MELBOURNE Storm’s new chief executive has completed a due diligence trip to the Victorian capital and flew back to London via Abu Dhabi on the eve of the home match against Canberra
Fairfax Media spoke very briefly with Mark Evans, the former chief executive of rugby union clubs Harlequins and Saracens who is now running the sports promotions company helping sell the Rugby League World Cup semi-final double-header at Wembley on November 23.
“Can I ring you when I get to London?” Evans said when contacted. “We’re just about to take off and I’ve got to turn my phone off in about two minutes.”
Although until recently the boss of rugby union’s most tradition clubs, Evans has always professed a taste for the other code and was responsible for London Broncos changing their name to Harlequins RL from 2006 and 2011.
The Broncos and Harlequins share Twickenham’s Stoop stadium and some facilities. Evans is the preferred CEO of a UK-based consortium seeking to buy the NRL and world champions from News Limited.
He’s acting as a consultant for the semi-final double-header dubbed The Big Hit, which recently conducted a high profile launch featuring London mayor Boris Johnson.
In other news, the Storm have dismissed reports late yesterday that they may make a play for off-contract Cronulla, NSW and Australia star Todd Carney.
“We’d love to have him but there is no way in the world we can afford to have him on our list next year,” said football manager Frank Ponissi.
“I’ve not spoken to Todd or his manager.”
Raiders halfback Josh McCrone had been troubled by a groin injury but trained strongly yesterday and will play.
Jarrad Kennedy and Shaun Berrigan did not travel, with Glenn Buttriss coming into the side as 18th man.
Ponissi said he expected Kenny Bromwich to drop off a five-man reserves list. Canberra won the corresponding game last year, 40-12
“They obviously enjoy playing us,” halfback Cooper Cronk told reporters yesterday. Discussing the nine-day break since the Storm’s previous game, he said: “History shows we’re not very good off long breaks.”
Cronks said he welcomed the return of captain Terry Campese to the Raiders’ starting side.
“He’s obviously had a very hard time of it and I wish him all the best,” Cronk said in relation to former Australia five-eighth Campese’s run of serious injury over the past three seasons.
“Hopefully he plays injury free, plays consistently well for Canberra – but not tomorrow night.
“He’s the captain of their football team and the heart of what they do.”
A win would make Melbourne only the fifth club in the history of the premiership, dating back to 1908, to win 16 consecutive games.
Earlier, coach Craig Bellamy said of the club’s recent record against his former team: “We certainly did get towelled up.
“We played really poorly but having said that, the Raiders played well and they beat us down here the year before as well.
“That hasn’t happened to us very often, I must say: sides beating us down here two years in a row. They’re a good side, they’re a big physical side.
“They probably didn’t play the way they’d like to (against North Queensland) but I think – quite eerily – last year they played the Cowboys in Townsville the week before they came down here.
“They got a touch-up then and they came down here and touched us up. Hopefully we can change history this year.”
Teams for the match, which kicks off at 5.35pm at AAMI Park, are:
MELBOURNE: Billy Slater; Sisa Waqa, Will Chambers, Justin O’Neill, Mahe Fonua; Gareth Widdop, Cooper Cronk; Tohu Harris, Ryan Hoffman, Kevin Proctor, Bryan Norrie, Cameron Smith (c), Jesse Bromwich. Res: Jason Ryles, Junior Moors, Slade Griffin, Lagi Setu, Kenny Bromwich (one to be omitted)
CANBERRA: Reece Robinson; Sandor Earl, Jack Wighton, Blake Ferguson, Edrick Lee; Terry Campese (c), Josh McCrone; Shaun Fensom, Jake Foster, Joel Edwards, Brett White, Matt Mcillwrick, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs. Res: Anthony Milford, Joe Picker, Dane Tilse, Paul Vaughan, Glen Buttriss (one to be omitted)
Referees: Ashley Klein/Phil Haines.
Filed for: THE AGE