FAR & WIDE: Number 42

Far & WideSTEVE MASCORD

JAPAN appear to have pulled out of the Asia Cup.

“I have heard that,” Thailand coach Andrew Charles tells Far & Wide. “If that’s the case, we’ll still be going and we’ll play the Philippines.

“There has been some talk about us playing them twice. It depends on our flights. Personally, I’d be happy to play them once and just relax and enjoy the location.

“But I am sure there will be some discussions.”

The Asia Cup was to take place between October 19 and 23 at Clark, near Angeles City, in the Philippines. The Philippines-Thailand game was scheduled for October 23 and will probably go ahead on that date.

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FRED Gruhler was a pioneer of American rugby league, going back to the days of the Patriots in the World Sevens.

Fred was a US Marine, worked in the aviation industry and represented the Tomahawks and Patriots 25 times. He passed away last week in circumstances which are so far unreported, his obituary saying he died “suddenly on September 12, 2013 at his home”

Fred was involved in rugby league as a coach right up until his passing, which has shaken the sport in the US.

Far & Wide and Rugby League Week send our condolences to Fred’s family and friends and everyone in the wider rugby league community who knew him.

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TICKETS are now on sale for the Vanuatu-Solomon Islands international at Mackay’s Virgin Australia Stadium the night before the grand final, October 5.

They’re only $10 a pop and are available from the Mackay Events & Convention Centre website. A week later, Vanuatu will host the Niui Islands in Port Vila and we’ll be there.

Kick-off is at 6.30pm. The game marks the 150th anniversary of the Black Bird movement, where South Pacific were forcibly removed from their homelands to work in the sugar cane industry in Australia.

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FRANCE coach Richard Agar has been in Australia for a couple of weeks, checking out Les Chanticleers’ World Cup opposition.

Agar is also on recruitment duty for this Super League club Wakefield and has been spending plenty of time with Catalan’s 2012 coach, Trent Robinson, at Sydney Roosters.

Richard has a 40-man squad for the Coup du Monde which will be cut to 24 on October 1.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

FAR & WIDE: Number 41

Far & WideBy STEVE MASCORD

IT’S not often we have a rugby league team that represents an entire continent but South America’s Latin Heat has been formally launched.

The side will make its bow in the Mitchelton Nines in Brisbane on Saturday, Sept 21.

“Forward Leighton Johanneson was raised in Colombia after his sugar cane-farming parents decided to become missionaries there,” enthuses organiser Robert Burgin.

“He was a goalkeeper for a Division A football team over there. His parents continue to work in some of Colombia’s poorest area, while he has returned to live in Bundaberg.”

The team has even secured sponsorship from the Guzman Y Gomez taco chain!

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NSW and Queensland Universities are set for an excellent adventure next month following confirmation they’ll be taking part in a tournament in Tonga.

The teams arrive in Naku’alofa two days after the NRL grand final. On October 10, two rep sides picked from the domestic competition, Tonga Tau’uta and Tonga Tautahi, play each other and so do the Australian states.

Then, two days later at the Teufaiva Stadium (venue for the whole tourney), the losers play each other and so do the winners.

There’s a whole heap of international football taking place post-season, aside from the World Cup, at all levels.

Far & Wide remembers when it was possible to go to every international rugby league game in a given year!

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FORGET all the doubts – the Asia Cup is going ahead at Clark, Philippines, next month*.

Unfortunately, the shoulder injury suffered by Matt Sarama in round 26 might stop him joining brother Luke in the Tamaraws side. It’s uncertain if Andrew Everingham’s move to Japanese rugby union will affect his involvement.

Organisers have suffered one setback – they’ve been kicked off the playing fields due to an army exercise! An alternative venue is now being sought.

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OOPS. We incorrectly reported last week that Demark had been disqualified from the European Shield for fielding ineligible players. It was, of course, Norway and that is also the country that cancelled its trip to Canada.

Apologies.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

DISCORD 2013: Edition 34

DiscordBy STEVE MASCORD

THERE’S almost too much to talk about this week: the latest Cronulla developments, the sacking for David Furner & the possibility of Ben Barba being banned from playing against Canterbury as part of any release to Brisbane.

So we’ll give all three of them a miss for now. Not much to add on Cronulla’s ‘secret’ bank account, the exact circumstances of Furner’s removal are still in dispute and no-one actually seems to say much on the record about Barba and the Broncos.

Let’s instead talk about the mess Wests Tigers have got themselves into.

If you’ve been keeping an eye on this website in recent days, you’ll be aware that the joint venture needs an ‘urgent cash injection’ of $1 million, and that Western Suburbs will only provide this if they are handed the chairmanship.

Balmain, on the other hand, want an independent board to run the club and are interested in a funding package from the NRL.

