THE JOY OF SIX: Round Eight



HAVING circled the wagons in recent weeks, the NRL is now going to be expected to work for the Indians. ASADA’s decision yesterday would appear to mean the evidence you have already heard regarding alleged performance enhancing drug offences, at Cronulla in particular, will be used by the anti-doping authority in requests that the League issues infractions against players. It’s hard to imagine the League refusing to issue the infraction notices. But this is going to get messy. If ASADA is not happy with the stance taken by the NRL, it can ask the Federal and State governments to suspend the sport’s funding and it can also request WADA to kick Australia out of the World Cup for non-compliance. Imagine the pressure the NRL’s doping judiciary will be under when players appear, along with the publicity, with all that at stake. “Circus” doesn’t begin to sum it up.


THIS correspondent suggested somewhat playfully a few weeks ago that the honeymoon period of referees coach Daniel Anderson was over. But now, it’s serious. Both teams at Skilled Park yesterday complained about calls and many of the other matches at the weekend had flashpoints associated with officiating. What are we to make of all this? We wanted ex-players in the box and we got them. We wanted discretion on obstruction calls and we got it. Yet most people think both of these innovations still gave us an incorrect call on William Zillman. Perhaps rugby league is just TOO flexible in comparison to other sports, who have to put major rule and interpretation changes to an international body which employs painstakingly slow beurocratic decision-making. Maybe we should all go back to playing the same game – from Balmain to Belgrade – and only the really worthwhile changes will ever make it into practice.


WAS anyone really outraged by the kick-off of Gold Coast-St George Illawarra yesterday being delayed nine minutes so Phil Gould and Ray Warren could make to the stadium? Television funds our game and kick-offs are delayed for a variety of reasons each week. In any case, David Gallop leaving his passport at home and being allowed to travel to New Zealand without it so he could open the new grandstand at Mt Smart Stadium will take some beating. But Set Of Six would like to suggest Nine give something back. Let clubs broadcast their pre-match build-ups on the internet, allowing fans the chance to obsess over their favourite team from afar. At the moment, no footage including the playing surface or inside of the stadium can be broadcast by non-rights holders – even by the clubs who are playing.


A PUNCH in the head is now a send off in English rugby league. In the Challenge Cup tie between Huddersfield and Leeds, Giant Joe Wardle threw a couple at Rhino Carl Ablett and out came the red card. Brisbane’s Josh McGuire should be grateful the same is not the case here. Upset at high challenge by Parramatta’s Mitchell Allgood on Bronco Peter Wallace, the Samoan international threw a couple of haymakers on Saturday night before the Eel finally responded. McGuire got a spell in the sin bin but it’s hard to see why Allgood joined him. Not many people would cop two punches and not bother to defend themselves. “Our halfback got hit and things happen,” McGuire said. “There’s no hard feelings. I’m sure he (Allgood) is OK about it too.” The way the Parramatta forward was mouthing off to McGuire after being given his marching orders, it’s just as well they were kept apart.


WHAT, then, can we learn from the 30,112 who went to a game in Wellington at the weekend compared with the 15,972, 9858 and 11,005 in Sydney? Perhaps that despite ASADA and other negativity, there are still places where the NRL is sexy. Back in the late eighties, the Winfield Cup was so popular in New Zealand that you could buy Mal Meninga-endorsed underpants. Yet we had to wait around to get an entire club of the ground to capitalise on this. Let’s not make the same mistake again. The NRL should identify 16 areas it wants to hit and require every club to shift one home game a year, independent of their own arrangements. At the moment, moving one game could cost a club $700,000 if sponsors and members ask for one-twelfth of their money back.


TWO very different issues regarding the ASADA investigation are being confused in some quarters. One is the rights and wrongs of the Jon Mannah story and another is the NRL and its clubs standing up to News Limited. You can say all you like about whether the players and clubs SHOULD have been upset about the story. Some may even admit now to have been over-emotional initially. The yarn led to Stephen Dank admitting he offered Mannah peptides, something is unlikely to have emerged had it never appeared. More important information emerged in a thorough story yesterday. But the fact is, they WERE upset and the relationship between the NRL and its former owner has altered as a direct result. Even messengers can unwittingly shoot other messengers if they’re not careful.


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