Corey Thompson’s Had A Bad Run In Grand Finals

Thompson, CoreyBy STEVE MASCORD

TRY-HUNGRY winger Corey Thompson has revealed how joining Canterbury cost him a grand final– and a missed plane denied him the chance to celebrate with his team-mates.

Thompson has bagged 11 first grade touch downs since transferring from Brisbane Easts on a modest contract in the middle of last season. The Tigers went on to make the 2013 Intrust Super Cup grand final, where they lost to Mackay Cutters, without him.

“I was playing Queensland Cup at the start of last year, came down here and then my Queensland Cup team made the grand final,” Thompson tells League Week.

“I missed out on that. I was lucky enough to debut this year and I’ve got the grand final next weekend. “

donate2Thompson tried to make it to Brisbane for last year’s Q Cup decider – but the name of the airline he chose was a bad omen.

He explains: “Funnily enough, I booked my flight on Tiger. It was delayed and cancelled so by the time I got there the grand final was over. So I missed the grand final.

“I was still in Sydney waiting for my plane to leave (when it kicked off).

“By the time I got there, they were all over the place. I couldn’t get around so I saw them the next day. They were pretty seedy.

“It was good to see them.”

Thompson hoped Easts would be playing Penrith in a curtain-raiser on Sunday – but they missed out again, this time to Northern Pride.

“I’m still in shock – it’s my first full year and I’m into the grand final. I’m over the moon for all the boys,” Thompson said,.

“School and juniors, three or four when I was younger.

“I really just played with my mates and loved playing until I got the call from the Dogs.”

Thompson looks back on the Bulldogs’ two-from-eight finish to the regular season by saying: “We’ve always had that spark. We probably overplayed it a lot in those past 10 rounds.

“We never gave up on each other – some people might have doubted us. The boys knew ‘one loss and we’re out’ and they just put their heads down.

“I’ve got (Alex) Johnston (in the grand final). I don’t know him. I marked him when we played the Rabbitohs. He’s an amazing young player, he’s a freak, he knows how to play so I’m going to have my hands full next week.”

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Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

BONDI BEAT: November 2014

November 2014By STEVE MASCORD

AS a reporter, there is sometimes a feeling I get on grand final day – deep in the pit of my stomach, below the pies and chicken skewers – that is difficult to explain. I don’t get it after Test matches or State of Origin games or semis or Nines or Sevens.

I’ll try to approximate it with a word in English that won’t be do the job properly: jealousy. Maybe envy. Sudden emptiness.

It often hits when a team you’ve had a fair bit to do with during the season wins the competition. The things you envy, the things you are jealous of, are not what you may think.

I don’t wish I was a big rugby league star. I don’t wish I was posing for photos with pretty girls and being paid a massive salary and was encouraged to get drunk for a week without paying for one beer myself.

Because it’s not necessarily the players I am jealous of.

A few Sundays ago, I was envious of Souths’ doorman, their kit man, their trainer … hell, I was envious of every single Souths supporter.

Because in this job, we get to see years and years of greatness at extremely close quarters, which is a blessing. But we don’t get to BE great.

When South Sydney were kicked out of the NRL, I stayed at the Sydney Morning Herald all night and worked out a criteria for who should be excluded if teams had to be culled.

Souths finished, mathematically, as one of those teams. One of the responses I got to that story was a veiled death threat. Many of the people who berated me over the story deserved to be in the dressingroom on grand final night much more than I did.

I didn’t stay long. It didn’t feel right.

In my business, we are forever observing and judging. But on rare occasions like the 2014 NRL grand final, it feels like you stand for nothing. You are committed to nothing, forever a spectator, impartial and unmoved at every turn, committed only to upholding “the truth”.

No-one ever held a ticker tape parade for the truth.

Some reporters get this sense of purpose by “going after” those who they perceive as dishonest or corrupt – dogged investigative journalists are among the most passionate people I know but I find they often take a side to motivate themselves along the way, even if the finished product ends up objective.

I’ve always been one to have trouble typecasting people as evil, never been vindictive enough for that gig.

