THE JOY OF SIX: Pre-season

The Joy Of Six

AT 24-4 at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night, plans for a six-team World Club Challenge next year were looking somewhat dodgy. South Sydney and Brisbane have already told English officials they are interested in being the second and third teams in the mini-tournament next February if neither of them win the NRL this season. Whichever finishes higher will play the second-placed Super League team on a Saturday and the other will play the no.3 SL side on Friday, with the WCC proper on Sunday. Huge gate receipts are anticipated, although the games cannot yet be sold as a separate television property. The previous week, the plan is for Brisbane and Souths to meet in an exhibition game in London while the premiers play Catalan in Perpignan. Of course, a fixture squeeze involving the Allstars and Nines could ruin all these plans – but so would have 50-0 at the weekend.

ONE of the most noteable aspects of the WCC from the sidelines was the ill-tempered display of Sydney Roosters lock Frank Paul Nuuausala. FPN had plenty to say – he especially enjoyed riling Michael McIllorum – and at one stage was cautioned for by referee Gerard Sutton for abusing Wigan players as they stood in their own in-goal. Jared Waerea-Hargrweaves – who managed extreme aggression minus the compulsion to verbalise it, told MMM: “It’s not English, definitely not English. He’s got his own fresh language going. I don’t even think the Wigan boys understood what he was saying.” All jokes aside, the feistiness could be a chink in the Roosters’ armour as the season unfolds.

PREVIOUS NRL administrators have looked into the ideas of the Magic Weekend and deduced that few of the advantages it affords Super League apply in the southern hemisphere. The Magic Weekend gets an entire round on the television for the only time in the Super League season – not an issue in the NRL. The crowd attracted over the weekend is often more than the round would get at separate venues – not likely here. Far from being an unqualified success, the concept was on death’s door until it returned to the heartland of Manchester two years ago. For the NRL, a big fat cheque frome the host city and/or venue would seem to be the big advantage. Having said all that, Joy Of Six likes the idea.

IF the Rugby Football League and Australian Rugby Union continue to plot playing each other at Wembley, they are likely to unsettle quite a few NRL clubs. It goes without saying that the Burgess brothers, Gareth Widdop and James Graham won’t be released from their clubs. If they are then denied huge match payments, they’ll likely become disgruntled. This will encourage players to sign short-term contracts, which in turn will help entrepreneurs staging off-season events. As Discord wrote last week, the result could be the current governing bodies in both rugby codes being severely undermined.

TRENT Robinson’s broader point on Saturday night – aside from supporting the WCC expansion outlined above and criticising the NRL for not promoting this year’s match – was that the pre-season is being completely wasted commercially. Last week, Sonny Bill Williams played in front of a crowd on the Central Coast that got in for free. The fact is, someone would like to televise every one of these games, someone would like to sponsor them and someone would like to call them on radio. But there is so little groundwork being done on the pre-season that there wasn’t even a match programme printed for the WCC – unthinkable for British fans who even have programme collecting societies. Yes, I was once in one of them.

SAM Tomkins may not qualify for some rookie of the year awards – but he’ll win those he is eligible for based on the couple of glimpses we’ve already had of him. In fact, if you can still bet on the Dally Ms, he’d be worth a flutter to win the thing outright given what are no doubt generous odds right now. It’s safe to say he was feeling better about his weekend than Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin and St George Illawarra’s Steve Price, who were already said to be under pressure and whose sides were comprehensively beaten. Speaking of rookies, a group of listeners were last night allowed to call the Melbourne-Canterbury game on radio after winning a contest. Let’s hope the trend doesn’t spread to newspapers.


1 Comment

  1. I think the 9s have shown us that there is an appetite for a well promoted and marketed pre-season tournament. I also think there is room for an expanded world club challenge provided it is expanded incrementally. One lopsided result shouldn’t sound the death knell for the concept though. Especially given Superleague is winning the head to head 12-10. It reminds me of when NSW wins consecutive series in Origin. The newspapers start to say that the concept is dead. Not so in QLD. Eight in a row and the whole State can’t wait until the next one starts. Very different psyche.

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