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.
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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.
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JAMAICA and Canada have met in the first youth international for each team.
The Canadians won the Under 17s game 24-4 in Kingston.
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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

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Far & Wide: Papua New Guinea, Malta, World Cup, France, United States, Canada

By STEVE MASCORD

Far & Wide

CONGRATULATIONS to Lae Tigers, who took out Papua New Guinea’s Digicel Cup with a 14-8 win over Angmark Gurias at the weekend.

The grand final was played in front of 15,000 rapturous fans at Sir John Guise Oval in Port Moresby at the weekend.
On a much sadder note, a man has died from injuries suffered when a riot broke out after the previous week’s preliminary final, won by the Gurias against Mt Hagen Eagles.
After an Eagles official punched the referee, fighting spilled into the streets. Joe Pidik was in a truck when he was hit in the head with a brick.

WHEN a group of developing league countries approached World Cup organisers recently about playing curtain-raisers during next year’s tournament, they were advised to put together a business plan.
Now, business plans don’t write themselves so the group – let by Malta – has asked for readers of this column to help out.
Far & Wide can reveals that if the curtain-raisers are played, they will have to be funded by the competing nations and will only be staged at the following venues:
* Sunday 29 October – Canberra Stadium – France vs Lebanon

* Friday 3 November – Canberra Stadium – Australia vs France

* Saturday 4 November – Sydney Football Stadium – England vs Lebanon

* Friday 10 November – Canberra Stadium – Fiji vs European Qualifier #3

* Saturday 11 November – Sydney Football Stadium – Australia vs Lebanon

If you would like to help out, go to generosity.com/sports-fundraising and type in “Emerging Nations feasibility report”.
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FRANCE are suddenly without a coach after Warrington assistant Richard Agar quit.
The change is linked to the election of Marc Palanques as president of the French Federation in July. He over from Carlos Zalduendo, who appointed Agar in February 2013.
On October 22, France will be Wayne Bennett’s first opposition as England coach when the sides meet at Parc des Sports in Avignon.
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FURTHER to our item last week about the Ohana Cup, plans for Wests Tigers to play a trial in Hawaii next year are gathering momentum.
Organiser Steve Johnson says the off-field work done by Canada, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa around the recent tournament in Honolulu was just as important as the two matches.
“Canada are moving their base somewhat from Toronto to British Columbia and are starting to look west,” said Johnson.
“This was a great opportunity for officials from the four countries to get together and talk about developing the game.”
The Hawaiian Rugby League have entered into a partnership with Wests Tigers.

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The A-List: JEREMY SMITH (Newcastle & New Zealand)

smith-jeremyBy STEVE MASCORD
IT’S the most obvious question to ask any retiring player, a clichéd query that invites a clichéd response, asked more out of obligation than anything else.
And it’s usually saved until last: “what was your career highlight?”.
Jeremy Smith, 36, has more than a few clichés from which to choose: the 2008 World Cup with New Zealand, St George Illawarra’s first premiership in 2010, a grand final success (to which there is no longer a title attached) in 2007 for Melbourne.
Adding to the odds of a response something like “that one!” is the fact that in 13 years of first grade, Jeremy Smith has not been known for outrageous utterances.
“Obviously winning comps and World Cups and Four Nations….” he begins, as he sigs on a concrete partition with A-List outside Wests Mayfield days before his final game.
“But I just think when you’re in the trenches with your mates, defending your line for set after set, the other team not scoring and then….”
He looks off into the distance, like he can actually see battles past.
“You get the ball back and you’ve gone 100 metres and scored a try. I think you take more out of those games than you do out of winning competitions.
“It’s just one of those things. You can look at your mate and your arse is hanging out and you can look at one another and give him a nod and know he was going to turn up for you.
“In tough games – that’s when you get the most joy. It might not be fun at the time, but….”
It’s a prescient metaphor for the entire 200-plus game career of Smith, which ends this weekend. It wasn’t much fun at the time – certainly not for his opponents – but it was pretty damn impressive.
It began in Melbourne – but not at the Storm. They knew nothing about him until he went to Queensland, a curiosity which will amuse cynics.
Smith recalls: “My parents up and moved us from Christchurch to Melbourne and I ended up playing for Altona Roosters down there. I was about 13 or 14.
“It wasn’t the strongest comp. I played there for a couple of years and we up and moved to the Gold Coast to play football and school as well.” There was an ill-fated stint with the Northern Eagles in there somewhere. In 2005, Smith made his debut for Melbourne.
And for a year after that … nothing.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy made it clear that this career might be over at one game, too. “I was playing reserve grade and getting suspended and (had) injuries and what-not.
“Bellyache called me into his office for one of those meetings and he said ‘you’ve got one year left on your contract and if you want to make the most of it, you’d better knuckle down’ and that’s what I did.
“I hit the ground running in the pre-season and the rest is history.”
History includes 22 Tests for New Zealand a fearsome visage at Melbourne, St George Illawarra Cronulla and Newcastle. Like Parramatta’s Beau Scott, he had a reputation as being on-field “security” for the most talented men in the game.
“I wouldn’t say look after them, as such. That’s a tough question, actually. I wouldn’t say I’m a bodyguard but I look after my mates, that’s for sure.
“If they were good enough to play first grade, they’re all equal that’s for sure.
“I definitely relied on my defence …. to be aggressive. Back then, 2006 … it was a pretty tough comp and you could be a bit more physical than what the game is now.”
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At times Smith was painted as a villain for the niggle but he’ll retire with an overwhelmingly positive legacy in the minds of most, to the thinking of this reporter. There’s no escaping, however, his proximity to two of the biggest controversies we’ve had in recent times – the Melbourne Storm salary cap scandal and the Cronulla peptides affair.
“They were fairly big deals at the time,” he nods. “Darkest day in rugby league, it got touted at one time. I wasn’t at the frontline with the boys at Cronulla, that’s for sure. I was up here in Newcastle, we didn’t really get much and Wayne protected me from the media.
“(Current Sharks players) were right there and in the thick of it and I tried to keep in touch with the boys and make sure everyone everyone was going alright, what was getting said and what was going to happen.
“With the Melbourne one, I wasn’t there either. I’d moved on. Copping a bit of backlash from it, it’s part and parcel, isn’t it? I couldn’t really do anything about it. It had already been done.
“I’m not really one to worry about too much, I’m a pretty easy going, happy-go-lucky person. Whatever is meant to be is meant to be and whatever happens will happen. It didn’t really bother me.
“… with the Cronulla … they said that we were going to have the back-dated (suspension), a little three-month stint out … we didn’t really have a leg to stand on there at one stage.
“I’m pretty comfortable with it. It’s all done and dusted now.”
Surprisingly for such a fit man, Smith detests the gym and reckons he may never set foot in one again. The game itself was hard enough and he’s suffered enough for several lifetimes. “You get out of bed and you limp around and you come to training … I’ve got a sore knee, I’ve got a sore shoulder. I probably haven’t been 100 per cent fit since the start of the year. But that’s not only me.
“It is hard, but that’s what makes you who you are, isn’t it? You want to be a tough competitor, you’ve got to put up with bumps and bruises.”
We conclude with me asking if he still actually enjoys playing rugby league. There’s a cheekiness in his answer, but more than a modicum of truth, too.
“I still enjoy playing – you just don’t get away with any more high shots.
“It is still physical. It’s just not as grubby as it used to be….
“You’re not allowed to put your hand on people’s faces for some reason … “