I guess what I felt most envious about on grand final night, why I wished I was even the man who cleaned the toilets at Redfern Oval, is that without a cause in life, your life is much the poorer.

The grand final gave me a cause: finding a cause.

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WHERE to start, then, away from my own loony ramblings?

South Sydney’s grand final victory was almost a social phenomenon in Australia. It connected Australians – particularly Sydneysiders – with their past in ways no-one could fully have anticipated and also touched on class, race and commerce.

donate2Front and centre for the whole thing was one S Burgess. Should he have stayed on the field with a fractured cheekbone? Should he have gone to the blood bin? Should the salary cap be bent to get him back to rugby league?

My answers: yes, yes and no.

I would have no hesitation in saying Burgess has made a bigger impact than any other Englishman in my time covering the premiership, which is as far back as 1986. Adrian Morley would have been the fellow who came closest.

By the time he finishes up, James Graham could usurp both of them.

I’m surprised there was not more comment on Graham being overlooked for the England captaincy. If it’s good enough for the England coach to be based in Australia, surely it’s good enough for the captain to be here as well.

I realise Sean O’Loughlin has served a long apprenticeship and do a good job. But Graham? He’s a beast!

ONE has to feel for Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington when it comes to the World Club Challenge and Series.

Hetherington has been banging on about an expanded competition for at least a decade now. Throughout that period, the Rhinos have been pretty consistently involved.

But when the concept finally gets off the ground, they can’t even get one of the three available spots for Super League teams!

As usual, interest in Australia has been pretty much zero and nobody seems to understand why Brisbane and St George Illawarra are going.

If I had a dollar for every time I have Tweeted “because they’re the only ones who wanted to go”, I’d have enough moolah to keep Sam Burgess in rugby league.

It will be interesting to see what happens to the concept next year. Will we go back to just two teams in Australia? Or will we take the expanded concept to a neutral venue?

Broncos chief executive Paul White visited Dubai on the way back from the World Cup last year and visited several venues which would be suitable for the matches.

Personally, I favour making the Warriors and Catalan permanent contestants in the tournament, meaning four countries are represented.

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NOT content with there being no Great Britain tour next year, the Australian players association has called for the national team to adopt a “rotation policy” to further ease the demands on players.

amazonNever mind that the NRL starts a month after Super League and finishes a week before.

Australia’s cricket and rugby union teams do not always field their strongest line-ups and as far as Bondi Beat is concerned, anything that makes it more likely our dominant national side loses is a good thing.

It might just start over the next few weeks, given the absences of Billy Slater, Johnathan Thurston, Paul Gallen, Brett Morris and the rest…

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A word, too, about Tyrone McCarthy. The former Warrington and Ireland forward scored a crucial try as the Cairns-based Northern Pride won the “second tier super bowl” against Penrith on grand final day.

Before the game, I asked Tyrone about the curious contradiction of Sydney fans loving English players – but having zero interest in the English game.

“It just shows how the NRL cares only about the NRL,” he said. “No one over here could tell you who the next Graham/Burgess might be in Super League.

“As much as it’s up to other countries to promote the game a small hand from the NRL would have great significance for UK rugby league on so many different aspects, commercially and the development of the sport which in turn would make the NRL stronger.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD

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What Did South Sydney’s Premiership Victory Really Mean?

TrophyBy STEVE MASCORD

LOTE Tuqiri’s face is ringed with digital voice recorders. He has a black premiership t-shirt over his sweat-soaked cardinal and myrtle South Sydney jersey. He admits retirement is tempting.

And then the dual international, who played in a grand final for Brisbane 14 years ago, is momentarily stuck for words. He’s trying to explain how South Sydney fans have made him feel part of this, this…..

“Movement,” Tuqiri says finally. “That’s what it is.”
We all think we know why South Sydney’s drought breaking premiership victory, finishing in a 30-6 grand final win over Canterbury at ANZ Stadium on Sunday, was so transcendent.

We all have different theories.

For some of us, it was all about Sam Burgess, chaired off by his team-mates in an unintentional re-enactment of how John Sattler left the SCG after a comparable feat of bravery 44 years earlier. One with a fractured cheekbone, one a shattered jaw.

