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
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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

BONDI BEAT: October 2016

Brlw-novembr-2016y STEVE MASCORD

THE departure of Stephen Kearney as coach of our number one ranked nation, just weeks before the Four Nations, raises a host of intriguing questions.
One must be the inescapable conclusion that coaching a tier one Test team is a post with decisively less prestige than heading up an NRL franchise.
Wayne Bennett would never have chosen England over Brisbane, not in a month of Suncorp Stadium Friday nights.
Mal Meninga at least chose Australia over Queensland but if he was offered, say, Bennett’s job, how long would he stick around? And he also upset Papua New Guinea by walking out on them.
And even though Kearney could have been ready to start work at the Warriors’ Penrose offices by the end of November, he chose to step aside immediately he was picked to replace Andrew McFadden.
At the time of writing, David Kidwell was favourite to replace Kearney. Like Kearney, he has been biding his time as an NRL assistant and comes well recommended.
What will be interesting is how Kidwell handles the politics in the Kiwis camp. Kearney was adept at politely sidestepping questions about why the likes of Benji Marshall and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves were on the outer for periods.
He was also adept at not picking players he felt did not fit into the culture in order to attract those questions. It was the diplomatic equivalent of one of Marshall’s best passes.
Whether Kidwell inherits an sort of unspoken blacklist or gives everyone a fresh start will be extremely interesting to observe.
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IT might seem self-evident but I’m still surprised that a club chief executive would come out and say it.
In a recent episode of the excellent Fox Market Watch podcast, Canberra’s Don Furner admitted the national capital’s cold weather was a key recruitment tool for English players.
Next year, Jordan Turner will join Josh Hodgson and Elliott Whitehead at GIO Stadium
“Without a doubt there’s been a sea change in Australia,” Furner told the podcast. “People like to live at the beach and in the warmth and Canberra gets a bad rap.
“We didn’t have the beach and warm weather that could maybe attract players for less money.
“To get a kid from Manly beach or Newcastle beach to move down here, it’s not easy.
“We certainly changed our focus a while ago because we realised those guys don’t want to live here. It’s really hard for them.
“We’ve just extended Elliott and we’re signing up another one for next year actually, so we think we go all right with Englishman, they don’t mind the cold.”
Whitehead, meanwhile, said he “felt sick” conceding the penalty that allowed Cronulla to down the Green Machine in the first week of the finals.
An example of how highly Hodgson is held came from club great Laurie Daley, who said that while the Raiders could get into a grand final without the former Hull KR rake, they would not be able to win one in his absence.
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MORE often than not, a day or so before this column is due I am bereft of ideas. Many of the day-to-day happenings in rugby league are cyclical, if not downright repetitive.
But there are few other areas of human endeavour, particularly those to have been pursued for 121 years, so consistently capable of jaw-dropping ridiculousness.
And so it was one Thursday morning, on Facebook, I got an alert saying “Live: Eddie Hayson media conference”. Say what?
Now, I am familiar with Facebook Live. My wedding was on it. But former brothel owners who owe millions of dollars calling media conferences? This was innovative.
Hayson had called the Sydney rugby league media together to answer allegations he had been involved in match fixing. The New South Wales police had taken the issue so seriously, it had formed a strike force to deal with the allegations.
Hayson went on to name a bikie says had given the police knowledge of his involvement. He named a bikie, Antonio Torres, as the man who sold the cops a dummy and pornography baron Con Ange as the one who embellished it to journalists.
He named the journalists whom he believed had wronged him – the Sydney Morning Herald’s Kate McClymont, Channel Seven’s Josh Massoud and the Daily Telegraph’s Rebecca Wilson.
Then, he allowed two them to cross examine him!
Yes, he had tried to put $30,000 into the betting account of Kieran Foran. Yes, he owed boxer Jeff Fenech millions. Yes, rugby league players, police and judges had visited his brothel. Yes he had given them “freebies”.
He gave several people money “because he liked them”. He could afford PR to stars Max Markson because he had had a few wins on the punt recently.
Need I go on?
Hayson ended up denying two allegations and confirming a dozen others – while paying for the platform himself!
I’m sure these sorts of things happen in other sports. Just can’t think of one at the moment.
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LAST month we waved the flag (Stars and Stripes, of course) for the American 2021 World Cup bid. We kind of think it’s a good idea.
Of course, these things are dictated as much by money as anything else and the International Federation relies on the profits from World Cups to run the sport for the next four years.
An American World Cup with empty stadiums, little television income and a massive financial black hole would be a disaster for the game, both logistically and from the point of view of our image.
But here’s the thing.
Promoter Jason Moore plans to just give an “eight figure sum” to the RLIF for the right to run the tournament. That’s at least $10 million. Furthermore, he says he will plough another multi-million-dollar investment onto American rugby league.
Now, next year’s World Cup is currently projected to make only $7 million.
I know the offer in the UK is Stg15 million plus infrastructure. I am not sure if the infrastructure figure is conditional on Britain being granted the tournament.
But I ask you this, as a rugby league fans, would you really rather a few nice facilities than someone take on all the risk of taking the game to American and handing over a check for $10 million, making it the more successful than the previous tournament?
No doubt the RLIF would like to ease America in by giving them the new Continental Cup first. Moore doesn’t seem the sort of guy for consolation prizes, however.
Guaranteed 10 mill, no risk, America … Tweet me with your thoughts at @BondiBeat.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUR WORLD

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.
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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.
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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: 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.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

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.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

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.