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

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FAR & WIDE: United States, Tonga, Fiji, Canada, Spain, Serbia, Ireland, Czech Republic

Far & WideBy STEVE MASCORD

THE 2016 Ohana Cup at Honolulu’s Aloha Stadium has been run and won, with organisers hailing the ever-expanding festival as a success.
Samoa enjoyed a big 40-6 win over Tonga while Fiji beat newcomers Canada 26-12. That was a pretty good debut for the Wolverines, considering half their side was back in Toronto playing the touring North-east England side.
In the curtain-raiser, NSW Police beat Hawaii Chiefs 26-20. Hawaiian league chief Steve Johnson is still trying to tempt NRL sides to the Islands.
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SPAIN and Serbia are to meet for the very first time on September 24, in the not-unpleasant locale of Valencia.
The Spanish have a big World Cup qualifier against Ireland at the same locale in October and will warm-up against the Serbians at Quatre Carreres. If you’re thinking of going, the game kicks off at the very Mediterranean time of 5pm.
The Serbians are looking for a new coach after Darren Higgins stood down.
“We regret Darren could not fit his professional and personal commitments together with the obligations needed for the Serbian national side,” said SRLF general secretary Slobodan Mank.
“We thank him for all he has done to raise the standard, he has put in some long lasting structures which we will benefit from.”
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CANADA are easily the most active international side at the moment, having fielded a “full international” side in two cities in two countries on the same day recently!
The Wolverines Under 17s side is currently on tour in Jamaica. The new British League One expansion side, Toronto Wolfpack, helped finance the Young Wolverines tour, which kicked off with a win in a Nines tournament.
Canada also fielded a military team against the full Czech Republic side recently, losing 64-0.
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AS we’ve said before, the rivalry between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Island puts NSW v Queensland in the shade.
But one similarity this year is the result, with Northern Ireland sealing the Origin series in game two, a 24-20 victory at Chambers Park, Portadown.

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FAR & WIDE: Wales, Germany, Serbia, Canada, Jamaica, Ireland

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Far & WideBy STEVE MASCORD
WALES have announced a ground-breaking tour of Germany in October.
They’ll play a warm-up in England at the end of September before taking on a British Army combination in their first match on German soil.
The international against the Germans will be played on October 22 with the venue yet to be announced.
The Dragons side will be chosen purely from residents. Tyson Frizell need not pack his bags.
The Germans are coming off a narrow win in the Griffin Cup; they beat the Netherlands just 8-6 in Rotterdam.
The final hour was scoreless with spectators describing the clash as intense.
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THERE’S an interesting annual match in Serbia – the national side takes on the national under 23s.
If all players under 23 played for the juniors, how do you think such a match would go in Australia.
In Serbia, it was the old fellas who ran out victorious recently, 68-22.
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IN Ireland they have an Origin match with real feeling – the Republic of Ireland v Northern Ireland.
The series has kicked of this year and Northern Ireland won 34-30 in a cracker of a match. Looks like the domination of the fellas from the north isn’t just restricted to the southern hemisphere.
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WE’RE supposed to be unbiased here at Far & Wide but we have to admit we have a favourite club – the Toronto Wolfpack who enter the British third tier next year.
And recruitment is going well for North America’s first club team to play in a European club competition and the first pro side of any sport to be involved in promotion and relegation.
Hull FC youngster Reece Dean has signed on, as has Bradford’s Welsh international Dan Fleming..
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DON’T forget Far & Wide 360 is back on Fox Sports’ NRL 360 on the first Wednesday of each month.
@RLWfarandwide

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FAR & WIDE: Greece, United States, World Cup,

Far & WideBy STEVE MASCORD

IN the aftermath of our story last week about the chaos engulfing Greek rugby league, the country has been kicked out of the European Federation.
The Greeks were earlier suspended for failing to meet fixture commitments and other irregularities.
Now the RLEF has announced: “The RLEF Board has formally expelled the Hellenic Federation of Rugby League from its membership after a four-month suspension period.
“During that time the HFRL was asked to establish its membership and youth programme, comply with financial audit requirements, and answer allegations of misappropriation of funds and maladministration of the sport.
“On 2 August the RLEF, invoking Article 18 of its constitution, wrote to the Hellenic Federation informing them of their expulsion and requested HFRL’s withdrawal from the membership by 9 August, which the Greek body confirmed in writing yesterday.
“In April 2016, the RLEF membership voted 33-1 in favour of the resolution to suspend the Hellenic Federation, for wilfully acting in a manner prejudicial to the interests of the overall governing body and international rugby league.”
The truth of the matter is that the sanctions are really aimed at one official: Tasos Pantazidis. Far and Wide does not suggest Pantazidis misappropriated funds but clubs have rebelled against his administration and the RLEF has effectively sided with those clubs by expelling Greece.
The RLEF now wants to run its own Greek competitions and is advertising for players.
Pantazidis has affiliated with the Modern Pentathlon authorities in Greece and, as far as we know, plans to continue running rugby league as well.
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SINCE last week we’ve has a long-ish chat with Jason Moore, the Australian promoter who wants to take the 2021 World Cup to the US, and came away impressed.
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We’ll share some of the key elements of what he had to say in a future feature but I asked him whether it would be such a bad thing if they were passed over this time and got the 2025 tournament.
“It’s almost like ‘shut the gate, the horse has bolted’,” he argued. “This is a golden opportunity for rugby league.
“It may be a once in a generation/lifetime scenario.”
The rugby union World Cup basically can’t come here before 2023. It would be a great piece of rugby league global marketing to get in ahead of that.
“But also it has to be the dominant rugby code in the United States because of the hosting of the World Cup.
“And it’s also the RLIF should consider as a bold statement.”
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DANISH winger Mads Hansen scored a hat-trick as Denmark took out the Nordic Cup match against Sweden 50-18. The trophy had already been secured by Norway.
That Tri-Series we told you about last week has also kicked off, with Belgium downing Germany 26-12 at Mendesportanlage.

FAR & WIDE: Greece, Germany, Belgium, United States

Far & WideBy STEVE MASCORD

THINGS are getting nasty in Greece, with people threatened with arrest if they align with the former administration of rugby league there.
The Rugby League European Federation has recently ejected Greece as a full member due to dissatisfaction with the administration and set up its own league. The sport is aligned with, strangely enough, modern pentathlon from a government recognition perspective.
All clubs have been instructed to align with the new body.
Failure to do so isn’t just unrecognised by the RLEF – it’s unrecognised by Greek law.
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GERMANY and Belgium are about to embark on a tri-series with the Netherlands.
The series kicked off at the weekend in Dortmund, with the majority of the German side made up of players from Munster. Johnathan Boullon is Belgium’s captain.
Brexit hasn’t hurt rugby league’s ability to do great stuff with European funding, with a recent training camp for coaches held in the Czech Republic.
Meanwhile, rugby league has kicked off in Turkey with a coaching course for about 20 people leading to mens and women’s comps being instituted.
There will be 10 male and three female teams in a competition to kick off soon.
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SINCE our last column, the United States has entered a bid to host the 2021 World Cup.
The bid comes via an Australian sports promoter, Jason Moore, who said in a statement: “We are honoured and excited at the opportunity to showcase this sport to this nation – and the nation to this sport.
“Rugby league already has a strong following in several major US markets and, should the 2021 World Cup be staged in the United States, American sports fans new to rugby league and who have a hunger for gladiatorial-style sports are going to fall in love with this extraordinary game.” Moore wants to split the tournament between eight to 10 stadia and run a women’s tournament concurrently. He expects and answer from the RLIF in November. News of the bid was carried by the New York Times.

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