International: VANUATU 22 NIUE 20 at Municipal Stadium, Port Vila

By STEVE MASCORD

MAL Meninga’s 22-year-old nephew could be with the Gold Coast Titans next year after starring in Vanuatu’s historic, nail-biting win over international league newcomers Niue.

Rangy back-rower Joey Meninga crossed for the home side’s second try in a 22-20 win at Port Vila’s Municipal Stadium, a result secured in the 78th minute after Niue came back from 10-0 down to lead for much of the second half.

Sunshine Coast Sea Eagle Meninga was seen talking to Gold Coast official Matt Francis at fulltime on Saturday and it’s understood the possibility of a move to the tourist strip was discussed.

“I’m not sure about next year – I’m still keen to play footy, I’m just looking for another club to go to,” Meninga told Fairfax Media.

“I want to have a good shot at it now, while I’m still young. My time’s coming up now. I don’t want to not go for it now and later regret it.

“Every week I’m improving. Hopefully something comes up.”
Joe said his family’s connection to Vanuatu went back to great great grandfather Tom, who was relocated to Queensland to work on the cane fields as part of the blackbird movement.

“My great, great grandfather came from Tanner Island,” said Meninga. “He was blackbirded, to work on the sugar cane field. I think it might have been to Bundaberg.

“The reason he was allowed to stay in Australia was that he married an Irishwoman.

“Uncle Mal comes to Vanuatu all the time, he does charity work and stuff here. Tom Meninga is his great grandfather.”

While increased ticket prices are not restricted to the NRL – and probably kept Saturday’s crowd down on last year’s attendance for a game against Greece – the result was Vanuatu’s first home win and Niu’s first ever full international.

Victory was snatched when halfback Josh Tanner snuck over from close range after a 73nd minute Niue try had appeared to create a wide enough gap between the visibly tiring teams.

There was controversy over a late try to Vanuatu’s Jason Pakaosongi, who appeared to be tackled touch-in-goal. “Unfortunately we don’t have men upstairs to check it in games like this,” said Niue’s Brad Watkinson. “We didn’t think it was a try but refereeing is refereeing everywhere.”

Melbourne Storm centre Justin O’Neill is eligible for Vanuatu but is yet to play for them. Most of the Niue side is based in New Zealand, although Watkinson plays for Dewsbury.

Ten members of Vanuatu coach David Simpson’s squad were from the domestic league.

VANUATU 22 (Geoffry Kausei, Joe Meninga, Sam Pierce, Jason Pakaosongi, Josh Tanner tries; Tanner goal) beat NIUE 20 (Chris Ulukita 2, Jordan Tongiahiri, Kodezz Simeki tries; Alex Seini-Edwards 2 goals) at Municipal Stadium, Port Vila. Referee: Peter Gough (Australia). Crowd: About 3000


Filed for: SUN-HERALD

The A-List: NATE MYLES (Gold Coast, Queensland & Australia)

Nate Myles/wikipedia
Nate Myles/wikipedia

By STEVE MASCORD

BE honest. No doubt you’ve read hundreds or even thousands of “interesting” things in these pages over the years, but what has a footballer ever said that helped you with your life?

I’m talking about piece of wisdom you go back to again and again, like something a parent or grandparent told you once as a child. For some reason, these pieces of gold seem more likely to come from actors or musicians than from professional athletes.

Actually, that shouldn’t be a surprise. Actors spend their lives contemplating and impersonating the lives of others and musicians are paid to draw us a picture of emotions, experiences and thoughts and give us a new way of looking at things.

The fellas you read about here are paid to run at brick walls.

There is one piece of advice from a footballer that this writer has always gone back to which has been an enormous help. The biggest thing that can hold you back in electronic media is fear of the microphone, knowing that thousands are listening/watching and judging you.

Brad Fittler – in reference to a few of his own indiscretions as a young footballer – once said to me “you know, it’s 15 seconds in someone else’s life”. That is, if you stuff up, strangers will think about it for 15 seconds and then move onto something else.

And so to Nate Myles. The Gold Coast, Queensland and Australian forward is an intelligent, friendly bloke who at least gives the impression of being relaxed around the media.

But in the background, it’s suggested he is still a little gun shy, given than in any in-depth interview he will be asked about breaking drinking ban with Todd Carney, leading to his departure from the Sydney Roosters in 2011, and defecating (I’m only going to say that once) in a hallway at the Terrigal in 2009.

However, any well-intentioned suggestion that this story focus solely on the present and future misses the point: Nate Myles has been through enough to actually offer a perspective that can help you and me in our own little struggles.

And he’s willing to offer that perspective.

“I guess there’s a few players at the moment who you have to shake and say ‘why aren’t you realising? This is not doing the right thing’,” says Myles, the reigning State Of Origin Player of the Year, about halfway through our chat at the Canberra Crowne Plaza. (Hello, Josh Dugan and Dave Taylor).

“I don’t know how to make the penny drop for that person. It just happens, I think, sometimes.

“For a while there, I wasn’t learning from my mistakes but now I know I am.

“For sure, I think I’ve benefited from a few wayward moments, to put it a nice way.”

His advice to you and me when we find ourselves losing control a little? “Just surround yourself with good people.”

“It also helps when the person at fault, the penny drops and they realise.”

We’re not finished doing our amateur life-coaching just yet. But let’s just do a quick whip through the lifeand times of Cairns-raised Nate Myles, as this is supposed to be a mini-biography.

He joined the Bulldogs from Cairns in 2005. “I thought the world was going to end when I left Cairns,” he recalls. “I’d never been out of it.”

His stocks as a footballer rose, playing for Queensland in ’06, and moved to Sydney Roosters the following year.

“It (tenure at the Roosters) was at times unbelievable and at times I questioned it. The move – because of my age … I didn’t approach it the way I should have. I was very sheltered at the Bulldogs. I only had to come on and play 15, 20 minutes whenever big Willie and Mark O’Meley were tired.

“When I went over there, I didn’t take it on and do it the way I should have. I had a bit of responsibility there and I didn’t adjust to it. I didn’t play good footy when I first went there.”

The stay at the Roosters involved a controversial game in which the tricolours surrendered a big lead over North Queensland in a match which had been subject to a betting plunge. It was captain Craig Fitzgibbon’s final match before joining Hull.

Nate says now: “That game was tossed up in more articles than any game I’ve ever been involved in. I don’t know what happened in that game. I know someone tried to tag me with a doubtful comment once. I was there. I remember being part of it. I remember trying my (backside) out in that game. I topped the tackle count and the hit-up count for that game. It was a fucking hard one. And I think the harder we tried, the worse it got. That’s what it felt like for me. “

Myles refers to his early departure from Sydney Roosters, at the end of 2011, as “the tap on the shoulder”.

“We broke a curfew and it was probably just a build-up of a few things,” he recalls. “At the time, things were all over the shop and I wasn’t really sure what was going on. It was probably my attitude, 100 per cent. The way I was thinking about it: probably (it would be) a slap on the wrist and I was playing next week. But it was a slap on the wrist but ‘you’ve got another year to go but you can look elsewhere. Like I said, the blessing in disguise. I’m just 100 per cent glad that I’m at the Gold Coast now.”

Did he have the realistic option of staying at Bondi? “I think it would have been an option in Newtown’s favour. To go into work to a place where you’re not … to put your body on the line for a place where they said you can look elsewhere, you’ve pretty much got to take your medicine.

“The Roosters were fantastic, they stuck by me in a lot of hard times.“

Amid the financial headaches and poor performance of the Titans last yearl, Myles shone at Origin level, winning the Wally Lewis Medal. “The week and a half leading into Origin, I float the whole time I’m there,” he enthuses.

Now back to What You Can Learn From Nate Myles.

Another expression: what people say about me and what people think about me is none of my business. “You’ve got to learn to deal with it,” Myles says. “Everyone’s a critic these days, mate – especially the people who pay their money for the tickets to go to games.

“There’s a time and a place for everything. Say if I’m with my nephew or niece or wife, I don’t appreciate some of the things that are said. If I’m by myself, it’s like ‘wow’. It doesn’t really affect me too much. It’s just when family and close friends get to hear it. A lot of my friends are the ones who have to settle down the most. They’re quite happy to throw down (comments).

“Where-ever the article is – back, front, middle – people do read it. You’ve just got to make it like water off a ducks back – because if you listen to everything people say, you’re going to be a sad sack for a long time.”

Before the Townsville Test last year, Myles said he had learning to prioritise was a key element in burying his demons. When I ask him to explain it, he uses an expression with which I think anyone with a wild side can identify.

“I’m letting good times come to me, rather than chasing them, if that’s the way to put it,” he says. Part of “the penny dropping” is learning about karma. If you do the right thing by your own set of values, the universe has a habit of rewarding you.

He continues: “I just think I was chasing too many other things in my head, before. I’m just enjoying football a lot more now. I realise how lucky I am to be able to do it for a living and I’m definitely prioritising things.