Alan Katzmann, a well know and respected Sydney Roosters fan, writes: “As a Roosters supporter, and NRL fan, I would be appalled to see the NRL provide these funds.

“Adopting the proposal from Balmain, together with their phony altruism, will mean that the rest of the rugby league world would suffer as a result of Balmain’s petulance.

“Funds that could help junior development or keep increases in grand final tickets to a minimum would be spent instead keeping Wests Tigers afloat when they already have alternate funding readily available.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself. Balmain is lucky Wests aren’t demanding to drop the ‘Tigers’ half of their name completely.

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FURTHER to our item last week about the battle for control of the game in Thailand, Andrew Charles – coach of the Thailand Stars side which played the Philippines in October – has responded to some of the claims made last week by rival – Shannon Crane.

OK, we realise this is all small potatoes given that only one game of any note has ever been played in the kingdom – but it’s an interesting microcosm of the bickering that besets our game all over the world.

Charles disputes the claim Crane registered a trademark, he says the only “legal action” initiated was having a facebook page taken down and says every player who represented Thailand Stars against the Philippines was eligible under RLIF rules.

He also disputes the amount of time Crane spends in Thailand. You’ve now heard both sides of the argument, make up your own mind.

In the meantime, more evidence of the thawing in relations between the rival AMNRL and USARL, with Boston 13s player Shane Begin picked to play for the US Tomahawks this weekend against Canada.

The 13s play in the ‘rebel’ USARL, which until recently meant he would be excluded from national selection. The international is being played as part of a double header with the USARL championship game in Pennsylvania this Saturday.

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THIS week’s column comes to you from sunny London, where Wigan and Hull meet in a rematch of the famous 1985 Challenge Cup final this Saturday.

On Friday in Trafalgar Square, there’ll be a three-hour promotion for the World Cup, which I’m looking forward to. Later that night, I’ll be talking to the European Federation about media and how to get more exposure.

How do you think international rugby league could make the mainstream media sit up and take more notice? Comments below please.

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SPEAKING of comments, here’s some responses to those you’ve posted over the last week.

read on

FAR & WIDE: Number 28

Far & WideBy STEVE MASCORD

AN interesting and mysterious yarn popped up in the wake of the United States-Samoa Test in Hawaii a couple of weekends back.

Ten members of the Samoan side, all picked from the domestic competition, failed to board the plane home. Initially, there were fears they had deliberately gone AWOL in America but a Samoan newspaper report said they checked in for the flight but were “turned away at the gate”.

Another report said one player was missing so 10 refused to leave Hawaii without him.

The Samoans won the game 34-10. We’ll try to get to the bottom of things in the coming weeks.

“It was hard work getting the visas and I’d hate to think anything had happened to endanger future teams travelling to Hawaii for matches,” said the RLIF’s Tas Baitieri.

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EXCITING news from the Philippines with the Asia Cup confirmed for a venue 80 kilometres outside Manila in October.

The Filipinos welcomed another player to NRL first grade two weeks ago – Gold Coast’s Shane Gray.

The tournament kicks off on October 19 with the Philippines taking on Japan at Clark Airforce Base. After that, Japan plays Thailand on the 21st and the Philippines play Thailand in a rematch of last year’s historic match in Bangkok, on the 23rd.

The Filipino boys arrive in Manila three days before the comp starts and will spend time coaching naval cadets who have been learning the game under former South Sydney official Tom Simpson for the last 12 months.

It is possible to see both NSW Country games on tour in South Africa and still make it to Clark for the opening Asia Cup game. We checked.

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THE latest European Shield game has seen Russia visit Belgrade and come away with a win against the Serbians.

Russia will win the Sheild if they beat Italy at the end of the month. Prop Sergey Konstantinov was the star, scoring two tries before a broken arm ruled him out of the clash with the Italians.

@RLWfarandwide http://www.facebook.com/RLWfarandwide

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

Everingham Would Rather Be A Rabbit Than A Rahrah

South Sydney - Andrew EveringhamBy STEVE MASCORD
HE’S being courted by Japanese rugby union but winger Andrew Everingham decided during his recent suspension that he had a yen for one thing – staying with South Sydney.
Everingham, 26, was banned for a shoulder charge on Matt Bowen earlier this season but made a strong NRL return in Saturday night’s 25-18 win over Newcastle at ANZ Stadium.
His move to Asian rugby union, where his brother Chris already earns a good living, was considered in some quarters to be a mere formality.
“I’m still in the process – I want to stay here at Souths,” Everingham tells League Week.
“To be honest, I haven’t been playing as well as I’d like to, to start the season.
“That suspension gave me some time to get some more motivation and focus on what I really need to do to try and get a contract here in the future at Souths.”
While there was a perception rugby union was about to “poach” Everingham, he says that’s far from the truth.
“My brother just plays in the Phil’s and tries to get into the team for the Hong Kong Sevens. I think he does more promotion work for the union side,” he explained.
“I don’t really know how it would work (for me). If I said something, it might be wrong. But like I said, my first priority is to try and get a contract here.
“I played rugby union in school and there was a cup competition in Borneo – I played for the Philippines in sevens and it was that much fun.”
Hand surgery prevented the Everingham brothers from playing league together for the Philippines against Thailand last October but he hopes to take part in a triangular tournament with Japan and the Thais this year.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

THE JOY OF SIX: Round 12

The Joy Of SixBy STEVE MASCORD

1. STATE OF CHAOS

THE ARLC probably doesn’t appreciate what a challenge it faces as it prepares to take control of its first State Of Origin series. We use the term “take control” advisedly – because for 33 years, Origin has been uncontrollable. It’s been run by the teams in it. We’ve had ‘TBA’ picked on the wing, players snuck back into the country from England, eligibility rules stretched to breaking point and until recently, the competing teams pick the referees. Last week NSW took a player away from his club for two days only to tell him he wasn’t required. Expect Queensland to do it for game two. It used to be said State teams could not be fined because it was just the ARL fining itself. Hopefully that’s changed and Origin will cease being a law unto itself.

2. KING IN NO HURRY TO ABDICATE

KUDOS to North Queensland coach Neil Henry for agreeing to do pre-match interviews and happily fielding questions regarding his job being in jeopardy. Henry told the ABC and Triple M yesterday he did not believe his position was as precarious as presented. From experience, periods like two weeks “to prove yourself” are not plucked from thin air. Henry is an impressive operator and is showing plenty of grace in a difficult situation. Punting someone a matter of weeks after granting them a contract extension is an extraordinary measure. The Cowboys should be absolutely sure whoever they get to replace Henry is better – and I’m not sure there’s anyone out there right now who fits that description.

3. ORIGINAL SINS

THERE’S nothing like a flu scare to tell us Origin is here. Yesterday Johnathan Thurston missed training with the dreaded lurgy and reporters around NSW and Queensland relaxed in the knowledge everything is right with the universe. Here’s some other things we need to feel completely at ease: 1. A meeting with the referees, preferably to which only one team was invited; 2. Someone being “targeted”. Surely that can’t be far away. 3. An eligibility row. Maybe Josh Reynolds is actually Somalian? One year I struggled so much for a preview angle I had to reluctantly settle for the flu angle to lead the back page. When I woke up on game day with a terrible hangover and the poor blighter had been ruled out, it was as if I had won lotto.

4. THE SILENT … MAJORITY?

I’M willing to wager (not with you, Tom) there is a large body of readers out there today which feels completely disenfranchised by some recent developments in rugby league. There are those who would regard the kerfuffle over alleged racism at a Manly board meeting, the suspension of radio caller David Morrow and even the carefully on-message commentary about Raelene Castle’s appointment at Canterbury as “political correctness gone mad”. But they say that at the bottom of this column online, they’ll be shouted down. These people are right to argue what you think and do count at least as much as what you say. But sexist and racist language has to be weeded out of rugby league because even if those who use it aren’t sexist or racist, it encourages others to be – and in football clubs, 17-year-olds slavishly model themselves on men 15 years their senior, perpetuating attitudes which die more quickly in other workplaces.

5. VALE SOPHIA GALLICO

IT was touching to see the South Sydney Rabbitohs form a guard of honour for their mascot, Charlie Gallico, on Saturday night. Charlie lost his wife Sofia to a heart attack last Monday. At fulltime in the win over Newcastle, Charlie was chaired from the field by some players and he later celebrated in the sheds by singing the team song with the boys. But they put a towel over the dressingroom camera though – so the kiddies didn’t see Reggie The Rabbit with his head off! The condolences of everyone in the rugby league media are with you Charlie. Players, officials and coaches come and go in football clubs – it’s people like Charlie and Sofia that really give a place its culture. That word has been cheapened recently actually – much better to refer to it as Jack Gibson did – “the woodwork”.

6. MEN OF THE WORLD

IT was a big weekend for two of the game’s developing countries. Josh Mantellato, 26, has played four games for Italy and helped them qualify for the World Cup. But he had not played first grade until Newcastle’s clash with South Sydney. So when suffered a suspected broken rib with 10 minutes remaining, he stayed out there. Shane Gray served a Clenbuterol drugs suspension between 2009 and 2011. He made his debut for Gold Coast yesterday and in October hopes to join Matt Srama, Kevin Gordon and Andrew Everingham in the Philippines side that will host a triangular tournament with Japan and Thailand.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD