at Roehampton, after training.

Despite a return to rugby league which has seen victories as rare as back page appearances for our sport in the capital, Gower was a strong proponent of the quality and competitiveness of Super League. His comments about how it is run, however, were less complimentary.

“They don’t televise every game, they have in-goal touch judges like it’s back in 19 effing 80. That’s where they’re so far behind. I can’t judge who’s running the joint … but if they want the game to go ahead, they need it to be televised, every game, and have proper (video) officiating like they have for two games because I think it’s a bit unfair.”

He also said this: “Here it’s the strength factor. I don’t know what they’re … what sort of gym routines they’ve been doing but they’re very, very strong.

“Everyone. I suppose they just do a lot of gym work here…”

EVEN in this age of the worldwide interweb, occasionally morsels of relevant information go through to the proverbial keeper. England’s alleged approach to Canberra winger Sandor Earl, which we reported on last month and which England insiders deny, is one such yarn.

Another is North Queensland’s interest in Huddersfield bad boy Scott Moore. Yes, the same Scott Moore who once left the scene of a car crash wearing only his underpants.

Giant Luke O’Donnell tells a Rugby League Week gossip column : “Scott knows Terry Matterson (who is now the Cowboys’ assistant coach) pretty well and they might have what it takes to get him to that next level.”

@BondiBeat BondiBeat@hotmail.com

NB: Since this column appeared, Catalan’s Trent Robinson was appointed coach of Sydney Roosters.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD

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