IT’S a strange thing in rugby league – we laugh at things which would be a crime if they happened in the street.
Take, oh, just picking something random like …. James Graham (allegedly) biting Billy Slater’s ear in the NRL grand final. If it happened up the corner, you’d be straight in the nick for it. If it happened in the boxing ring – where events are generally considered more violent even than on our fields of play – it’s a one-year suspension and a fine with plenty of zeros on it.
But what did we get when Jammer became Jaws? Nothing but puns and frivolity.
It is appropriate to call judicial proceedings a “hearing”? Has rugby league hit a new lobe? He’ll bite your ear off on the field but won’t talk to the media afterwards. He’s the only Bulldog who tasted premiership success. Slater is now in Canterbury’s Book Of Foods.
Biting someone’s ear in most settings is an act of brutality. In rugby league, it fuels jokes. The same goes for many other things. See six men brawling in the street and you’ll be appalled. See it on the rugby league field and you’ll probably cheer.
Broken legs and shredded cruciates don’t exactly prompt Mexican waves but they’re viewed far more seriously in the great majority of real estate that is not a rugby league field. Concussion, on the other hand, is seen as either a triumph of one man over another or a slapstick sideshow.
It’s worth reminding ourselves every now and then that we watch a sport that is not only athletic and demanding but often brutal, violent and desensitising. Got that? Inhale it, mull it over. Still like rugby league, then? OK, I’ll continue.
No-one was seriously hurt in the alleged James Graham offence and it gave rise to some great puns. Puns are infinitely better for the soul and mind than punting, which is endlessly promoted during Australian sporting contests on television these days.
IN this column we have suggested before that teams frustrated with the wait to join the NRL should apply for a Super League franchise.
Well, during one of those late nights that grand final week demands of us – with Andrew Johns named as the eighth Immortal at the Men of League dinner which followed the grand final breakfast but came before the Carbine Club lunch, I was assured the idea had actually been discussed at a West Australian Rugby League board meeting.
More information as it comes to hand….
THE ‘Autumn Internationals’ (a confusing name for us, given it is spring here) are even more anonymous in Australia than they are in your part of the world.
But one group of people all too aware that they are on is NRL clubs with English players. Jack Reed is out with shoulder surgery, Chris Heighington’s new club – Cronulla – is not expected to be thrilled about releasing him and if Sam Burgess had not wanted to go to South Africa and on home, you can bet South Sydney would have supported him in staying on the beach.
“I’m not even thinking about it,” was the comment of Melbourne’s Gareth Widdop when we asked him about journey from the rarified atmosphere of a premiership to the high altitudes of South Africa.
And James Graham? Well, this is how the suspension system works for international football in the NRL.
If the ban is longer than the upcoming series, then the games in that series cannot be included in a suspension. If the ban is shorter than the series or tournament, then the suspension can be included. If the suspension is only one game shorter than the international competition, the chairman gets to use his discretion as to whether the ban is served in the tournament or in next year’s club competition.
Stand alone internationals cannot be placed against suspensions in any circumstance. We spend a lot of time criticising officials in columns like this but that’s one rule that we think they’ve just about got right.
THREE years ago, when Melbourne won a premiership they were subsequently not permitted to keep, I was typing happily away in the press box some time after 10pm when I spied the entire squad, in their suits, taking the Telstra trophy out to halfway at ANZ Stadium.
They stood around, took turns at talking to the group, sung the team song and then splashed beer everywhere.
The Storm did it again this year too. Last August, with Michael Maguire, Ryan Hoffman, Brett Finch and Jeff Lima bringing the tradition with them to Wigan, it happened again at Wembley.
But this year when Warrington attempted a re-enactment, stewards stopped them. They had to make do with sitting in the stands.
There was a nice touch to the ritual after the NRL grand final this year when Channel Seven cameraman Greg Parker was approached by a Melbourne official as he shot events from above the tunnel. I thought he was going to be stopped from filming.
Instead, he was handed a beer.
SPORTS editors will always tell you that players visiting hospitals are not a story while players putting members of the public in hospital invariably are.
But you have to feel sorry for officials that this next bit of news has been so sparingly reported that even you, rugby league anorak, are likely to have not heard about it.
The Australian Rugby League Commission won world governing body of the year in London during July from the International Beyond Sport Federation for its community engagement policies. That’s pretty major. They had the OneCommunity Awards in grand final week in Sydney, which is actually held on the same scale as the Dally Ms
Johnathan Thurston won the player award and another winner, James Sullivan from WA, flew into ANZ Stadium on a Black Hawk helicopter on grand final day with the NRL trophy.
SINCE we last broke bread, Brian Smith and Tim Sheens have joined Stephen Kearney and Brian McClennan in being given the bum’s rush.
I have a theory regarding how teams perform when their master has moved on. In the case of unsuccessful coaches, like Kearney, they improve to impress the new man. In the case of successful men, like Nathan Brown and Trent Robinson, they drop their bundle.
The Warriors, however, stayed pretty poor. There are suggestions they are holding out for Craig Bellamy.
There’s usually too much fixture news in this column. This month I have very little. The World Club Challenge is on in England on February 16. The All Stars game is in Brisbane a week earlier. Manly may be playing Canberra in China some time around then, too.
Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD