BONDI BEAT: October 2016

Brlw-novembr-2016y STEVE MASCORD

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

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUR WORLD

Far & Wide: July 27 2015

Far & WideBy STEVE MASCORD

OFFICIALS are hailing this year’s Ohana Cup at Honolulu’s Aloha Stadium as the best yet, with Samoa thrilling around 8000 fans in their 20-4 win over Tonga.

The Hawaiian Rugby League are still trying to lure Penrith and Brisbane to the holiday isle, despite the reservations of the NRL, and plan to use next year’s event as a precursor to a state competition for domestic players.

“We’ll shoot for four month competition starting next July,” says organiser Steve Johnson.

The Western Corridor NRL bid boss also revealed he wanted this year’s game to be a double-header, with the United States taking on Fiji in the earlier game. But the newly rebranded USA Hawks weren’t interested.

LeagueWeek Back IssuesHe said ESPN Radio and Western Union were two American companies hugely impress with what they saw just over a week ago and keen to be involved again in future.

“Samoa is one of the big places Western Union does transfers to from Hawaii and we spoke to them about putting something back,” he said.

“American sports aren’t involved in the community like rugby league is. That impresses a lot of companies in Hawaii.

“ESPN Sport were blown away by rugby league. They’d never seen it before and they want to cover whatever we do.”

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ON the mainland, the US has named a 35-man train-on squad for the upcoming internationals against Canada.

And, as is consistent with the change of administration for the game in America, there are 28 potential international newcomers.

A number of training camps are to be held. The USARL National Championship Final will be held on rugby league’s 120th birthday, August 29.

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A PNG minister made headlines last week with some colourful quotes regarding the re-emergence of the Kumuls

State enterprise minister Ben Micah told parliament: “”We are going to hunt them down, we’ll kill them and we’ll eat them.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

FAR & WIDE: October 2014

Far & WideBy STEVE MASCORD
JACKSONVILLE Axemen owner Daryl “Spinner” Howland says a successful move to the NFL by Jarryd Hayne could be a massive boost for rugby league in the States.

While there’s been plenty of hand-wringing within the game over the departure of a current co-Dally M holder, Howland says such an attitude is “crazy”.

“At the start of this year 49 per cent of Americans said they were fans of the NFL,” Spinner tells Far & Wide. “That is about 150 million people. If only one per cent of them become aware of the NRL or rugby league that is positive.

“If rugby league messes this up for the fear of losing a player, they are nuts. The NRL should be all over this and supporting Jarryd Hayne anyway that creates media attention towards them.

“Just one per cent is all they need to interest. That is 1.5 million potential new fans, and it will cost them nothing more than some effort in joining some media and PR dots.”

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ONE fellow who caught the eye at the recent Mitchelton Nines was Latin Heat back rower Ken McKenzie.

Born in Guyana, the big man was light on his feet, ferocious in defence and highly skilful. He’s a prison guard in one of Queensland’s toughest institutions and owns a massage business that has stopped him realising his potential until now.

Even some of his team-mates weren’t sure where Guyana is; it’s above Brazil, on the Caribbean.

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IT’S not just the Four Nations kicking off this weekend.

The European Cup continues with Ireland hosting Scotland in Dublin while France take on Wales in Albi.

In recent results, Greece beat the Czech Republic 68-16 in Athens, Thailand downed Norway 46-6 in Bangkok and Nuie outclassed Philippines 36-22.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

FAR & WIDE: Number One 2015

Far & WideBy STEVE MASCORD
TOP flight rugby league is kicking off early, and in unusual surrounds, this Sunday when Leeds play the United States Pioneers at the University of Northern Florida in Jacksonville.
The Rhinos have been to Florida for pre-season camps three times previously. On this occasion, they have brought in several players from their new sister club in the US, the Atlanta Rhinos, to train with them.
The really historic aspect of the game is that this is the first time the Pioneers are taking the field as the official representatives of the governing body in the US, following the collapse of the AMNRL.
It was the AMNRL that sent the Tomahawks to the 2013 World Cup. The USARL has taken over the running of the national side.
The Rhinos have taken a number of supports with them for the game. Kick-off is at 2pm local time.
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FRENCH Federation president Carlos Zalduendo was recently part of a government delegation – headed by president François Hollande, to Australia.
donateAfter returning from the trip, Zalduendo declared his intention to strengthen his federation’s ties to the Pacific.
“We want to work again with New Caledonia, where we had a presence less than ten years ago, involved in player, coach and referee development,” Zalduendo said.
“This could be an excellent way to bring New Caledonia closer not only to its South Pacific neighbours.”
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ANOTHER big event coming up is the Reconciliation Nines in Redcliffe on January 24 and 25.
Thailand is the only international side currently taking part and they are looking for recruits. Hit them up on Facebook for details.
amazonThere’s another Nines tournament coming up in Mexico in February.
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DANNY Brough was recently voted Scotland’s player of the year.
The Huddersfield Giant continues to choose the Bravehearts over England – and the SRL continues to be grateful. Gold Coast’s Luke Douglas was the 2013 winner of the award.

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World Cup: UNITED STATES 24 WALES 16 at Racecourse Ground, Wrexham


AFTER securing a quarter-final tie against Australia, United States officials revealed that World Cup organisers had booked them on flights home before the pool stage of the tournament is even completed.
The Tomahawks further enhanced their reputations a the biggest stories of the Cup by downing woeful Wales 24-16 at Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground on Sunday; it was 24-4 with 10 minutes to go.
In doing so, the Americans assured themselves of a November 16 appointment with Tim Sheens’ green amd golds at the same venue, which had been locked in in the expectation of Wales progressing.
“Under tournament rules, you are supposed to fly out two days after you are eliminated,” Tomahawks team manager Steve Johnson told Fairfax Media.
amazon“Well, we were booked to leave on November 9 – two days before the last pool game when we could always have still been alive.
“It shows how little was expected of us. We ain’t going nowhere now.”
They may be part timers to no-timers – possible Wests Tigers recruit Les Solaia has merely trained once with a rugby union team in Portland, Oregon, this year – but it didn’t take long for the Tomahawks to adopt a decidedly NRL approach to their first game against Australia since the now-legendary 2004 clash in Philadelphia.
Players were instructed to talk only about this week’s final pook match against Scotland,
But former Parramatta and Gold Coast winger Matt Petersen, a tryscorer on Sunday, says each game so far on the campaign has beaten every previous match in a 216-game NRL career and with the quarter’ Australia, his likely final game will now be his most memorable.
“It was definitely one if the highlights of my career (in 2004),” said Petersen, the only survivor from the game a decade ago which rhe US led 24-6 at halftime before losing 36-24
“We’ve got to play Scotland first but it’s a highlight (to do it again). When we played France and we won, to be honest that’s been the highlight of my career, of 10 years of NRL.
“Then we beat Cook Islands. The we came up here and beat Wales. There were 50 people in the crowd with (US) flags and 8000 Welsh people – definitely the highlight of my career.
donate2“To be still involved after 10 years is massive. When I came away, I had four weeks left in me and I knew it.”
The Welsh did manage to score first, through centre  Christian Roets, and his brace comprised probably the tries of the match.
But Iestyn Harris’ side was mostly pedestrian in attack.
Tomahawks captain Clint Newton crashed over to tie the scores in the 22nd minute. The try of Petersen, who played bush football to keep himself fit for the tounament, seven minutes before the break gave the Americans a halftime lead.
When man of the match Joseph Paulo waltzed through retreating defence 14 minutes into the second half, the writing was on the wall.
Paulo finally managed a conversion when Tui Samoa barged over from dummy half just short of the hour and Penrith’s Newton tossed the ball in the air after posting his second soon afterwards.
RLWC officials began contemplating the size of next Sunday’s crowd in Neath for Wales’ final pool game at this point, while restless members of the crowd began contemplating the jeering of their own team.
This, at least, was averted by late scores by Roets and Anthony Walker, which were greeted enthusastically.
Harris earned himself a rebuke from the Tomahawks when he said afterwards: “Come World Cuo time, they come from all over the world. There’s one USA man in the whole squad”.
The AMNRL posted online: “Just to correct uninformed comments by Wales coach Iestyn Harris about the USA team. We had ten USA nationals and residents on field today” and Petersen commented on Facebook: “You can’t help sore losers”
Harris – whose comment would have been more or less accurate if he was referencing players with American accents – continued: “When we sit down to look at that game, we’ll see 25, 30 opportunities to score points. That’s very frustating.
“It’s a bad result, yeah.”
Harris seemed keen on keep the players on the straight and narrow for the remainder of the tournament wit nothing to play for.
“What you’ve got to show over the next seven days is your professionalism,” he said. “When players look back on this World Cup campaign … they’ll see how they conducted themselves over the seven days.”
UNITED STATES 24 (Clint Newton 2, Matt Petersen, Joseph Paulo, Tui Samoa tries; Paulo 2 goals) beat WALES 16 (Christian Roets 2, Antony Walker tries; Lloyd White 2 goals) at Racecourse Ground, Wrexham. Referee: Ben Cummins (Australia). Crowd: 8019.

Filed for SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

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

Rugby League’s American Civil War Ends; AMNRL Likely To Fold

amnrlogoBy STEVE MASCORD

THE battle for control of rugby league in America is over, with the establishment AMNRL telling the International Federation it will not be applying for full membership status.

The decision leaves the breakaway USARL as the only governing body for the the sport in the United States. The AMNRL did not run any competitions this year but did field Tomahawks sides in recent internationals against Canada and Samoa.

Despite qualifying for the World Cup quarter-finals, the Tomahawks have been told they will be excluded from the 2017 tournament unless they become a full member of the RLIF. The USARL and AMNRL were each invited to apply.

In a letter to Federation chairman Nigel Wood, seen by stevemascord.com : “The AMNRL has regrettably decided that as the RLIF will not support the model it has proposed that it would be futile to make an application for full RLIF membership.

“The AMNRL is proud to have been the founding fathers of rugby league in the USA and in particular its recent success at the Rugby League World Cup and the Hawaiian Rugby League Event.

The position in the USA must be resolved for the good of the game even at the loss of loyal servants of the game.
 
“The AMNRL will, of course, encourage its clubs and their players to stay with rugby league.
 
“Rugby league in the USA wouldn’t exist but for the efforts of David Niu and the AMNRL trusts one day he will rightly recognised.”
 
It’s unknown what impact the new developments will have on future international matches, including a slated trip to Jamaica by the Tomahawks in October.