Sattler’s coach that day was Clive Churchill. Clive’s widow, Joyce, presented Burgess with the man of the match award struck in Churchill’s honour, making him the first Souths player to win it.

Sam told in the lead-up to the game that his mother Julie had once mentioned she wanted to live by the sea. Now her four sons were big name athletes in one of the world’s foremost seaside cities, and they had granted her wish, although Sam was about to leave for rugby union.

Maybe we think it was those 43 years since the last Rabbitohs premiership; Souths had not won one in the colour television era. In 1971, most people back at the leagues club listened to a radio commentary of the 16-10 win over St George, with a transistor positioned next to a PA microphone.

Perhaps you see it as a triumph of the public will; the bunnies were excluded from the competition for two years and 50,000 people marched to save them in 1999. Maybe it was win for those people over big business – some will never forget News Limited’s involvement in the decision to exterminate the bunnies.

“We finally beat you,” a fan tweeted to Rupert Murdoch early on Monday morning.

Every Hollywood script needs an A-List actor. Russell Crowe’s takeover of the club he supported as a child, and the return on grand final day of the estranged George Piggins, who led that 1999 march, entranced tens of thousands.

And maybe the fairytale of the people involved is enough for you, Shane Richardson moving from Penrith for “a challenge”, Wayne Bennett turning the Bunnies down, Michael Maguire starting from scratch, Greg Inglis aborting a move to Brisbane when no-one met him at the airport.

There was Issac Luke, forced to watch from the sidelines following a suspension (“He shook hands with the judiciary at the end of the hearing and said ‘this is about the team’,” Maguire opined) but still photographed in a playing jersey at fulltime, his replacement Api Koroisau who won a premiership in his final game at the club.

John Sutton, long-suffering Rabbitohs lifer? “I can’t describe how happy I am – it’s been a long journey,” he said. “When Madge first wanted me to be captain, I wasn’t too keen.”

And also Alex Johnston, the kid who played Greg Inglis in a TV commercial, Ben Te’o, Sam Burgess’s flatmate also off to rugby union at fulltime. “Sometimes it takes decisions – Sam leaving and Ben leaving,” said Maguire.

“It’s tough to take when you first get that but they want to do it for each other and I think that’s been a big driving force.”

The list goes on. Crowe is probably lobbying for funding for the movie as you read this.

But Lote Tuqiri is right. What South Sydney’s victory represents more than anything is a movement, a cause, a triumph of the collective over almost every conceivable obstacle.

donate2There are more noble causes, I guess: world peace, freedom from hunger, saving the whales.

But Souths have been a cause for all the reasons above – and more – since they were kicked out of the premiership.

Strip away the hype and machismo and most football premierships are just that; a bunch of well played but exceedingly brave men finishing ahead of 15 other groups of same.

It’s not your imagination, it’s not hype and hyperbole to say this one was different. It was.

It’s been a class war for what was once a down-at-heel part of Sydney. It has represented the struggle of indigenous people in that city and nationwide.

It’s been a banner under which those who felt marginalised, ignored or victimised could march – for 15 years now. While the rabbits were out of the premiership, cab drivers would refuse to pick up at Murdoch’s Fox Studios.

But much more than people need a fullback to love, a media baron to despise, an old bell to revere and that black and white photo of Satts in 1970, they just need something to believe in, something to fight for, a reason to get up tomorrow.

Anything; a cause – or as Lote referred to it – a movement. Souths were the perfect storm of nostalgia and emotion. We live in an era of mass terror, mass stupidity, mass fear.

On the weekend we got mass elation.

“The last couple of minutes on the field were pretty emotional,” said Burgess, whose agent Chris Caisley slipped into the back of the press conference room as he sat down.

“I had the pain, I had the knock to my head, the feeling of being victorious. It overcame me at the time. Just to share the moment with the guys on the field, it was really emotional, the feelings that run through your body at that moment in time.

“Everyone who’s been involved in turning this club around …. I guess that’s why I feel emotional.

“It was tears of joy, certainly.”

Souths knew they had ridden the crest of a wave. They were going to share their success with as many people as possible.

“Ever since I’ve been here, we’ve spoken about the history of Souths,” said Maguire. “It’s part of what comes with Souths – Satts and Ronny Coote and Bob McCarthy. I could go on and on and on with all of those players.

“To recognise the past is a big part of what builds a club and they’re as much a part of this, along with everyone else who’s played for Souths. The community … it’s just been a ride.”

Shane Richardson is the first chief executive or club secretary to win premierships at different clubs. He watched the game with his son Brent and good friend, former Essendon CEO Ian Robson, from the players enclosure.

At fulltime, Richardson received 163 test messages from around the world – not including the two friends who flew in for the game from the United States and his brother who arrived the previous evening from Barcelona.

“What stands out in my mind?” he tells RLW. “Seeing the looks on the faces of Greg Inglis and Sam Burgess. I had never seen them cry before.

“It wasn’t just joy or relief, it was elation.

“I looked out at some 50,000 people and you know what? In the past people might say you didn’t know them. I knew them all. If they are members, I have their email addresses, I know their names, I know who they are.

“That was a very special feeling.”

As has become customary, the South Sydney players took the premiership trophy to the centre of ANZ Stadium around midnight on Sunday. They formed a circle, their chants echoed through the empty arena and champagne sprayed everywhere.

Richardson wasn’t there. Long gone. He had to make sure Souths Juniors was ready for the party, that security was tight and there was no trouble.

Next day, he was in his office by 9am. There was a fan day, a tickertape parade and the Red & Green Ball to organise. This is just the start for Souths, not the destination, as far as he is concerned.

“Souths Juniors was amazing after the game,” he enthused. “There was no trouble. What is the best way to describe it?

“I’ll tell you: you know that black and white film of the girl skipping down the street at the end of the second world war?

“Like that.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

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THE JOY OF SIX: International Season Week One 2014

The Joy Of SixSANDOW SIN BIN

WHEN we went to Parramatta with claims Chris Sandow had played in an aboriginal knockout and been sent off for a shoulder charge followed by an elbow, Eels CEO Scott Seward told us: “He had permission to play. He passed a medical and the coach gave him his blessing. Chrissy has told us he was sent to the sin bin for a shoulder charge on a childhood friend. It was a bit of a joke between them.” But bootleg video on YouTube above appears to show a dismissal – with the elbow chiefly to blame. When Seward put this to Sandow, he insisted he wasn’t aware he had been sent off, only sin binned. We can’t find any record of a judiciary hearing. The title for the Murri Carnival at Redcliffe two weeks ago changed hands when it was discovered the winners, Murri Dingoes Blue, fielded a player who mistakenly believed his drugs suspension had expired. Parra’ refused permission for Joseph Paulo and Bereta Faraimo to play for the US in the Mitchelton Nines on Saturday.

PUNCHING ON 1

WE have often heard this year that “little guys wouldn’t be pushing big guys if they could still be punched”. It was just a theory until the Super League grand final, when little Lance Hohaia pushed big Ben Flower, then lunged at him with a raised forearm. As we know, Hohaia punched Flower twice, the second time when he was on his back, possibly unconscious. They both missed the rest of the game, leaving St Helens to limp to victory as they have all year. Had Flower – who left Old Trafford before fulltime – not opted out of Wales duty, he could at least have counted the upcoming European internationals against what will no doubt be a mammoth suspension. Condemnation of Flower has been widespread and almost unanimous. Soccer star Joe Barton Tweeted he had “little sympathy” for Hohaia because of the provocation, but later stressed he did not intend to defend the Welshman.

PUNCHING ON 2

LIKE Wigan’s Super League campaign, the proud 15-year-plus history of the United States Tomahawks may have come to an end with a punch at the weekend. The USARL is taking over running the game in the US and is likely to dispense with the old AMNRL trademark, meaning it was all on the line when the Americans trailed invitational side Iron Brothers 8-4 with three minutes left in a Nines quarter-final in Brisbane. The Tomahawks got the ball back but sometime-cage fighter Tui Samoa took umbrage to something a rival said and punched him. Water carrier Paulo – banned, as we said, by Parramatta from playing – helped separate them, Samoa was sent to the bin and Brothers scored again to eliminate the US 14-4.

GRACIOUSNESS AND GAFFES

AND what a mixed bag we had for rugby league public speaking at the weekend. On the plus side, congrats to departing Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin, the club’s player of the year Ben Hunt and CEO Paul White for their oratory at the club presentation. “Ben Hunt was entitled to test his value on the open market but he didn’t,” White told around 500 guests. “Although at a backyard barbecue I was at, he did get his message across to me by changing the words of the Status Quo song to ‘down, down, prices are down”. Griffin said: “Whatever I do now, I’ll be a competitor. But I’ll never be a critic of this club or the people in it.” On the negative, St Helens’ Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, at fulltime on live TV: “I’m absolutely buzzing. I could fucking swear”. Yes, he said those words – in that order.

WORLDWIDE LIVE

SOUTHS chief executive Shane Richardson has savaged the running of the international game in Britain’s The Observer. “I look at the state of international rugby league and it just makes me angry,” Richardson – citing the departure of Sam Burgess as a symptom of the problem – said. “I know from the years I’ve spent in the game, and the contacts I’ve made in business, and the places I’ve been around the world, that there’s a potential to do so much more.” Nevertheless, Greece played their first home international at the weekend, beating the Czechs 68-16 in Athens, the Philippines defeated Vanuatu 32-16 on remote Santo and Norway were preparing to meet Thailand in Bangkok. Next weekend, Latin America faces Portugal and Fiji takes on Lebanon, both in Sydney while Tonga take on PNG in Lae and the European Championships commence.

RETIRING ON A HIGH

REPORTS of veteran rugby league photographer Col Whelan’s retirement were greatly exaggerated last year. The NRL weren’t quite ready to take over Col’s operation and he went around in 2014 for one last season – wearing a South Sydney cap to every game. NRL rules prohibit media from wearing club merchandise but the media areas are full of uniformed club staff posting on social media, an inconsistency the irascible snapper sought to highlight. At fulltime on grand final day in the bunnies rooms, players became concerned Col had stopped shooting. He was crying with happiness. At the Red and Green ball, Whelan presented every player with a disc containing 120 photos of their life-defining triumph. What a way to go out – enjoy your retirement, Col.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

The Rabbitohs Star Who Prepared In Secret, Alone For A Shot At History

Ben Te'o/wikipedia

Ben Te’o/wikipedia

By STEVE MASCORD

A TOP secret training camp under the Australian Institute of Sport’s Glen Workman has made Ben Te’o the man who can make the biggest difference in Sunday’s grand final.

Teo, banned for a month on a chicken wing charge in the lead-up to Saturday’s preliminary final against Sydney Roosters, stunned the competition with a powerhouse comeback, including an Herculean try, in the 10-point win over Sydney Roosters.

The rugby union-bound Teo refused to name Workman or say exactly where the training took place. It’s understood to have been on the Gold Coast, where the guru is based, and in Brisbane.

“Nah, I don’t want to talk too much about it but yeah I did a lot of off-site training,” said Teo “It’s been good. I met some cool people and it mixed up my training. It was good.

“I just want to get away because four weeks without playing is a long time. It ended up being five.

“Going away for two weeks and just to break it up and come back mentally fresh … Madge was happy enough to let me go after I tried to persuade him.”

While Souths received publicity earlier in the week for using experimental ‘patches’ under their wristbands and jerseys, Workman deals more in proven methods of making athletes stronger.

He started his rugby league training career on 1985 with Valleys and has served with the Broncos and a number of English clubs. Workman now specialises in kyak, diving, swimming, sailing and athletics practitioners, as well as talking on footballers occasionally for one-on-one training.

Teo said he was grateful coach Michael Maguire’s allowed him to leave Sydney during his absence from the playing field.

“I would have stayed around at training and got flogged every day. (I got flogged) somewhere else by someone else.

“It freshened me up mentally and I came back with a good attitude and that’s what he wanted me to do. I just tried to fight my way back into the team and play.”

Despite joining Leinster rugby union next year, Teo says we’ve not seem the last of him.
“I would love to come back, 100 per cent,” he said.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK