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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From Les Chanticleer To Rooster

Casty, RemyBy STEVE MASCORD
HE called it an “amazing day” – and Remy Casty reckons there are plenty more players in France who can scale the heights of the NRL if more is done to encourage them.
The 29-year-old former Catalan prop will next week likely become only the fourth French-born player to turn out for a premiership club, after Penrith centre Jacques Moliner, Canberra prop Jerome Guisset and Cronulla winger Jason Batieri.
It will only take him a month to get the appearance record out of that select group; but after coming off the bench in the 36-14 win over Wigan at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night, Casty is already a world champion.
“It’s an amazing day for me … I can feel the fans, I can feel everything,” Casty tells RLW. “First game, first win and we are world champions. It’s pretty good for me to start like that.
“For me, it’s all different because I come from France. The language is different, I think the players are very professional. They look after themselves, you can see the difference with us in France.
“But it’s not luck because I worked hard to be here. I’m pretty proud to be in this team. All the guys were good with me when I came and I feel like it’s a family in this team.”
Considering rugby league kicked off in France in 1934 and the 1951 French tourists were among the most celebrated ever to visit this country, it’s remarkable that so few players from the league hotbed have made it into the premiership.
“I am proud about that, to be French and come to the NRL comp,” said Casty.
“I hope all the young French players can see that we can do that. If we work hard, we can play against the best.
“If you work hard and you believe in yourself, sure you can come here and train and play and play well for this comp. But you have to work very hard.
“In France, we have not so many teams. There is just one team that is professional and we have to work very, very hard to be in this team and after that you have to work very very hard to stay in it.
“It’s a big difference. In France, the main sport is soccer and after that, rugby union. We don’t have a professional competition.
“I hope now the young players in France want to improve and want to work hard. It’s good for rugby league in the world, the other teams will improve.
“If you take a French or Italian player and he comes here, he will improve very, very quick and very much.”
ends

DISCORD 2014: Edition Four

DiscordBy STEVE MASCORD
SORRY but Discord doesn’t believe Warrington coach Tony Smith did anything wrong by helping Sydney Roosters prepare for the World Club Challenge.
Wigan coach Shaun Wane has described it as “sad” that Warrington would help the Roosters tactically, including a video session and an opposed training session.
“But I take it as a compliment that one of the best teams in the world is asking for help from a Super League team, especially a team that did not manage to beat us in a huge game last year,” he commented to The Star newspaper.*
It’s a good story – but if the Roosters were taking the Wolves under their wing at training, it’s reasonable for them to expect something in return.
Smith may have coached England but like Roosters boss Trent Robinson, he’s Australian. He doesn’t owe Wigan anything, really.
One Super League club that is unwittingly helping Wigan is Huddersfield, who have to kick off the season a week early next Friday so the Warriors can travel to the southern hemisphere. Their coach, Paul Anderson, is not best pleased at the situation.
And have we forgotten that the England national coach is on the Sydney Roosters coaching staff? I’d assume HE is helping the Roosters, right?

* Wane later denied being offended by Smith’s actions
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COLLEAGUE Tony Hannan is correct in saying Super League’s new deal with Sky can only be properly judged when – or if – we know how much money is involved.
Given that the NRL contract will certainly dwarf whatever the figure is, it’s possible we will never be told.
But on the surface, these are positive times for the game in the UK, with a new sponsor announced and controversial competition structure bedded down for next year.
The season launch is at Event City in Manchester on Monday. Two more sponsors for the competition are likely to be announced there, or later in the week.
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THE signing of Lote Tuqiri by South Sydney is another example of how our sport could benefit from a proper Nines circuit.
Tuqiri could keep playing indefinitely in Nines and his name would put bums on seats. When brings me to the Cabramatta Nines. I’m not in Sydney right now but if I was, I’d be getting out there this Saturday.
Congratulations to Thailand for their 46-10 win over Japan (13 a side) at Redfern Oval last night.
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THANKS for last week’s comments, as always. Mercurial MattyV makes a very, very good point about the dangers of the last five minutes of games being refereed differently than the first 75. Will we now just get time-wasting in minutes 70 to 75?

read on

Nathan Brown Slams Wigan Props

Brown, NathanBy STEVE MASCORD

OUTSPOKEN Nathan Brown has issued a World Club Challenge warning to Sydney Roosters: Wigan’s props are cheap shot merchants.
The St Helens boss and former St George Illawarra coach made the comment yesterday after his new signing, former Penrith half Luke Walsh, finished his first night as a Super League player in hospital undergong x-rays for a possible facial fracture after a late challenge from Wigan’s Welsh giant Ben Flower.
The 28-16 Wigan win at Langtree Park also marked the English debuts of North Queensland icon Matt Bowen and former South Sydney and Wests Tigers forward Eddy Pettybourne.
“He got hit in the head – without the ball. You know that’s going to happen when you play Wigan” said a fuming Brown.
“That’s standard with their front rowers. It happened to Gaz O’Brien last year.”
Brown was otherwise complimentary to the side who will meet the Roosters at Allianz Stadium on February 22, calling them “effective”, “fluid” and “terrific”. The starting props in Sydney are likely to be Flower and Scott Taylor with Pettybourne off the bench.
New signing Jordan James, a former Royal Marine, will push Gil Dudson for the final bench spot.
That’s if Flower, 26, escapes the wrath of the judiciary. Walsh played on after the 70th-minute hit and was taken straight to a local hospital for scans. Results were still unavailable at the time of writing.
Pettybourne, who played for the United States in the World Cup, had fans chanting his name after a couple of big hits off the interchange bench. “He’s got good footwork and a hit on him,” said coach Shaun Wane.
“There’s a few technical things EP can work on. He’ll get better.”
Bowen had few oppotunities, St Helens scoring one try after the Cowboys star lost the ball in a tackle. He was replaced at halftime.
“That was always the plan,” said Wane, joking: “He’s the same age as me.”
In Friday’s other pre-season game, Leeds flogged London 68-10 at Headingley.

Filed for: SUN HERALD

The A-List: SEAN O’LOUGHLIN (Wigan & England)

O'Loughlin, SeanBy STEVE MASCORD
SEAN O’Loughlin would probably like to say he remembers Wigan travelling to the old ANZ Stadium in 1994 and shocking Brisbane 20-14. For a start, his brother-in-law no doubt expects him to remember it.
“He would have played in that, wouldn’t he? He would have just come on the scene at the time,” says Wigan’s captain, Sean O’Loughlin, sitting by a pool near Orlando, Florida.
O’Loughlin’s brother-in-law is former Golden Boot winner Andy Farrell. It’s a family connection that links the February 22 Wigan-Sydney Roosters showpiece at Allianz Stadium with the last time the World Club Challenge was played in Australia, two whole decades ago.
But curly-headed O’Loughlin was only 11 at the time.
“I can’t really remember the game at the time … I’ve seen footage,” he concedes. “Those kind of rivalries with some of the Aussie clubs … especially Brisbane, they were a massive club at the time … they’re the kind of things the fans want to see.
“Like in ’87 when Manly came over to Wigan. That’s written into the history of the club, the big games against the Aussie teams. For us to get a chance to play in one of them now …”
O’Loughlin is a player most rugby league fans would recognise; tall, athletic, curly-haired, hard working. But very little about his personality is known. As it transpires from A-List’s conversation with him here at the National Training Center during Wigan’s pre-season US camp, that is not in any way because ‘Lockers’ is secretive.
He just seems disarmingly … normal (italicise ‘normal’).
“This will be our third time coming to Florida with Waney,” he explains when asked about the benefits of the camp.
“…with new lads coming in (there’s a chance) to get to know them better. We’re in villas, there’s eight lads a villa, and we’re spending 24 hours a day with them.”
The ‘new lads’ are led by NRL stars Matt Bowen and Eddie Pettybourne. Around me, the players are at different points in their daily routines. The squad is divided into forwards and backs, they do weights, swim and then finish up down on a field where Wane, assistants Iestyn Harris and Paul Deacon are idly kicking a Steeden around in relatively warm sunshine.
O’Loughlin, now 31 (maths, eh?) assures me he won’t be left behind, because “I’m one of the bus drivers”.
This is quite a different Wigan team – without some real stars – to that which clinched the Cup-League double in 20133 and there must be a question mark about how they’ll perform in Super League, nevermind against the might of the Roosters. Then again, the ’94 side was given no hope in front of 54,220 Queenslanders, either.
“(Lee) Mossop, Sam (Tomkins) and Pat Richards – they’ve left key positions in the team and they’re big characters as well,” O’Loughlin admits.
“It feels like a new group, a lot of new lads coming in, a lot of young lads stepping up. They have left holes but it’s good for the lads coming through now to kind of make their mark.”
Bowen’s is not what you’d call a “big personality” – certainly not in the presence of strangers.”I think he’s still jetlagged!” O’Loughlin says, in reference to “Mango”s circuitous route to Florida.
“This is the first time I’ve met Mango and Eddie. They’ve just come straight to Florida … it must be hard for them too, there’s a few Aussie lads in the team but not too many of them. It’s just trying to make them feel welcome and getting them up to speed on the field as well.”
OK, time to hit some meaty issues. Why hasn’t captain Wigan joined his buddies in the NRL?
“I’ve been tempted. The last few times I’ve come off contract at Wigan, there has been an opportunity to go … one year ago, the beginning of last year. It was something I sat down with the wife and kids … well, I didn’t discuss it too much with the kids …. and had a good chat about. It cropped up but having young kids and family ties, those kind of things kept me (in England).
“It was St George. My agent had a chat with them and I had a chat but when push came to shove, with Waney coming in here … it was our second year with Waney and I wanted to stay and be part of that. Luckily enough we had the chance to play in two finals that year and won both finals so I’d probably be banging my head against the wall if I missed that.”
At his current age, O’Loughlin believes the opportunity has passed him by. But if it’s not … he’s open to offers. “You never know. If there is ever an opportunity to go over there, it’s always something I could consider – just because the opportunities don’t come around too often. But I’m very, very happy at Wigan. I’m very happy with the time I’ve had here so I think I’d have to have another sit-down with the wife if that were to ever happen.”
What about the state of the game in England, with clubs facing consistent financial problems and the player drain to the NRL gathering pace?
“When you see clubs struggling like Bradford have done – and they’re a big club – it is a little bit of a worry but I think we’ve got a good enough game to look after itself,” he answers, optimistically.
“I think it’s probably the people on the other side of the fence, the RFL and that, looking after their finances a little bit better and looking after clubs a little bit better than they have been doing. With the salary cap going the way it is, it’s probably going to be harder to pull Australian players over. It gives a lot of young kids a stronger opportunity now.”
OK, another curly one: misbehaviour in the England camp during the World Cup with Gareth Hock and Zak Hardaker kicked out by coach Steve McNamara and James Graham omitted from the tournament opener.
“Most of the stuff happened early doors in the camp so it gave everyone the chance to get on, crack on with what we had to do,” says O’Loughlin. “It weren’t ideal, going in to a World Cup. I think Steve Mac handled it well, he dealt with it the best he thought and all the lads got behind him.
“He did put his head on the block with a few things. The most disappointing thing was to lose that game (against New Zealand), more than anything. The lads had all bonded together with a few things we were up against. We need to get past that last semi-final to kind of prove that our game is going forward a little bit.”
Saturday week provides the British game with another such opportunity. You might think the conditions will be outside Wigan’s comfort zone – but they look pretty comfortable here in Florida. And besides, “pretty much every other year, I went to Australia as a kid. We went as a schoolboy at 16, academy at 18, toured a couple of times with England and Great Britain….”
Besides, you know the WCC is a big game simply because Sean O’Loughlin is playing in it. Last year, he won at Wembley, did not pay again until the grand final, and then sat out the World Cup until the sold-out match against Ireland.
“I got a good bit of abuse about that,” he laughs. “The injury I got before the Challenge Cup final, it was just a slight calf strain.
“So I’d not played in three or four weeks. I went into the final and slightly tore my achilles. Then I thought that was season over. I was sort of hoping to try and get back and be in contention for England but I didn’t think I’d be back for the grand final. I got the boot off, I think it were Monday or Tuesday, and the grand final was on the Saturday.
“The physios were happy for me to try it, I had two sessions before the grand final, it felt good, so I played in that. Then I got back into the England squad. I think I only played about 18 games last year and two of them were finals!”
The fact the start of Super League was brought forward to give Wigan the best possible preparation for the Roosters is compelling evidence that everyone sees the Allianz Stadium encounter as being on par with anything Wembley or Old Trafford can offer. It’s hard to see the NRL doing likewise to help an Aussie side travelling to England.
“I think a lot of the clubs, and the league over here, want us to do well at it,” Sean agrees. “If you can go over to Australia and win that, it shows that our competition is strong and we’ve got a lot of good quality players. It’s not just big for Wigan, its big for our sport.
“Our boys will be pumped to be part of that. You’re wearing your Wigan clothes but you’re wearing your English and Super League flag as well.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

THE JOY OF SIX: Pre-season

The Joy Of Six

NOT MUCH OF A CHALLENGE
AT 24-4 at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night, plans for a six-team World Club Challenge next year were looking somewhat dodgy. South Sydney and Brisbane have already told English officials they are interested in being the second and third teams in the mini-tournament next February if neither of them win the NRL this season. Whichever finishes higher will play the second-placed Super League team on a Saturday and the other will play the no.3 SL side on Friday, with the WCC proper on Sunday. Huge gate receipts are anticipated, although the games cannot yet be sold as a separate television property. The previous week, the plan is for Brisbane and Souths to meet in an exhibition game in London while the premiers play Catalan in Perpignan. Of course, a fixture squeeze involving the Allstars and Nines could ruin all these plans – but so would have 50-0 at the weekend.

FRANK PAUL NAYSAYER
ONE of the most noteable aspects of the WCC from the sidelines was the ill-tempered display of Sydney Roosters lock Frank Paul Nuuausala. FPN had plenty to say – he especially enjoyed riling Michael McIllorum – and at one stage was cautioned for by referee Gerard Sutton for abusing Wigan players as they stood in their own in-goal. Jared Waerea-Hargrweaves – who managed extreme aggression minus the compulsion to verbalise it, told MMM: “It’s not English, definitely not English. He’s got his own fresh language going. I don’t even think the Wigan boys understood what he was saying.” All jokes aside, the feistiness could be a chink in the Roosters’ armour as the season unfolds.

COULD BE MAGIC – AND COULD NOT
PREVIOUS NRL administrators have looked into the ideas of the Magic Weekend and deduced that few of the advantages it affords Super League apply in the southern hemisphere. The Magic Weekend gets an entire round on the television for the only time in the Super League season – not an issue in the NRL. The crowd attracted over the weekend is often more than the round would get at separate venues – not likely here. Far from being an unqualified success, the concept was on death’s door until it returned to the heartland of Manchester two years ago. For the NRL, a big fat cheque frome the host city and/or venue would seem to be the big advantage. Having said all that, Joy Of Six likes the idea.

CREATING UNHAPPY CAMPERS
IF the Rugby Football League and Australian Rugby Union continue to plot playing each other at Wembley, they are likely to unsettle quite a few NRL clubs. It goes without saying that the Burgess brothers, Gareth Widdop and James Graham won’t be released from their clubs. If they are then denied huge match payments, they’ll likely become disgruntled. This will encourage players to sign short-term contracts, which in turn will help entrepreneurs staging off-season events. As Discord wrote last week, the result could be the current governing bodies in both rugby codes being severely undermined.

BOYS OF SUMMER
TRENT Robinson’s broader point on Saturday night – aside from supporting the WCC expansion outlined above and criticising the NRL for not promoting this year’s match – was that the pre-season is being completely wasted commercially. Last week, Sonny Bill Williams played in front of a crowd on the Central Coast that got in for free. The fact is, someone would like to televise every one of these games, someone would like to sponsor them and someone would like to call them on radio. But there is so little groundwork being done on the pre-season that there wasn’t even a match programme printed for the WCC – unthinkable for British fans who even have programme collecting societies. Yes, I was once in one of them.

SAM THE MAN
SAM Tomkins may not qualify for some rookie of the year awards – but he’ll win those he is eligible for based on the couple of glimpses we’ve already had of him. In fact, if you can still bet on the Dally Ms, he’d be worth a flutter to win the thing outright given what are no doubt generous odds right now. It’s safe to say he was feeling better about his weekend than Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin and St George Illawarra’s Steve Price, who were already said to be under pressure and whose sides were comprehensively beaten. Speaking of rookies, a group of listeners were last night allowed to call the Melbourne-Canterbury game on radio after winning a contest. Let’s hope the trend doesn’t spread to newspapers.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

Charnley Learns Bare Facts Of Life In Oz

Charnley, JoshBy STEVE MASCORD
ENGLAND winger Josh Charnley has not been to Australia before – but he has already endured an NRL-style scandal.
Charnley, who holds the record for most tries in a season during British football’s summer era with 43, makes his second appearance back from a hernia operation in the World Club Challenge against Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium tonight.
Like several members of coach Shaun Wane’s side, he could find himself a recruitment target for NRL clubs with a strong performance.
And while he is new to the league wonderland of Sydney, having never made the junior tours many of his club-mates frequented, the attendant media scrutiny is nothing new to a man who found out a few hours before a Super League game last year that a naked photo had gone viral on the internet.
“It was only (taken) when I was 17 – it went out, an ex-girlfriend put it on,” 22-year-old Charnley, who has never previously spoken about the incident that mirrored a similar kerfuffle surrounding compatriot George Burgess, tells Fairfax Media.
“It wasn’t a distraction, it was just one of those things. I was with her miles before it went out. One weekend it just went out. It didn’t bother me at all, I can handle pressure.
“(But) people were tweeting it to my mum and stuff. It was upsetting for that…”
When the photo was retweeted by the fake Twitter account of a commentator, the TV man was interviewed by police at a match for passing on pornography.
Peering out from the overseas passenger terminal at The Rocks as the Queen Mary passed the Sydney Opera House during a team function on Wednesday night, Charnley found himself in almost alien surroundings.
“This is my first time, I’ve never been,” he said. “I’m looking forward to playing but I’m also interested to see the lifestyle as well.
“Everyone said it was all sandy with nice weather.”
He says he has three Australians to thank for his emergence as one of Super League’s speediest (“I’ve never timed myself – I just put my head down and go”) players.
“I had Michael Maguire as coach and he was really into his backs, Waney as assistant was into his forwards,” he explains. “So I got taught. Amos Roberts as well, when I was coming through the ranks, and Pat Richards – they’re probably two of the world’s best wingers.
“They fed into me where to go and what to do and I just went on with it. I was told coming through the academy: ‘you can always get better’.”
Initially, Charnley never thought he would make a living out of rugby league. “I’m a qualified bricklayer, I’ve got that on the side. I can build a few walls, a few barbecues and stuff like that.”
Now, the sand and nice weather – and media scrutiny – could be all his should the NRL come knocking, although he has two years left at the DW Stadium.
“I’ve not really thought about it,” he says. “I’m happy at Wigan. Wigan’s a good team. We did the double last year. Inside Wigan, the culture is unbelievable so I’m enjoying my rugby and enjoying my time there.
“It’s important for us because we’re the first team in so many years to go over to Oz. The Super League is backing us to go over there and do a job.”
While fullback Matt Bowen is not known as a big talker, Charnley says the club’s new signings are fitting in well.”He comes out with a few one-liners which are funny.
He’s a good bloke, same as Eddy Pettybourne – he’s been a lively character in camp.”

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD