By STEVE MASCORD
QUESTIONS prompted by the emergence of a photo of a woman who claimed to have been punched by Ben Barba: How was this not a cover-up, given that the highest profile NRL player at the time was suspended by his club and we weren’t told why? If this allegation was related to domestic violence, was the alleged victim protecting her own income by not reporting it to police? If Barba’s own mental state was the reason for keeping it quiet, and if he did not complete his counselling, why was he allowed to return to the field? How can the NRL employ in a senior position an official who presided over such a cover-up? How can a club which suspended its star player over an alleged assault on a woman promote the Women In League Round? Next time a player is stood down for “personal issues”, should we just assume that they are lying when they say there was no underlying incident?
CARETAKER OR UNDERTAKER?
IS there a worse gig in rugby league than that of caretaker coach? You can be rated as the next big thing but if your boss happens to get sacked and you have to fill in for him for a few weeks, chances are your career will be set back half a decade. Think Steve Georgallis, Brad Arthur, Ian Millward … and Andrew Dunemann. Dunemann’s added headache is that his a contender for the North Queensland job. The Raiders being beaten on his watch won’t help – but he could hardly say no, could he? “We’re happy with Duners,” said hat-trick centre Jarrod Croker. “We want to play for Duners. I know it didn’t look like it but we are busting our backsides for him and we wanted to come out and prove a point.” The Raiders learned of team-mate Sandor Earl’s drugs infraction notice when they touched down in Auckland on Thursday.
GREEN WITH EMPATHY
MATTHEW Elliott says it took him a long while to get over his departure from the Canberra Raiders and has sympathy for their current plight. On the same weekend when Wayne Bennett saw fit to discuss Brisbane’s proud finals record after they missed out on the play-offs for the second time in 21 years, Elliott said: “I’ve really got massive fondness for the Raiders. They gave me my first opportunity and I love the club. I’m very confident that they’ll get back on track. I didn’t always see eye-to-eye with the administrators but I know how much they care and I know how keen they are to help that team do well. Man, they’ve got some real talent. I know we’re talking about players who are leaving but I watched their under 20s game and they’ve got some good players coming through.”
X-FACTOR MEETS FLASH GORDON
‘X-FACTOR’ has become one of rugby league’s abiding clichés and while it annoys many, Gold Coast winger-cum-fullback Kevin Gordon has embraced it. Using Instagram’s new video feature, he recently mocked up a “segment” in which he was a contestant on the TV show of that name. “I’m into X-Factor this year, I’ve been watching it,’ said the Filipino international. “So I put myself in it, singing my song “get it to Gordon”. I filmed the judges (from the TV) and filmed myself, then filmed the judges and edited it together so it looked like I’m talking to the judges and the judges are talking to me.” Gordon did a variation on Michael Jackson’s one-glove routine when he played in yesterday’s win over Sydney Roosters with one shoe, because James Maloney threw one of his boots into the bay at the southern end of the ground. “Lucky I had it back. I don’t know how I would have gone off my right foot,” he said.
COUPE DE SBW?
NEW Zealand coach Stephen Kearney, speaking on Triple M on Friday night, said he still didn’t know whether Sonny Bill Williams was available for the World Cup but may have given a hint of the Sydney Rooster’s intentions by saying SBW “has a title to defend”. That’s a reference to the New Zealand heavyweight boxing title. Those who expect Williams to box instead of going to RLWC2013 expect him to aim higher than that. At the very least, it indicates the NZ title has been raised as an issue with Kearney. The Kiwis have an extended 38-man squad with which they communicate over training camps and travel arrangements. SBW and Benji Marshall remain part of that group. Kearney admits he is willing to give Williams as long as it takes to make a call.
USING YOUR HEAD
A SHOULDER charge is not a shoulder charge if you wrap your arms around your opponent – and the same seems to go for aggressive use of the head. Queensland and Gold Coast forward Nate Myles said nothing when he was criticised by NSW players for leading with his head in Origin but had plenty to say when he was struck Sunday in the melon by Sydney Rooster Sam Moa. He suffered a suspected syndesmosis of the ankle as he fell, likely ending his season. Before Moa was placed on report for a shoulder charge (the head seemed to be the initial of contact), Myles used so many expletives as he stumbled around that referee Dave Munro advised colleague Matt Cecchin to caution him. Taking pity on the badly-injured international, Cecchin let it slide.
Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD