BONDI BEAT: May 2013

Rugby League World May 2013By STEVE MASCORD

IT’S a simple question which could do with answering: if a player represents New South Wales or Queensland this year but misses out on the Australian team, can he represent another country at the World Cup?

The absence of qualifiers for all but two countries involved in RLWC13 has allowed a large body of NRL stars to hedge their bets.

When Reece Robinson, a lightning quick Canberra winger or fullback who has represented the Australian Indigenous side and Lebanon, was asked after a recent game who he was eligible for, he responded: “Whoever picks me”.

So we called the NRL and put the question to them. Here’s what they said.

“You can change your eligibility once in a two year period,” a spokesman told Bondi Beat. “So if Willie Mason plays for NSW but missed out on the Australian side, he can switch to Tonga.

“But Feleti Mateo cannot switch back to Tonga because he changed his eligibility to Australian last year.”

Of course, in 2008 – the year of the previous World Cup – Mateo was given special dispensation to represent City against Country and still turn out for the Tongans.

And how about this one: Anthony Minichiello represented NSW in 2011, helped Italy qualify for the World Cup later that year, and was considered by the Blues again in 2012!

At the risk of sounding like a standup comic…. what’s up with that?

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YOU might think you’ve caught up with us by banning the shoulder charge. You might even be considering two referees and a video ref at every game.

But this year the NRL is determined to go to further extravagant lengths to make sure it remains rugby league’s formula one to everyone else’s hillside gokart racing.

And guess what they’ve introduced to stay ahead of you? TWO video refs! Yes, that’s right, former St Helens coach Daniel Anderson has used his company credit card to purchase eight plastic extra plastic seats to be used in a cramped box each weekend.

And he is filling the seats with men you might regard as familiar: ex-Hull KR coach Justin Morgan and former Salford fullback Luke Patten are among the ex-players who have been recruited.

The problem is that in the big area where they can help most – the obstruction rule – they are somewhat hamstrung.

The interpretation this year in the NRL is that if any decoy runner initiates contact with a defender the ensuing try is disallowed.

This reached a ridiculous stage in round three, when Cooper Cronk scored 14.2 metres away from the collision, which had no influence on the try, and it was still chalked up.

On that night, there was no ex-player in the box. One suspects if there had been, Patten or Morgan would have grabbed their companion by the scruff of the NRL polo and shouted “THAT’S A TRY GODAMN IT!”

And they would have been ignored. Which raises the question of why ex-players were put there in the first place.”

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LAST month, we brought you news of a suggestion from the Melbourne Storm football manager, Frank Ponissi, that a fully-fledged NRL game be played in England the week after the World Club Challenge.

Bondi Beat is hearing that this may not be as far-fetched as it seems.

Before the WCC is used to promote rugby league in complete new areas, like Dubai and Hong Kong, wouldn’t it be good if it became a tool to give our game a kick-along in areas where it is needed?

Say, a one-off in Perth next year and then the second and third-placed NRL teams squaring off in exhibition games in Europe as part of their WCC tour in 2015?

Watch this space.

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THE world of radio coverage in the NRL this year is very confusing indeed.

There’s a third big player in the market, the FM rock network Triple M. They rights were unresolved a matter of days before the competition started, with traditional Brisbane AM broadcaster 4BC cutting their ties with Sydney’s 2GB (home of Ray Hadley) as part of a hard-ball bargaining tactic.

It backfired when 4BC missed out on the rights and now have no rugby league.

Triple M got Brisbane Broncos games as a result – but on weekends where they would have got the Broncos anyway, they get an extra game, usually on a Saturday night.

Are you following all this?

So, on Friday nights where there are two games, 2GB and ABC broadcast games only into the market where they are being shown live on TV.

If that market is Brisbane, Triple M also have the rights.

On Saturdays, ABC and 2GB cover two games. On Sunday, ABC does two or three games while Triple M gets the game that kicks off at 3pm Sydney time and 2GB gets the one that’s on at two.

Mondays are now covered by Triple M and ABC. All that doesn’t include local deals that affect Townsville, Canberra, the Gold Coast, Newcastle and Wollongong.

And to further confuse things, Fox Sports are now sharing on air talent with terrestrial broadcaster Nine, meaning the likes of Peter Sterling appear on both channels.

That led to the demise – under new Fox producer Gary Burns – of the likes of former New Zealand captain Gary Freeman while commentator Mark Braybrook has been demoted to the Under 20s Holden Cup.

HE’S been lost in all the Burgess-mania but young Daniel Smith – a former Leeds Academy forward – is making a big impression in South Sydney’s Under 20s team.

Smith made the big move at the start of the year and is proof that the player drain from England will suck up younger and younger players if the exchange rate stays the way it is.

Meanwhile, news that Gold Coast were sniffing around Sam Tomkins recently would have dismayed one person above all.

Matty Russell joined the Titans because Tomkins was ahead of him at Wigan.

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AFTER flurry of publicity, news on the Auckland Nines which allegedly will kick off next season has gone all quiet.

The main attraction of the idea, of course, was cash. Former Kiwis back rower Dean Lonergan was involved in a consortium willing to put up A$2.2 million for the tournament, which was pencilled in for Eden Park involving every NRL club.

Interestingly, Cronulla was one of the clubs to vote against the idea. Because they don’t have a chief executive, only a football manager, their vote was on behalf of their football department only!

I don’t know many NRL coaches who would choose to take part in a pre-season Nines tournament. I don’t know many clubs who would choose not to earn almost as much in a weekend as you get for winning the premiership.

Bondi Beat believes we, as a sport, should get something out of the Nines except cash. That’s why we want it to include – not clubs, but – the north and south islands of New Zealand and every Australian state and territory.

What a great marketing tool for our game on the eve of the new season than to have the likes of Ben Barba playing for the Northern Territory, Timana Tahu for Victoria, Joel Reddy for South Australia and Bronx Goodwin for Western Australia on the even of the new season?

And the presence of Mal Meninga and Laurie Daley in Auckland with their NSW and Queensland squads would still give the even the glamour factor.

Plus… a team of Tasmanian amateurs playing NSW in a game that’s 15 minutes a half? That’s more in keeping with the spirit of sevens and nines than Canterbury playing Wests Tigers, isn’t it?

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD

1 Comment

  1. Steve I think that if a player is not picked for australia then they should be free to play for another country in a World Cup year .. I think that this 2 year rule is stupid and unnecessarily confusing .. People forget that the rugby league world cup is much older than the rugby World Cup , and it always will work better the more NRL players are involved.

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