“I’m probably not always chasing a good time. I’m enjoying myself, and I’m enjoying myself not doing the things that get you in trouble.

“I’m always a believer that things happen for a reason and I’m just blessed that I’m able to go up there (to the Gold Coast). It’s shone a new light for me. It’s a great place, eh?

“I think the tap on the shoulder, the transition up there, the stage I was going through at that time in my life … I think it was all pretty important, all had a role in where I am now.”

Nate doesn’t think anyone would want to read a biography about him. I think he’s wrong. But just one more thing. If he does eventually pen one, what will he write about Terrigal?

“You live and you learn. That’s all I’ll write.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

Tonga-Samoa Test In Sydney On April 20

RLIFRUGBY league history will be made on April 20 when Tonga plays Samoa in a Sydney Test.
Years of lobbying for countries other than Australia and New Zealand to get piece of the mid-season spotlight have finally borne fruit with two teams full of NRL stars to go on show, at Centrebet Stadium as part of a double-header with the Under 20s State Of Origin.
Clubs have been advised they will be required to release Tongan and Samoan players for the match, which was the result of Fox Sports wanting an extra game on the representative weekend.
The NRL will next year give two different island nations the chance to take part. League aficionados hope that one day there will be a weekend off club football in the middle of seasons in which all countries can play internationals.
Australia plays New Zealand at Canberra Stadium on April 19 with City taking on Country at Coffs Harbour Sports Stadium on April 21.

– STEVE MASCORD

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

RLW Season Preview: MELBOURNE STORM

Melbourne - logoBy STEVE MASCORD
WHEN you’ve climbed Everest twice only to be kicked off the peak and told you never got there in the first place, the mental application required to scale to summit again is not inconsiderable.
But if you were to beat the odds and get back there, how does one then motivate oneself – standing at basecamp in February – to repeat the gut-wrenching journey?
Those who doubted the Storm’s ability to defend their 2012 premiership would have been reassured by a surprise 40-8 pasting by Canberra at Simmonds Stadium in Geelong on February 8. Melbourne may be a success machine, but even machines break.
But the Storm’s mercilessly thorough preparation and conquest of the World Club Challenge against Leeds a couple of weeks later gave no hint of faulty nuts, bolts or moving parts.
Here was a campaign so impressive that it led Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington to declare Craig Bellamy’s men had – wait for it – managed to “restore the reputation of Australian sport in this country”!
“Obviously Australian sport has come in for some criticism in recent times following the investigations in their country into professional sport and since our last meeting with Melbourne, they too have been through some tough times,” Hetherington said, in reference to the 2007 and 2009 premierships which are no longer in the club trophy room.
“However, I think the conduct of the Storm squad during their visit has gone a long way to restore the reputation of Australian sport in this country.
“…following the match, the Melbourne players put their celebrations on hold to go around the crowd to sign autographs and pose for photos with Leeds supporters. We have received messages since, especially from parents of youngsters, who were overjoyed and will no doubt be inspired after meeting players like Cameron Smith and Billy Slater who they only get to read about or see on television.”
But what did the WCC, coming after a pre-season 28-4 win over Brisbane Easts and the Geelong disaster, tell us about how the premiers will play this year? It told us that despite the hopes of the other 15 premiership coaches, not much will change.
“There are a couple of new players in our team, obviously,” Bellamy tells League Week, “so we’ve got to make sure we use their strengths in a constructive way.
“We’ll change a little bit but there’ll be no radical changes to the way we play. There’ll be a couple of subtle changes to try and take advantage of the strengths of some of our new players in the squad.”
Second rower Ryan Hoffman says the secret to repeating last year’s feats is to not think about them but rather concentrate on the process.
“First thing’s first,” he said, adding that the trip to England was the biggest difference between the 2012 pre-season and 2013.
“When you come over for the World Club Challenge, it does disrupt your preparation. They’re just obstacles you have to overcome.
“It’s a long way to come and not put in a good performance. We had two great weeks of training, really enjoyed each others’ company and we got a great win.
“We just play what’s in front of us. We had quite a poor performance against Canberra before we came over. We wanted to give ourselves the best chance of winning and that’s what we did – through our preparation.”
With Sika Manu gone and Kevin Proctor injured, the WCC also helped Bellamy uncover a new back rower in 21-year-old Tohu Harris, who was discovered by the late recruitment manager Darren Bell. Harris finished off a flashy movement to scored a crucial second-half try in the 18-14 win over Leeds and seems to have nailed down a starting berth for the early rounds of the season.
Winger Sisa Waqa may not be so lucky, with Kiwi international Matt Duffie hoping to return in the next week or two and the Fijian’s performance at Headingley a little untidy.
“We had a good chance when Billy (Slater) came around and put Sisa away,” said Bellamy.“And Sisa gave the ball away. We could have nearly put it to bed then. If he’d hung onto the ball, we might have scored off that next play or in that set.
“We did that a couple of times. Sisa gave the ball away when he kicked it….”
But after becoming the Harlem Globetrotters of rugby league in their 2010 “lost season”, Melbourne have found a blend that suits them and scares their opponents. Speaking before the WCC, Leeds coach Brian McDermott said they were more predictable than 2011 champions Manly but harder to stop.
You might look at their stars as glamorous mountaineers and their recycled veteran forwards as mere sherpas but it doesn’t matter to them.
The summit awaits.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

NRL round one: MELBOURNE 30 ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA 10 at AAMI Park

By STEVE MASCORD
MELBOURNE coach Craig Bellamy last night called on the NRL to protect players from the heat by restructuring the draw and rules surrounding drinks breaks – but in the next breath diffused another looming battle with officialdom.
Sixteen days after playing in minus-two degrees Celsius against Leeds at Headingley, the Storm opened their premiership defence with a 30-10 win over St George Illawarra at AAMI Park, with temperatures reaching 33.9 degrees during the match.
As he walked into the post-match media conference, the Storm coach turned to captain Cameron Smith and said: “I know when you don’t whinge about being replaced that it must be hot”.
“I couldn’t believe today we didn’t have the ….break for drinks,” said Bellamy. “To me it was quite silly
“We wanted to have it and St George didn’t want to have it.”
It emerged last night that NRL medical officer Ron Muratore found in favour of the Dragons when Melbourne sought a ruling on the issue, using a formula called the Heat Stress Index. “The people who made that decision, they should go out there and play and they might change their mind,” Bellamy said.
“A bit of commonsense should come into play and take it out of both clubs’ hands.
“It’s something that the NRL might be able to look at – for the first month of the season, just playing night games.
“Let’s do the right thing by the players’ welfare.”
The coach complained during the pre-season about a draw that has the champions playing in Leeds, Melbourne, Townsville, Melbourne and Auckland in the space of six weeks.
There were fears Bellamy would pick a severely weakened side to play North Queensland at Dairy Farmers Stadium next Saturday night,  resulting in a clash with League Central.
But Bellamy said: “We’re certainly not going to just leave guys out to make a point.
“We’re not going to take any chances. We left Bryan Norrie out today because the medical staff didn’t really think that he adapted well enough to the heat after being in the cold.”
Hooker Smith said couldn’t “remember a match in recent times where it’s been so difficult to get out there and play … it was like playing in a sauna”.
Explaining his position, Dragons coach Steve Price said: “We felt like it was the right thing to do. We’ve been playing in very hot conditions, when we played up there in cairns against the Cowboys.
“We didn’t feel like it was extreme conditions out there, especially with the late cloud cover that came over. We did the protect protocols and procedures with the current NRL rules.”
Had Melbourne not made five first half errors inside their oppositions’ 20-metre line, their lead at the break could have been much larger than 18-0.
The Dragons managed to bomb a try in circumstances not seen in living rugby league memory when winger Jason Nightingale dived over the dead ball line and tapped the Steeden back into the in-goal.
Team-mate Chase Stanley then pursued the rolling ball back towards the tryline, diving to touch down before it returned to the field of play. He got there too late – effectively scoring a “reverse try” . Dragon Tyson Frizell then fumbled as he tried to scoop up the ball and score.
Billy Slater (14 minutes), Gareth Widdop (28) and Justin O’Neill (35) scored first half tries – Slater’s was a great individual effort – before Dragon Jamie Soward came up with an intercept and raced 70 metres to the line two minutes into the second half.
But the Storm coasted home, O’Neill bagging his second touchdown and winger Mahe Fonua finishing off a dazzling short range movement which included a heady basketball pass from fullback Slater.
St George Illawarra centre Chase Stanley suffered a knee injury with three minutes remaining but said: “It doesn’t feel too bad right now. We’ll see what the scans say.”
MELBOURNE 30 (J O’Neill 2 B Slater G Widdop M Fonua tries C Smith 5 goals) bt ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA 10 (J Soward J Nightingale tries J Soward goal) at AAMI Park. Referees: M Cecchin/L Phillips. Crowd: 16,251.
Filed for: THE AUSTRALIAN