Super League Sides Struggle With ‘Grinding’ NRL Style, Says Cuthbertson

By STEVE MASCORD

SUPER League sides struggle to adapt from their week-to-week freewheeling style to matching the grinding tactics of Australasian teams in the World Club Series, according to Leeds star Adam Cuthbertson.
In Sunday’s world title decider at Headingley, the Rhinos matched NRL premiers North Queensland for the first half but were gassed in the second as they crashed 38-4.
“It’s just a different style of football,” said Cuthbertson, 30.
“You go from playing in the Super League where we play the style of play we have to play every week, and then you go into a grinding battle with the NRL teams.
“We definitely didn’t get the best results in terms of the series over the weekend but there’s something there for improvement and growth,
“I dare say that if we (Leeds) had a full team in, it would have been a different story.”
Meanwhile, Cuthbertson does not see the appointment of Wayne Bennett as good news for his England chances.
Bennett has said he will consider any eligible player, regardless of that player’s background. Cuthbertson qualifies under the parent rule.
“It doesn’t change things, the coach,” he said.
“I’ve got to still be playing good footy to be up for selection so I wouldn’t expect to have a run just because the coach changes.
“It really comes down to how I’m playing and whether he thinks I’m the best fit for the team.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK
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World Club Series: SYDNEY ROOSTERS 38 ST HELENS 12 at DW Stadium

By STEVE MASCORD

THE overall record of expanded World Club Championship matches was left at 60-8 in favour of the southern hemisphere by this 2016 opening night mismatch – but Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson launched an impassioned defence of the concept.

The St Helens-Roosters clash at Langtree Park marked the 40th anniversary of the firsrt clash between the Australian and British champions – involving the same clubs at the Sydney Sports Ground in ’76 – and by halftime the NRL team had racked up a 22-0 lead.

World Club Challenge games were adjudged to have such potential that in 1997 the Super League competitions merged mid-season but those from the Australasia won 48 of the 56 matches played. Since the revival of the idea last year, NRL sides have been successful in all four games.

“I don’t think questioning it is a good idea. It’s about loving it and investing some time,” said Robinson following a match in which the performances of young halves Jayden Nikorima and Jackson Hastings was a feature.

“It’s awesome to go to St Helens and Wigan and Leeds.

“It’s here to stay. We want to promote the players between England and Australia. There’s some great English players down in the NRL as well.

“We have to continue the concept. The fans love it, They’re turning up.”

The Roosters’ 13-a-side season got off to the worse possible start when the kick-off in front of 14,008 fans at Langtree Park was allowed to go dead.
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But after some determined defence from St Helens the Roosters hit cruise mode, making light of the absence of Mitchell Pearce, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Boyd Cordner and the departed Michael Jennings, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and James Maloney.

Boom centre Latrell Mitchell beat four players on a dime in the lead-up to the opening touchdown of the game, for prop Kane Evans, while Nikorima overcame an early head knock to star.

St Helens coach Keiron Cunningham described both Nikorima and Mitchell as future superstars.

“There’s been a lot written in the last month but we’ve always been confident about what’s ahead,” said Robinson.

“I thought we came up with stuff that usually takes a few months.”

One selection surprise was the omission of Wigan recruit Joe Burgess from the Roosters squad. “He’s a very good player who will play a lot of NRL,” said Robinson.

“But he’s only been with us five or six months. He’s probably a little bit short but Latrell developed well over the off-season.”

Cunningham said: “The difference was the outside backs of the Roosters … it’s unfortunate the scoreline blew out the way it did.”

Nikorima was not made available to the media after the match.

SYDNEY ROOSTERS 38 (A Guerra 2 K Evans D Copley D Tupou S Kenny-Dowall B Ferguson tries J Hastings 5 goals) beat ST HELENS 12 (D Peyroux 2 tries L Walsh 2 goals) at Langtree Park. Referee: Ben Thaler. Crowd: 14,008

Meet Joe Burgess

Burgess, JoeBy STEVE MASCORD
RUGBY league often boasts that it can replace the stars it loses with a rookie of comparable talent, almost instantaneously.
But this Saturday at Alianz Stadium, the maxim will be taken to its extreme when an 19-year-old Englishman called Burgess plays against the Sydney Roosters.
Joe Burgess – no relation to rugby union-bound Sam – started the season third choice winger at Wigan behind Ian Thornley and Josh Charnley and got a start a fornight ago because of an injury to Charnley.
He scored a try – and when he was given the nod ahead of Thornley in the World Club Challenge warm-up against the Warriors half a week later, promptly scored four.
“Pat Richards left, which gave me a good opportunity to work hard and get that permanent spot,” the local Wigan junior tells Fairfax Media.
“I played amateur for 11 years, moved onto Wigan when I was 16 and went fulltime when I was 17.”
Young Joe has been to the southern hemisphere once before, on a schoolboys tour, but said playing 48 hours after crossing the world in the 46-22 win over the Warriors was a completely new experience.
“It was tough, he said. “After the first 20, 25 minutes, I started really feeling it in my legs. But it was good to get it out of the way and move onto next week.” One experience the youngers liked was playing under two referees.
“I think it makes the game better – they’re more precise in their decisions. It was good.
“(We have to be) more aggressive, Getting up off our line and really getting in their (Roosters’) faces.”
The latest Burgess has made coach Shaun Wane’s 19-man squad for the WCC; Thornley has not.
“I can’t picture it. It’s been a dream, I can’t imagine the goosebumps. When we do find out the team and if I do get the chance to play, I’ll make sure I’m better than my opposition.”

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

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Richo: I Have A Dream

South Sydney - Shane RichardsonBy STEVE MASCORD

SOUTH Sydney chief executive Shane Richardson lost a house trying to expand rugby league.

That was back in 1999, when the former Cronulla boss risked it all to start a club in Newcastle, England, called the Gateshead Thunder. They lost Stg700,000 and only lasted one year.

But a decade and a half on, “Richo” hasn’t given up. With the Bunnies’ first premiership in 43 years beckoning, he’s committed Souths to the 2015 World Club Series.

Richardson’s friend, Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington, has been pushing for a re-expansion of the World Club Challenge for years. The 1997 version was such a disaster that until now, Australian clubs have baulked.

But it’s Richardson who pushed the negotiations, involving the likes of St George Illawarra’s Peter Doust, Wigan’s Ian Lenagan and Warrington’s Simon Moran, to the point where next February 20 to 22, the World Club Challenge between the winners of the NRL and Super League will be preceded by two other games.

St Helens, as winners of the League Leaders Shield, will take on either Souths or Brisbane at a venue to be determined. The other NRL team will play the beaten Super League grand finalists. One game Friday night, one game Saturday.

The Rugby Football League’s chief executive, Blake Solly, has confirmed that two trophies will be awarded. The WCC trophy goes to the winner of the main match, the WCS shield for the country with the most wins from three matches.

There is a hope that – despite the fact existing TV deals include the WCC so there is no appreciable profit from that area – the concept could be taken on the road, to places like Dubai and Hong Kong, and become at least as big as the Auckland Nines.

But this is not a preview of next year’s World Club Challenge.

In an increasingly globalised world, rugby league cannot survive forever as a local powerhouse and an international oddity. It needs to get on the information superhighway and get up to speed quickly, or risk being swamped.

American and European sports are increasingly marketing themselves to Australians, playing games here and increasing their TV reach. The shrinking resources of newspapers make it easier for them to give these competitions more space.

Richo wants to fight back. Here’s his warplan.

STOP BEING EMBARASSED

FOR some reason rugby league fans are embarrassed about how small the sport is internationally and think trying to expand is pointless. AFL has no such self-doubt – they’ve played many exhibition games in the major capitals of the world. “It’s expectations which are lower than they should be that stop us growing the game,” says Richardson. “We have to change the way we think about the game … young people today don’t think that way. With the internet and social media … every time people are exposed to this game, they like it. We keep thinking within the boundaries of where we are now, not where we could be in five years. Sometimes we limit ourselves in our thinking as administrators but the players don’t have the same view.”

BE INNOVATIVE

“My main thought is we have to think outside of the box,” he says. “You can’t keep doing the same things and expect to get different results. I think we proved, at Souths, with Perth and Cairns that you can expand the brand. I know ‘brand’ is a terrible word…. The World Club Challenge is about the English clubs trying to build some momentum in Europe and compete with the (rugby union) Heiniken Cup, etc. We’ve been working for the last two years to try and support that. Our sponsors, Delonghi, Fujitsu, Alcitel and Crown have all got a presence in Europe so it’s showing the game has got a greater reach.”

STANDARDISE RULES

OUR game is splintering; different rules at international, NRL and Super League level make it bewildering for anyone considering taking up the sport. Local bodies change the laws and interpretations without consulting anyone. “We’ve got to have central control, we can’t have different rules in different hemispheres,” says Richo. “We’re trying to make the game more attractive for television – I get that. But we also have to make the rules so that new people understand them. I’m not against changing the rules. I’m against changing them only in the NRL.”

A FIVE YEAR STRATEGY FOR THE WHOLE GAME: INTERNATIONAL, PROFESSIONAL AND GRASSROOTS

RUGBY league had a 100 year head start on rugby union, during which it paid players and union didn’t, but self-interest allowed the 15-man game to dominate globally. “This has been spoken about at CEOs conferences for a while – we’ve got to have a five year plan of where we want to take the game, not just the NRL. We lock in the World Club Challenge, we lock in Nines, whether it’s World Nines or the nines we’re doing now. But it’s whole-of-game.”

FEWER CLUB GAMES

RICHARDSON is one of the few NRL club supremos to publically declare the NRL season too long. “We may have to restrict the number of club games, NRL games, we play to expand beyond those boundaries. I’ve always said – I don’t see the need to play 24 fixtures. One of the challenges we’ve got with the scheduling is that it’s locked into the television deal so we need X number of games. That’s presupposing we can’t have other games to fill those slots. I’m not sure that, if we have an expanded view of the game, Tonga v Samoa wouldn’t be a better game for people to watch on a Saturday afternoon than Souths v Cronulla.’

CONSULT PLAYERS OVER ELIGIBILITY

BRAD Takairangi and Aiden Guerra are just two of the players set to be “poached” from the sides they represented in the World Cup for this year’s Four Nations. Should they be allowed to return to Cook Islands and Italy respectively? “The players want the game to go onto another stage and expand,” says Richardson. “The article with Jarryd Hayne, where he talks about players’ IP … players might be concerned about the number of games they play but they’ll always be involved in matches that expand their IP because they understand the importance of it. Are we listening to what they want? Does Jarryd Hayne, if he doesn’t play for NSW, not want to play for Fiji?”

GET RUGBY LEAGUE ON TV IN MORE PLACES

THE NFL flooded British television with cheap broadcasts before attempting exhibition games at Wembley. “Where do we want to be? If people in the Czech Republic want to watch rugby league, should we charge them when they can watch ice hockey, basketball, soccer … those sports are part of their culture? If we want to have an impact on that culture, then we have to give them some sort of bonus. Making them pay for it is not much of a bonus. You have to get to the point where the US wants to pay big money, not charge them straight off the bat.”

USE NRL PLAYERS TO PROMOTE RUGBY LEAGUE WORLDWIDE IN AN AGE OF NICHE INTERESTS

“THE NFL don’t promote their game in the UK with local players. They bring stars from the US. Why aren’t we doing the same with the Greg Inglises and the Sam Tomkins’ of the world? It promotes the game and sets them up on the world stage. People are sitting on their computers in Moldova and Minnesota taking an interest in all sorts of unusual things that their local media ignores. We need to be one of those things and from my experiences at Souths, I know we already are one of those things because people in those places contact me. Whenever administrators stuff up, a great game like the Roosters-Panthers final compensates for it. The game itself saves the people running it, over and over again.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

BONDI BEAT: May 2014

Dr Who? Mockup by @drkockrash
Dr Who? Mockup by @drkockrash

By STEVE MASCORD

LIKE your clubs in England, the NRL is considering ways to hold onto players and to recruit new stars,
Bondi Beat‘s spies tell us that the issue was raised in Auckland before the NRL Nines. The CEO of the league, David Smith, suggested that if one club wanted to sign a rugby union star, for instance, it could apply for central funding.
But every club would have the opportunity to match or exceed the amount of money the recruiting club was willing to pay. If Souths wanted to sign England rahrah George North, for instance, North Queensland could offer to pay a larger part of his wage package. This would leave the league paying less.
North would still have the opportunity to go to the club of his choice, not the highest bidder.
But another idea should be a concern to most readers. The plan is to make transfer fees salary cap-free if the incoming player is not from the NRL.
In other words, a leave pass to raid the Super League if you have enough money to pay the transfer fees.
I am told it was South Sydney chief executive Shane Richardson who pointed this implication out. “They play the same sport as us over there, you know,” was the crux of his argument.
If you go through the current NRL club CEOS, few have much experience in the international game.

THE debate over the marquee player proposal in England is a fascinating one.
I heard on the BBC recently that the NRL has a marquee player allowance of $600,000 per club. That is wrong. There is no marquee player system in the NRL that is even remotely similar to what Dr Marwan Koukash is proposing in Super League.

What is allowed in the NRL are third part agreements – club sponsors paying players up to a limit. It is not the same as allowing clubs to spend their own money on imported talent, regardless of whether it sends them broke.
Instead of offering Stg200,000 for rival clubs’ “golden tickets”, perhaps Dr Koukash should guarantee to under-write the rest of the comp so every club can spend up to the cap as it exists now.
I am a bit of a sociallist when it comes to sporting competitions. I believe our game needs to be outwardly capitalist but inwardly communist.
Until every club in the Super League is spending up to the cap, there is no point giving them more rope to hang themselves. Maybe if every club in the new division of eight is spending up to the cap and is on a sound financialfooting, it can be considered again.
The recent Widnes-Salford epic was a clash of cultures – between licencing and throwing raw cash at something. And who won that?
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THIS column probably features a few too many items which paint my Australian compatriots as being a little ignorant of the realities of rugby league outside their own bubble. It’s a point that gets laboured here too much.
But it was curious the other day to hear Penrith coach Ivan Cleary say this: “I think, personally, we shouldn’t have representative tournaments every year at the end of the year,” Cleary said. ”Maybe a one-off game with Australia and New Zealand straight after the grand final pretty much. Basically, if you are going to have one it needs to finish a lot earlier.”
Cleary, you’ll remember, is the New Zealand assistant coach!
Now, George Gregan played 139 Tests in that other code. Darren Lockyer had played 59 when he retired. But WE’RE playing too many Tests? Clearly, were playing too many club games…
One man who agreed with Cleary was Greg Alexander, who is on the board at Penrith. When I appeared with Andrew Voss and Brandy on 2UE to argue against Cleary’s contention, one of their responses was that if we needed international football so much then perhaps there should be a World Cup every two years!
From the sublime to the ridiculous…..
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IN the wake of the sort of ignorance described above, you’ve got to hand it to the Sydney Roosters and former Catalan coach Trent Robinson.
He has hired the England coach as his assistant and in Remy Casty has a man who is likely to be only the fourth French born player to turn out in the top flight down under, after Jerome Guisset, Jacques Molinet and Jason Baitieri.
And when his team completely outclassed Wigan in the World Club Challenge, Robinson argued that the concept should be expanded. Even in the face of the increasing disparity in the salary caps of the two competitions, he argued an expanded WCC would narrow the gap, not accentuate it.

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ANOTHER great story in this neck of the woods this year has been the debut in Queensland’s Untrust Super Cup (the Q Cup to you) of the Kopoko-based PNG Hunters.
After the disappointments of the World Cup, the PNGRL signed players from rural areas to contracts, took them away from their families for 11 weeks and put them in a police barracks.
The result was a 24-18 win on debut against Redcliffe in Brisbane. “Back at home, after the World Cup when everyone got back into the country, the guys that played in
the World Cup never went out in public places because a lot of the media and the people around the country were pissed off,” said coach Michael Marum.
PNGRL chairman Sandis Tsaka says Mal Meninga is now the coach of the Kumuls. They hope to play the winner of the mid-year Samoa-Fiji Test before the Four Nations and a warm-up game against another 4N team – perhaps England.
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TYRONE McCarthy and his partner, Helen Lomax, are settling in nicely in Cairns.
The Ireland vice-captain and ex-Warrington star scored two tries on debut for Q Cup side Northern Pride. “I was probably getting stagnant at Warrington, being in and out of the side,” he said.
“It’s pretty different to home here, very hot and humid, but I’m used to it now and the club have been great. Two tries is more than I scored all last year.”
Tyrone is hoping to get his charity project, the FullBloods, going in Oz. It helps kids in disadvantaged areas using rugby league to connect with them. Support Tyrone by visiting thefullbloodproject.org.
Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

BONDI BEAT: March 2014

South Sydney - Sam BurgessBy STEVE MASCORD

THE issue of Sam Burgess’s departure from South Sydney has prompted much analysis and hand-wringing about his place in South Sydney, England, the NRL and rugby league in general.
Why is he leaving, as appeared likely at the time of writing? How much will he be missed by these four institutions? What does it say about each of their futures?
Let’s deal with each one by one.
Burgess is an important player at Souths, probably their best after Greg Inglis. There has been speculation his “love of the spotlight” has made him unpopular there. I don’t know about that; what I do know is that his onfield brain explosions have increasingly been costing his team and his temper is a concern to all.
It’s a trait that has shown no sign of abating.
The documentary on Burgess which was shown before last year’s grand final was part of his third party agreements with the club. Colleague David Riccio has speculated the coaching staff at Souths were unimpressed with it.
Had it not been aired, the club would have been in breach of the salary cap for blocking a legitimate third party deal. Coaches focus too much on external things and it’s self perpetuating – you use some inane quote to motivate your side and then you have to prevent your own players from giving inane quotes. Why don’t we just have a truce, furchrisakes?
But that’s another column. Souths will miss Burgess but they’ll replace him. They’ll do well to win a comp with him this year.
England will miss Sam Burgess much, much more. He was their best player in the World Cup and it’s hard to see another forward with the footwork and power of Burgess emerging any time soon. Can he play in this year’s Four Nations? A big question.
England rugby union snaring Burgess is a big victory in the battle of the codes for them. However, is Burgess quick enough to play centre in the 15 man game? Do you even have to be quick to play centre in rugby union? I’d have to watch it comment and that’s a sacrifice I’m not prepared to make!
In short, the NRL and rugby league in general will not blink with Burgess’ exit. It will flutter an eyelash in Sonny Bill Williams direction when he does the same, but that’s all.
The dogs are barking but the caravan moves on, as Alan Jones once said.
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AS usual, I spent the pre-season in the UK. Moving the World Club Challenge forced me to go back to Oz earlier but it was great to see the Super League season open at DW Stadium.
The debate about the new television deal is intriguing.
It was like the original Super League War all over again; Sky put money on the table to secure the long-term rights of rugby league (and other sports) immediately. It was clearly not going to be there forever. Unlike 1995/6, however, there were no demands regarding the restructuring of the game (we hope).
So while Red Hall is copping flack for allegedly railroading the clubs into accepting the deal, how much more would they be copping had they thumbed their noses at Stg200 million?
The concern is that BT Sport and Sky Sports will eventually have to call a truce in the battle over European rugby union. They’ll have to share content. And when that happens, the market value of other sports will go down.
That belief powered the decision to accept Sky’s offer. We can now sit back and see whether it was an accurate or inaccurate belief.
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THE proposed Great Britain tour of Australia and New Zealand next year is proving somewhat problematic.
While the good rugby league folk of the British Isles are excited about something that has not happened since 1992, the antipodeans seem largely unmoved. I mean,
Cameron Smith did say in his World Cup acceptance speak that the squad had enjoyed its time in “Britain and Wales”. England and Britain are interchangeable to many foreigners, including Americans.
The result is that the NRL and NZRL seem in no hurry to confirm the trek. Then again, we’ve had no confirmation of this year’s internationals either, have we?
A couple of years ago, there was talk of the Lions heading south of the equator but no-one would have them. Could it happen again?
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AN update on next year’s World Club Challenge is in order, perhaps.
As previously reported, South Sydney and Brisbane have agreed to be the second and third NRL sides to head to the northern hemisphere in February. They would play the second- and third-placed Super League sides on the Friday and Saturday before the WCC proper.
The new information I have to hand regards the lead-up games. South Sydney are set to play Brisbane at Barnett in a major boost to our code in London.
And the NRL premiers will play Catalan in Perpignan en route to England. What a great promotion – the sort of things other professional sports have been doing with exhibition games for years.
By the way (I almost typed ‘BTW’ there – derr) if the WCC is to be taken seriously, surely the prize money has to go back up from Stg25,000 – hardly a fitting purse for the world champions in a professional sport.
The real put of gold at the end of the WCC rainbow is the clubs being allowed to sell their own TV rights. Which brings me to this proposal: if Ian Lenagan and Marwan Koukash are so confident the elite clubs should determine their own destiny, why not let them start by running the expanded WCC?
It needs year-round attention to realist its potential.
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WHILE the NRL was spending a fortune on bodyguards for its stars at the Auckland Nines, a little tournament in western Sydney was picking up the slack for the lack of international development being promoted across the Tasman.
World expansion pinup boys Canada travelled down under for the first time and we also had the likes of Fiji, Niue, Cook Islands, Fiji, the Philippines, Portugal, Thailand, Greece, Malta, Japan and South America’s Latin Heat going around.
Auburn Warriors beat the Philippines 14-8 in the final.
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WHAT really happened in America to scupper the planned merger of the AMNRL and USARL?
Bondi Beat has heard two principal theories. One, the USARL delegates came to believe the AMNRL delegates had not been democratically elected by their clubs and had lost faith in the process and two, the USARL clubs got cold feet about an independent body determining their fate.
Either way, it sounds terrbly rugby league, doesn’t it?
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ONE of the first places I went this past off-season was South Africa, where a NSW Country side was on tour.
There was scarcely 300 people at the stadium for the game against the Rhinos and one of them was Jock Colley, the CRL chairman. Jock was an irrascible fellow, not afraid to upset the suits from the city when he felt the bushies were copping a raw deal.
To mix a metaphor, he wasn’t afraid to get off the gravy train and rock the applecart.
He made the annual City-Country game interesting by speaking his mind in the lead-up when it came to unco-operative clubs and players who didn’t believe in the cause.
So it was a shock on the opening day of this season in England to learn Jock had collapsed during an evening walk. He was airlifted to Sydney, placed on life support, and later passed away.
You’ll be missed Jock. We need more like you.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD

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