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
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
RUGBY 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
By 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
EVEN when Cameron Smith is upset, he probably doesn’t GET upset.
The captain of Queensland, Melbourne and Australia is sitting in the foyer of the Marriott in Leeds on a crisp, clear Yorkshire afternoon a few days before the World Club Challenge.
Geographically, he’s a long way from the issues swirling around rugby league – doping, organised crime, match-fixing and – more traditionally – scheduling. But in truth, you are never far away when you are captain of your country.
But Smith, in purple kit and grasping a water bottle, chuckles at little jokes, listens to questions carefully and doesn’t hesitate with answers. If you’re looking for a snapshot of how NRL players feel as we hurtle into 2013 and a brave new era of prosperity, this is the place to get it.
BEING A DIPLOMAT Vs SPEAKING UP FOR FELLOW PLAYERS
“You see how the leaders handle themselves. You have to be true to yourself. I’ve always prided myself on being honest with my opinions but at the same time you’ve got to understand where other people are coming from with their concepts and ideas to try take the game forward. I see my role in the game at the moment as a bit of a voice for the players. I speak to guys all around the competition fairly regularly. They voice concerns to me and they also let me know what things they think are going really good in the game. I feel it’s my job to do what best portrays the playing group. If we all understand where we’re headed and we’re all on the same page, we can get some good things done in the game. We’ve always had the product on the field, we’ve had a great product on the field, but back home we’ve struggled business-wise to be the number on code in the country. You can’t look at it as a burden, with all the things going on and everyone having a say. You’ve got to look at it as positive. If we do that, we’ll come up with a pretty special package, both domestically and the international game.”
“There hasn’t been (movement) and I think that’s a shame because that’s the way we need to go. That should be high on our priorities, to make our sport a truly national sport. At the moment we play down the eastern seaboard and we’ve got one team in New Zealand. We’ve got to try and take out game to … WA, particularly. That’s where a lot of the noise is coming from, I know there’s some pretty good support over there. I’ve been lucky enough to play NRL matches in Perth, I’ve been lucky enough to play NRL matches in Adelaide and there’s been good support, good crowds. There’s a strong competition in Perth. With new money coming in, I know there’s going to be things we need to look after. The CBA is going to be signed off on pretty soon. But (expansion) works in perfectly with the TV deal. Everyone is after live sport. You’re getting three games back to back.”
INDUSTRIAL THREAT TO ALL STAR GAME
“I can’t tell you where that came from, mate. I don’t know where that came from. As far as I’m concerned, that wasn’t an option for the players to interrupt that week or boycott that game because it’s a special game and it’s a special week for everyone involved. Everything moved forward pretty quickly with the CBA. From the first proposal the NRL came to us with … they (later) came to a pretty good agreement with the players.”
AUSTRALIAN CRIME COMMISSION INVESTIGATION
“I think it’s the way it was handled. They came out with all these allegations on not just rugby league but Australian sport. We play rugby league but we all love other sports as well and they’ve just come out and hammered Australian sport. That was the most disappointing thing – without any solid evidence. If they’re going to come out and have a press conference like that, name someone if you’ve got something. Name someone so it just doesn’t throw a blanket over everybody that plays elite sport in Australia. As far as I’m concerned, the Melbourne Storm, we’ve got nothing to hide from anyone. If people want to come in and investigate our club and investigate our staff and our players, then no worries. We’ve got nothing to hide. It’s obviously a course of action that those people need to take and that will happen in the near future. But it was quite disappointing the way it was all handled. They say they’ve been investigating for so long –give us some names. Don’t just say it’s in rugby league, it’s in Aussie Rules, there’s this in cricket. The fans are sitting back going ‘is my team involved?’,‘is my favourite player involved in this stuff?’. It’s since moved on. The majority of clubs have been cleared. Hopefully it’s done and dusted as soon as possible.”
PLAYERS WITH GETOUT CLAUSES IF CRAIG BELLAMY LEAVES
“I didn’t even think about my situation if he had left. I was just hoping he was going to re-sign. It was like it wasn’t even happening. We just went about our business.”
HIS CONTRACTUAL SITUATION
“Who knows (laughs)? I’ll have to ring my manager. I don’t even know how long he’s locked me into this club for! I think I’m off contract next year. Who knows what the future holds? When I first started playing, I thought if I ever had the chance to play first grade, I want to be a one-club player. But things change, mate. I’ve got a family now with three kids where we’re living away from the rest of our family, which is up in Queensland, and sometimes it’s hard. Footy’s been great, the club’s been great, we love Melbourne. But sometimes it’s difficult when you have to travel. It’s hard for the wife to look after three kids. These are issues you face in life. Who knows what will happen the next time I’m off contract. I’d like to think the Storm would like me to stay. I’d like to stay but we’ll just have to see what happens. You read about JT’s (Johnathan Thurston’s) situation at the moment where he’s got a pretty big decision to make for his future. When you’re JT and my age – we’re 30 this year – a big part of it is football but a big part of it also is life after footy as well. We’re coming to the stage of our careers where we’re almost finished. I’ve been at this club for 12 years and I haven’t got 12 years left. We’re happy where we are now.”
PLANS AFTER RETIREMENT.
“I’d love to stay involved in the game. League’s given me a lot. Whether that’s in media or some sort of coaching role … I can tell you right now it won’t be a head coaching role. I’ve seen how hard this bloke (Craig Bellamy) works.”
2010 AND THE LEGACY OF BEING STRIPPED OF TWO PREMIERSHIPS
“I’ll tell you straight-up, I don’t think about 2010 at all. I never think about that year and what happened. Obviously you can’t erase it, it’s always there but I don’t sit there and think about it. I think that’s the great thing about this place – we move on quickly. You look at the last two seasons, we couldn’t have achieved what we achieved – preliminary finalists an premiers – if you were stuck on what happened in 2010.”
Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK
Bellamy was speaking after the Storm held off Leeds 18-14 at Headingley, making them the first Australian club to win a WCC decider three times – although the 2010 title was subsequently stripped for salary cap abuse.
The coach said he favoured playing next year’s WCC in Melbourne if the Storm qualify but his comments about the attitudes of other NRL clubs cast doubt over plans to involve six teams in the UK at the start of 2015.
“It’s well known that some clubs don’t take this seriously, but we’re not going to come all this way to take it easy,” said Bellamy, whose side secured victory with two quick tries after halftime.
“This is an important game to us and we’ve always seen it as important. You have to win a competition to play in one of these games.
“We take great pride in representing the NRL over here tonight.”
A WCC working group has agreed to play next year’s match in Australia, although the NRL still has to rubber stamp the idea. “I don’t know what the mentality is and who makes those decisions,” Bellamy said.
“But at the end of the day, I’m pretty sure that if it was well marketed in Melbourne, we’d get a really good crowd at AAMI Park if we get a chance to play it again.”
If last night’s was the final stand-alone World Club Challenge in the UK for the time being after 13 years of that arrangement, then it gave fans a fine spectacle.
Converted tries to Melbourne fullback Billy Slater (20 minutes) and Leeds winger Ryan Hall (26) and a couple of penalty goals made it 8-8 at halftime – before the Storm made their big play.
Taking a hit-up 20 metres out, prop Jesse Bromwich beat four defenders on a bumping, stepping run to the line.
Almost from the resumption, Melbourne put on a 50 metre movement which finished in 21-year-old debutant Tohu Harris scoring.
Harris’s father, Paul, had flown 31 hours from Napier for the game. “He’s very proud of his son, he actually presented Tohu with his jumper last night,” said Bellamy.
“It was very heartfelt, we were very moved by it and I’m sure it helped Tohu play well tonight.”
Melbourne had tried to Mahe Fonua (forward pass) and Gareth Widdop (double movement) chalked off in the final 10 minutes but according to Golden Boot winner Kevin Sinfield “their goal-line defence won it for them.”
The Storm’s squad included 11 members of the side which beat Canterbury in last year’s NRL grand final.
Filed for: AAP