BREAKTHROUGH FOR LEAGUE
RUGBY league is set to belatedly achieve government recognition in South Africa as soon as this week – as direct result of the country’s ambitious bid to host the 2017 World Cup. SARL official Chris Botes tells Joy of Six: “Up until two days ago, rugby league was almost in the doldrums. SARU was doing a good job of keeping it squashed down. (But) the World Cup doesn’t just involve the Department of Sport. It involves the Department of Tourism, the Department of Public Enterprise… it’s a 500 million rand event. People are saying ‘here’s a chance for South Africa to have this major event and the only reason we can’t have it is one piece of paper’. SASCOG can’t tell us why they can’t recognise (us) … having the World Cup on the table, we have forced the decision to go to parliament, to cabinet. I’m sitting down next week again with the Department of Sport. The minister for sport, I met with his deputy on Thursday. They are saying ‘yes, we want to support you’”
UPSETS: VERY, VERY UPSET
THE historical significance of wins by Italy over England and the United States over France cannot be over-stated. The first American rugby league teams was the 1953 All Stars. They played France at Parc de Princes that year, losing 31-0. The countries had not met since. The Italian team played its first match two years earlier; it had never played an international against England until the weekend. The interesting aspects of the shock results are that each victor is making its World Cup debut, each has rebel competitions at home and the selection of so many “heritage players” caused controversy in each country. But nothing succeeds like success. Even the New Zealand team that won the last World Cup including men who could be termed as “heritage players”, such as Nathan Fien and Nathan Cayless.
HAVE STEEDEN, WILL TRAVEL
WHO says you can’t see the world playing rugby league? Matt Shipway is a 29-year-old who has played for Port Macquarie, The Entrance, Macquarie Scorpions and South Newcastle. He picked up a spot in the NSW Country side that concluded a two match tour of South Africa on Friday night. But Shipway wasn’t in Brakpan with his team-mates for their 58-18 win. After playing in the 50-0 win over South African Clubs Selection on October 12, he was called up by the United States (he qualifies via his grandparents). The already well-travelled Shipway flew out of Johannesburg for Toulouse and scored a try in the boilover 22-18 win over France at Stade des Minimes, played around the same time as Country were running in 11 tries against the Rhinos.
MATT Parish has probably had better weekends. Fairfax Media revealed on Sunday he did not have a job at Parramatta next year and on Saturday his Samoan side was lapped 52-16 by England Knights, a second string England side, in the curtain raiser to the Italy game at Salford. With Roy Asotasi having missed the plane to England and subsequently withdrawing from the tournament due to family commitments and injury, the Samoans seem to be up against it. Steve Matai and Jeff Lima head the list of injury withdrawals while Roger Tuivasasa-Sheck, Frank Pritchard, Thomas Leuluai and Sonny Bill Williams are playing for the Kiwis and Josh Papalii is with Australia. Reni Maitua could end up at five-eighth. The Samoans received significant government funding before leaving for England – justifying it on the field is now the challenge.
THE venue for Saturday’s Italy win – describe by one onlie bookie as “the biggest rugby league upset ever” – couldn’t have been more fitting for the Azzurri’s coach, Carlo Napolitano. When the Italian side was revived after four decades in 1999, Napolitano was the only English-based player in the squad that played World Cup qualifiers in France. Soon after, he followed a good mate called Adrian Morley to Australia to live. How did they know each other? They were both from rough streets of Salford, where the Saturday’s game was played. A member of that 1999 side was a young Sydney Roosters winger by the name of Anthony Minichiello, Napolitano’s captain for their World Cup debut 14 years later.
COUNTRY coach David Barnhill says South Africa should be awarded the World Club Challenge as a kind of consolation prize if, as expected, they miss out on the 2017 World Cup. The Country side has been a little underwhelmed by the profile of the game here (this week’s column comes to you from Jo’burg) but overwhelmed by the facilities and hospitality. Amazingly, every member of the SA national team starting side is from the same club – Tuks – which is based at the University of Pretoria. That means the same 13 can play in their local comp, the Student World Cup and Tests! Friday’s crowd was smaller than 500. “They should give them a chance to show what they can do in organising events by playing the World Club Challenge here,” says Barnhill. “The facilities are great, it’s halfway for the teams, it’s worth a try.”
Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD