FAR & WIDE: #3 2017

Far & WideBy STEVE MASCORD

THE kerfuffle caused by colleague Robert Burgin’s RLW piece a couple of weeks ago is still rumbling on.

So far, the mooted rebellion of a dozen countries from the RLIF’s rule is still very much underground. There is still at least some possibility many countries will accept the offer of a fully funded tournament next year.

The way Far & Wide sees it, there is a very important line to be drawn.

I openly opposed, for instance, Penrith and Brisbane playing a game in Hawaii two years ago. My reasons were this: NRL players had demanded that spring off and Great Britain had therefore been told to stay home. Also, to be honest I was not sure NRL players on an end-of-season trip could be trusted to do more good than harm in a new territory.

But the main concern was this: expansion is too important to be done on an ad-hoc basis. It’s OK for soccer clubs to organise their pre-season and end-of-season games because soccer is widely played internationally.

Rugby league still is not.

International expansion should be part of an over-all strategy, not done in a piecemeal fashion by the competing teams – and in that respect alone I have sympathy for the RLIF in the decision not to allow Emerging Nations games to go ahead.

The games were initially intended to be curtain-raisers but would the teams involved have actually have fielded true national sides? I doubt every player would have satisfied the grandparent rule and I doubt the best players would have been available. And it was not the best countries; some of them do not have the required domestic activity to be in the World Cup qualifiers and others do.

But the RLIF did not block the tournament because of these concerns. The countries weren’t asked to stop calling the matches a “championship”. It was blocked because the World Cup asked for it to be blocked, citing exclusivity clauses.

The countries involved were allowed to continue planning for several months only to have those plans blocked. That’s why they’re angry. And they are justified in that.

Far & Wide would like to see any replacement tournament next year built into a proper structure. Perhaps a country without the proper bonafides could win a wildcard into the next World Cup qualification (although once there they would have to meet all requirements regarding the team they field).

I know that’s what the RLIF want. Let’s try to make a silk purse out of this sow’s ear.
World Cup ebay

FAR & WIDE: #2 2017

Far & WideBy STEVE MASCORD

FAR & WIDE’s favourite club, the Toronto Wolfpack, will make their full competitive debut this weekend in the Challenge Cup.
We thought we’d be waiting until March 4 when they take their National League One bow against London Skolars at New River Stadium but now we don’t have to wait that long.
The BBC will live stream the Challenge Cup third round tie against Halifax amateur side Siddal.
Siddal is only about six kilometres from the Wolfpack’s UK base at Brighouse. The match will be shown on the BBC website at 1pm UK time on Saturday.
The Challenge Cup is, of course, rugby league’s most famous knock-out competition and a good Cup run could see the ‘pack take on Super League opposition in later rounds.

IT’S a week now since colleague Robert Burgin brought you the shattering news in these pages that the planned Emerging Nations tournament to be run in conjunction with the World Cup had been blocked.
The most worrying aspect of his commendable double-paged feature from the point of view of Far & Wide is that a number of un-named countries are considering breaking away from the RLIF.
On one hand, I can feel their anger and frustration. But on the other, with rugby league so close to getting recognition from Sport Accord and the IOC, any splintering could be disastrous.
Interestingly, next year is a “rest” springtime for the NRL’s Australian players, which means the international calendar will be relatively sparse. A properly-funded Emerging Nations tournament in Australia (the RLIF have promised some money as compensation for the disaster this year) could be successful, particularly if the RLWC is a hit.
You could even make some of these games worth something – perhaps offer a wildcard entry into the qualifying series for the 2021 tournament.
Hopefully, sanity will prevail but if I had wasted all that time planning something, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and been humiliated in front of sponsors and government officials, I’d be threatening rebellion too.
Twitter @RLWfarandwide Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/RLWfarandwide
World Cup ebay

FAR & WIDE: #1 2017

Far & WideBy STEVE MASCORD

WELCOME to the most exciting season for at least four years for any Far & Wide reader – a World Cup year!
While there may be a little doom and gloom around the domestic campaigns in each hemisphere, if you’re a follower of the international scene you’ll probably have never been so positive about the sport of rugby league.
The Toronto Wolfpack make their competitive debut in Britain’s National League One on March 4, having been hugely impressive in two pre-season matches.
In December their trialists, drawn from North America and the Caribbean, beat Yorkshire amateur club Brighouse Rangers on the bell. The search for talent over the past six months was filmed by a production crew called Last Tackle and will be coming to your screens this year.
Then in January the contracted players were unfortunate not to beat Challenge Cup holders Hull at their home of KC Stadium. More about all that in the accompanying story in this edition of RLW.
But the thing we’re all really focused on is the World Cup at the end of the year. The main tournament’s going to be shown in Australia on Channel Seven and seems to be coming together well, with sponsors being announced all the time.
The side-tournaments have had it a little rougher.
The qualifying process for the Women’s World Cup was, frankly, a bit of a joke. France were kicked out for no reason and – also for no apparently reason – Canada was included. Then we had a Pacific Qualifying Tournament that was so hastily arranged that every country bar one boycotted it.
That’s except the Cook Islands, who showed up and didn’t have to play anyone to get through to the World Cup!
A group of countries who missed out on World Cup qualification, or who aren’t yet ready to take part, decided it might be a good idea to hold an Emerging Nations tournament at the same time. They were soon told there would be absolutely no funding for them.
The RLIF did, however, approve the idea – perhaps in the very reasonable expectation it would never happen because of the expense involved, what with travel, insurance and accommodation.
To everyone’s amazement, the likes of Malta and Greece got things to the point where they were ready to make an announcement. Then – nothing. Far and Wide hears that because there are so few actual World Cup games in Sydney, there is a concern that this side tournament could steal some of its thunder.
Surely they can’t be trying to “un-endorse” something that is clearly good for the game?
.
ANOTHER big milestone which seems ahead of us this year is rugby league finally being recognised by Sport Accord.
If you live in Australia this might be hard to believe but in most places on earth, rugby league is not legally a separate sport from rugby union.
This means people trying to start the game in a new place can legitimately be stood over by rugby union, with Sol Mokdad’s 13 nights in a Dubai jail a particularly disgraceful example.
League’s recognition has been delayed twice. We’re up again in April.
@RLWfarandwide
facebook.com/RLWfarandwide
World Cup ebay

FAR & WIDE: Ireland, Czech Republic, Japan, Greece, Hungary, France, Malta

Far & WideBy STEVE MASCORD
IN locations as diverse as Bray, Ireland, Prague, Czech Republic and Tokyo, Japan, our international season got underway at the weekend.
In Bray, the Irish Wolfhounds were taking on Malta and the home side ran out 56-10 winners. It was only in the dying stages they ran away with the match, however with the score 22-4 at halftime and 34-10 with 18 minutes to play.
Greece have had a tough year domestically, with the country expelled from the European Federation for a number of administrative irregularities.
But they have shown their fighting qualities with a successful visit to the Japanese capital, winning 74-0.
The game was played on an artificial surface in front of a vocal crowd of a couple of hundred. Australia-based players now proceed to Athens for a number of rugby league events.
In Prague the Czechs went down heavily to the visiting Ukraine, 64-12. The Ukraine won the earlier match 46-6, meaning they will be the side to progress in the World Cup qualifiers.
.
AN innovative series played over the weekend was the Capitals of Europe Nines in Budapest.
The tournament at Epitok Sports Field featured teams from London, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Belgrade, Paris, Vitez and Budapest.
London Warriors took out the event. Hungary are taking part in the Cabramatta Nines next year.
.
MEETINGS are continuing aimed at having Emerging Nations curtain-raisers for next year’s World Cup in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
There now appears to be an alternate plan under consideration – a seven team Emerging Nations World Cup played in western Sydney.
The matches would all be played between November 20 and 25, with venues to include Pepper Stadium and Campbelltown Stadium.
.
FORMER international Marc Palanques has joined the RLEF board as a representative of France.
Elsewhere, Wests Tigers’ Daniel Burke, alongside Jordan Grant and James Mirceski are newcomers to Serbia’s squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers – starting with this weekend’s visit to Wales.
Spain have also called up a couple of foreign-based stars, Hull’s Joel Laynez and Leandre Torres of French outfit Palau XIII.
Follow @RLWfarandwide

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

FAR & WIDE: Wales, Czech Republic, Norway, Serbia, Spain

Far & WideBy STEVE MASCORD
IN rugby league we like to do things at the last minute. It’s how we roll. But this has got to take the cake.
Jamaica are to tour the UK, playing Ireland at Bray and Wales at Wakefield. When? IN TWO WEEKS!
That’s right, an historic international tour has been announced three weeks before it commences. The games are on October 16 and October 21.
It will be the first international at Belle Vue since 1909.
.
In other international action recently, the Czech Republic beat Norway 12-6 in Krupka.
The Czechs scored unconverted tries to Petr Šedina, Petr Fanda and Jan Howard with centre Henning Jørgensen posting the visitors’ touchdown.
Meanwhile, Serbia warmed up for the coming World Cup qualifiers by beating Spain 64-4 in Valencia.
There is also an Under 21s series between Lebanon and Serbia underway, with the Cedars winning game two 22-6.
.
WELSH language TV station S4C is to show live the Dragons’ World Cup qualifier against Serbia on October 15 from Parc Stebonheath in Llanelli.
It’s the first time the national side has featured in a live broadcast on the station since the heady days of the 1995 World Cup, when their semi-final against England was played before a well-populated Old Trafford with thousands

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

FAR & WIDE: Europe, California, Women’s rugby league, Greece

Far & WideBy STEVE MASCORD
EUROPEAN Countries are getting ready for the final stage of World Cup qualifiers, with the matches played in the coming weeks.
Pool A includes Wales, Italy and Serbia while Pool B comprises Ireland, Spain and Russia. The top two in each group automatically qualifies for Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, with second in each playing off for the final berth.
The tournament kicks off on October 15 at Moscow’s Fili Stadium, when the host country takes on Spain.
Of the six teams involved, Spain and Russia would be regarded as the outsiders.
.
THE United States Rugby League is again making a push towards the Wesr Coast.
Jacksonville Axemen founder and Floridian league pioneer Daryl ‘Spinner’ Howland recently reached out to interested parties about getting a competition up and running.
He received quite a response.
It’s to be hoped those involved in California previously, such as Zane Hirtzell, Col Manners and Ben Everill can be involved.
We’ll keep you posted.
.
SINCE our last column, we had the great announcement that the Women’s World Cup would be run concurrently with the men’s tournament next year.
And while Sydney controversially missed out on most of the men’s tournament, Wooloware’s Southern Cross Stadium will host the pool matches and finals.
The final itself will be played at Suncorp Stadium on December 2, the same day as the men’s final.
It’s a feather in the cap of RLWC CEO Andrew Hill that he was able to mend bridges between the tournament organising committee and the NSW government by attracting funding.
One can only assume the bridges were burned by former boss CEO, given that the government offered the men’s tournament no funding at all.
The US is playing Canada on October 1 at Wilmington, Delaware, and F&W will be there!
.
THE RLEF is continuing to rebuild rugby league in Greece. It recently conducted match official training there, accrediting the country’s first female referee, Zoe Valassa.
@RLWfarandwide

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

FAR & WIDE: United States, Malta, Norway, Czech Republic, Jamaica, Canada, Wales, Germany, Thailand

Far & WideBy STEVE MASCORD
JACKSONVILLE Axemen have been the outstanding team of American rugby league for the last decade but they were toppled in the USARL grand final a couple of weekends back.
Northern Conference champions Philadelphia Fight took out the big one 42-20 at Boston University after eliminating the local club the previous week.
The Fight finished the season undefeated.
The US has announced a clash with Canada at Wilmington, Delaware on October 1.
.
FORMER Penrith and Celtic Crusaders star Jarrod Sammut has been named in Malta’s squad for the upcoming internationals against Ireland and Thailand.
The Ireland game is in Bray on October 8, the Thailand match in Chiang Mai on October 28. The Knights will have different coaches for each match.

NORDIC Cup winners Norway are about to put their pride on the line with an away international against the Czech Republic.
The match will take place at RLC Dragons Krupka Stadium on September 24 (4pm kick-off if you’re thinking of going.
The sides last met three years ago, with Norway winning 26-14 in Oslo.
.
JAMAICA and Canada have met in the first youth international for each team.
The Canadians won the Under 17s game 24-4 in Kingston.
.
SOUTH Wales Scorpions have been rebranded South Wales Ironmen and the club’s new CEO is a former rugby union international, Lee Byrne who wants to pilot the team into Super League.
A number of Scorpions/Ironmen players have been named in the Welsh side which is about to embark on a tour of Germany.
@RLWfarandwide

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK