1. STATE OF CHAOS
THE ARLC probably doesn’t appreciate what a challenge it faces as it prepares to take control of its first State Of Origin series. We use the term “take control” advisedly – because for 33 years, Origin has been uncontrollable. It’s been run by the teams in it. We’ve had ‘TBA’ picked on the wing, players snuck back into the country from England, eligibility rules stretched to breaking point and until recently, the competing teams pick the referees. Last week NSW took a player away from his club for two days only to tell him he wasn’t required. Expect Queensland to do it for game two. It used to be said State teams could not be fined because it was just the ARL fining itself. Hopefully that’s changed and Origin will cease being a law unto itself.
2. KING IN NO HURRY TO ABDICATE
KUDOS to North Queensland coach Neil Henry for agreeing to do pre-match interviews and happily fielding questions regarding his job being in jeopardy. Henry told the ABC and Triple M yesterday he did not believe his position was as precarious as presented. From experience, periods like two weeks “to prove yourself” are not plucked from thin air. Henry is an impressive operator and is showing plenty of grace in a difficult situation. Punting someone a matter of weeks after granting them a contract extension is an extraordinary measure. The Cowboys should be absolutely sure whoever they get to replace Henry is better – and I’m not sure there’s anyone out there right now who fits that description.
3. ORIGINAL SINS
THERE’S nothing like a flu scare to tell us Origin is here. Yesterday Johnathan Thurston missed training with the dreaded lurgy and reporters around NSW and Queensland relaxed in the knowledge everything is right with the universe. Here’s some other things we need to feel completely at ease: 1. A meeting with the referees, preferably to which only one team was invited; 2. Someone being “targeted”. Surely that can’t be far away. 3. An eligibility row. Maybe Josh Reynolds is actually Somalian? One year I struggled so much for a preview angle I had to reluctantly settle for the flu angle to lead the back page. When I woke up on game day with a terrible hangover and the poor blighter had been ruled out, it was as if I had won lotto.
4. THE SILENT … MAJORITY?
I’M willing to wager (not with you, Tom) there is a large body of readers out there today which feels completely disenfranchised by some recent developments in rugby league. There are those who would regard the kerfuffle over alleged racism at a Manly board meeting, the suspension of radio caller David Morrow and even the carefully on-message commentary about Raelene Castle’s appointment at Canterbury as “political correctness gone mad”. But they say that at the bottom of this column online, they’ll be shouted down. These people are right to argue what you think and do count at least as much as what you say. But sexist and racist language has to be weeded out of rugby league because even if those who use it aren’t sexist or racist, it encourages others to be – and in football clubs, 17-year-olds slavishly model themselves on men 15 years their senior, perpetuating attitudes which die more quickly in other workplaces.
5. VALE SOPHIA GALLICO
IT was touching to see the South Sydney Rabbitohs form a guard of honour for their mascot, Charlie Gallico, on Saturday night. Charlie lost his wife Sofia to a heart attack last Monday. At fulltime in the win over Newcastle, Charlie was chaired from the field by some players and he later celebrated in the sheds by singing the team song with the boys. But they put a towel over the dressingroom camera though – so the kiddies didn’t see Reggie The Rabbit with his head off! The condolences of everyone in the rugby league media are with you Charlie. Players, officials and coaches come and go in football clubs – it’s people like Charlie and Sofia that really give a place its culture. That word has been cheapened recently actually – much better to refer to it as Jack Gibson did – “the woodwork”.
6. MEN OF THE WORLD
IT was a big weekend for two of the game’s developing countries. Josh Mantellato, 26, has played four games for Italy and helped them qualify for the World Cup. But he had not played first grade until Newcastle’s clash with South Sydney. So when suffered a suspected broken rib with 10 minutes remaining, he stayed out there. Shane Gray served a Clenbuterol drugs suspension between 2009 and 2011. He made his debut for Gold Coast yesterday and in October hopes to join Matt Srama, Kevin Gordon and Andrew Everingham in the Philippines side that will host a triangular tournament with Japan and Thailand.
Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD