The A-List: MICHAEL MORGAN (North Queensland, Queensland & Australia)

RLW Michael MorganBy STEVE MASCORD

“YOU mean THE tackle?” Michael Morgan says, raising an eyebrow.

A-List has just pointed out to the 24-year-old Townsvillian that in sports, you can trade on one thing for your entire life. Exhibit A: Scott Sattler. Exhibit B: the 2003 grand final.

Michael Morgan hasn’t thought about that way before. He hasn’t thought about the impact of setting up the try that tied the greatest grand final of all time, three quarters of a year ago.

He insists it hasn’t changed his life. Yet.

“No, not at all. I think because of the way I see it … I don’t see it at all as I threw the pass to win the grand final. I don’t look at it like that,” he says, before the Cowboys begin training on a typically warm and humid NQ afternoon.

“I genuinely believe that I got extremely lucky and there were other things in the game that I didn’t do that I should’ve. So no, I don’t think it’s changed my life at all. It’s just … look, it’s a very proud moment, one that I will remember for a long time and I’m stoked it happened but ….”

When you retire, though, it could become the focus of every interaction you have with the outside world … just like Satts.

“… no, no, I haven’t thought about that. Yes, I still get asked about it a lot but I think to me it feels like it was only just last year so … we’re still the premiers from the year before.

“People still bring up a bit of last year because it’s early in the season. I think that’s the only reason … I only see it that way.”

You know how you can tell a smart person sometimes by the sparkle in their eye? Michael Morgan – nearing 100 games for the Cowboys, a Queensland State of Origin player – is one of those people.

He’s so steeped in north Queensland rugby league that his grandfather knew Arch Foley, after whom the Foley Shield was named. But he’s still managed the perspective to understand it’s just a game, weekend entertainment for the masses.

“I’d like to think I’ve been pretty level headed, even before,” he nods. “I think it’s a good thing, growing up around my mates and that.

“I went to Iggy (Ignatius) Park here. If you did anything that was cocky or anything like that, you couldn’t get away with it. I was never in a group of friends where that was acceptable.”

That is not to say he hasn’t taken his own career seriously. And the early NRL days, he is happy to admit, were tough. Quite tough, actually.

“When I debuted and first played first grade, that was probably the hardest thing for me,” he says, when I ask about the confidence to speak up as a playmaker.

“One, playing in the halves when I was 18, filling in for Johnno (Johnathan Thurston) for my first game. And then having guys like Mango (Matt Bowen), Luke O’Donnell, Willle Mason. As an 18-year-old I didn’t find I had the authority as a half to tell them what to do.

“I never talked enough. I suppose I wasn’t confident enough. I suppose I was still overawed at the whole situation.

“My debut game, like I said, I filled in for Johnno. It was a Monday night game and I found out the Monday before that I was going to be playing so it was a long week. All the hype about filling in for JT and being from here … there was a lot of talk.

“But I probably struggled with the physicality of it the most. I played four games that year but my body after every game was wrecked. I’d never played against men before. I’d never played local A-grade even. I played high school footy and straight into 20s so my first A-grade game was NRL. So my body at 18, I don’t think was ready. That was the biggest challenge for me.”

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How did it change? Forget all the clichés about maturity and advice from older players. It changed by getting the hell out of the halves.

“I think the year I had at fullback (did it). I think I played 13 games in 2012, that was the most I’d played in a season before 2014 when I went to fullback.

“Moving away from the halves, I didn’t feel like I needed to talk and organise. I didn’t need to be the dominant voice or anything like that. I’d played in the halves with Johnno before but he’s a very dominant player and at times I wasn’t sure how to play with him, as much.

“So when I went to fullback I could follow him, play off the back of him. I wasn’t trying to … not compete for the ball but if there was something on, I wouldn’t have the confidence to call for it I suppose because if he wants the ball he gets it. I didn’t want to call it and stuff up.

“The year at fullback just allowed me to see the game from a different angle and pop up where I could. It was a bit more of a free reign without having to organise and talk. I could worry about myself more than anything and my own role.

“I think that was what made me start to get more comfortable and build into it better.”

Other things contributed to the player we have now, the man who many think would keep Anthony Milford out of the Queensland squad even if he was available. Not all of them were good things.

Like the loss of good friend Alex Elisala to suicide.

“Everything with Alex was extremely hard,” he said, when we finally get around to the topic. “But I think, as well, a lot of people talk about depression they only talk about suicide. Yes, its awful but there’s a lot of different types of depression that people don’t know about so to learn more about the different types of it, knowing that there’s not just one single form of depression, (is important).

“I suppose I grew from it as a person and that kind of thing and I’m just glad I can be in a position where I can help, maybe, one person.”

Back back to where we started. What fascinates me, and probably you if you contemplate it, is doing something so momentous that it changes lives. That literally millions of set of eyes can be on you when you performed a reflex action that will go on to define your life.

The vast majority of us will never experience it. I have to ask again: how does it feel?

“I haven’t actually thought about it. I thought if it didn’t happen, we would have lost because if I get tackled there or we have a go at a kick and it doesn’t come off then it’s ‘game over’ right there.

“But honestly the most I’ve thought, or what I’ve thought, is that we were very lucky because it was just a lucky play, I suppose, the way it all came off.

“I haven’t thought about it in that way, of how many people would have watched it and …

when you think about it like that, I suppose it is a bit. There’s a lot of people just at the game but I suppose with the TV, how much it was on TV, and been played since … it’s pretty crazy really.

“In a way, I don’t know if I’m answering it the way you want me to, but for that week or even months after the actual game, when the trophy went around, we were able to give people a lot of happiness – just from winning that game.

“One game brought so many people so much happiness.

“I think for that period of time, people forgot about their problems – whether it is not having work, struggling financially …

“To know we could actually make a difference in people’s lives like that and give them happiness from winning a football game … to know you’ve, by playing well and working as hard as we all did last year, made people we’ve never met extremely happy for a long period of time…..

“Even now, people still talk to you about the game and where they were for it, what they were doing, how they reacted, who they were with and everyone’s got their own story now of where they were when the Cowboys won their first premiership.

“It feels pretty special to have done that.”
Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK
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Bondi Beat: January 2016

RLW January 2016By STEVE MASCORD

IT’S a rather strange dichotomy: players in Australia have never been better paid yet nor have they ever been more militant.

Since the last Bondi Beat, the National Rugby League has secured a satellite TV deal with Rupert Murdoch’s FOX Sports which has taken the total television rights contract to A$1.8 billion – with overseas to be added.
Securing this contract – which involved terrestrial broadcaster Nine selling back one Saturday night game to Fox – allowed the League to put out a draw for the new season.
Only problem is, after making all the right noises regarding player welfare (and giving the Australian team an autumn of) they didn’t actually ask the players first. It’s not the first time the game’s stars have been brushed.
Much work was done on a season of only 22 games, only for the former NRL chief executive David Smith to settle on 25 without telling anyone when a $925 million terrestrial deal was done.
Suddenly, industrial action was being discussed. The RLPA recruited the former boss of the AFL Players Association Ian Pendergast, as it’s new boss. The Aussie Rules players are a bigger political force in their game but, interestingly, they also agree to a draft – which is rugby league players traditionally oppose.
A rebellion from clubs was averted but one by players is still a possibility.
The big bugbear of the players is the five-day turnarounds between matches. Before the formulation of the 2015 draw, we were told they were to be eliminated. Now, they’re back – and while Monday Night Football is about to enter its final season, the advent of Thursday night games means completely eliminating them is going to be tricky.
Calls to change the draw have fallen of deaf ears and the NRL has even stopped well short of apologising for not consulting players before putting it out.
Michael Shenton’s column in last month’s Rugby League World brought the matter into sharp relief; players have short careers and have trouble focusing Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 09.24.13on the long-term lot of their brethren. It’s often every man for himself.
But with the clubs also knocking down the door of NRL chairman John Grant for cash, asking for 130 per cent of the total salary cap in funding, could we one day see the day where the middlemen are removed from the equation?
The NRL owns the team names and colours. Why can’t it simply employ the players directly, appoint 16 coaches and 16 identical offices and operate like McDonalds?
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IT’S common for Australians and New Zealanders in Super League to have clauses in their contracts which allow them a quick getaway if opportunities arise at home – all of which must make British fans feel a bit unappreciated.
But the Aussies seem to be getting a taste of their own medicine with Tom Burgess travelling to New York to trial with a couple of NFL franchises.
This has been characterised in the South Sydney came as Big Tom trying to ‘better himself’. Please. Tom Burgess is an elite athlete of international standard who is risking injury by training during the off-season in a completely different sport while under contract!
The fact that such a proud club as South Sydney can take such a subservient role in regard to the NFL proves that my dire warnings in this column over the years may have finally come true.
European soccer and American sports rule the world and we’re all sitting around fighting over their scraps.
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AS an old Illawarra Steelers fan, I was thrilled to read that Wollongong-loving media tycoon Bruce “Commissioner” Gordon was about to buy the Dragons.
Previously, Gordon – the man who owns WIN TV – owned half the mighty Steelers which meant he owned a quarter of the Dragons.
We Illawarra types have lamented the shrinking influence of the scarlet half of the joint venture in recent years, even though the training base is smack bang in the middle of the steel town.
The joint venture seems to have 50 jerseys, of which not one is the old Steelers design!

Maybe Bruce can change their name to the St George Illawarra Steelers?

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FURTHER to my earlier item about Gary Carter, as I write this I have just come back from visiting him in the Royal London Infirmary.

While it was a harrowing experience to see a mate hooked up to all number of contraptions, today was also the first on which has been able to speak.
Gary can move all his limbs, he smiles at jokes, squeezes your hand and answers any question put to him with a nod or a shake of the head.
The capacity of the human body to heal is indeed a wonder. I know that Gaz is grateful for everyone’s best wishes and encouragement, as well as to those who donated to his appeal. His wife Gemma is an incredible woman.
I am sure that by next month I’ll be able to report even more profound improvements.
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MAL Meninga’s appointment as Australian coach since the last Bondi Beat deserved to attract publicity – just not for the reasons it actually did.
The likes of former NSW coach Phil Gould reckoned paying Meninga to be a full-time national coach was a waste of money. Clearly, even in its most prosperous nation, rugby league just isn’t important enough for the Test coach to be paid much money.
What should have actually caused a storm was claims from the Papua New Guinea Rugby League that Meninga was still contracted to them when he signed up with the green and golds.
According to Kumuls CEO Bob Cutmore, Big Mal was supposed to be their coach until after the 2017 World Cup. While he informed Queensland of his decision to leave the Maroons’ loving embrace, he did not pay the same courtesy to PNG.
Customer said he only received a call days after Meninga was paraded before a media conference in Sydney.
If it’s true, it’s pretty shabby. Now the man who missed out on the Australian job because he didn’t want to be full-time, Wayne Bennett, might get’s Mal’s sloppy seconds in Port Moresby.
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IT’S a little curious that Steve McNamara was’t immediately reappointed following the Test series win against New Zealand.
Instead, there was the beginning of a long debrief from the series, Steve returned to Australia and an RFL spokesman said there was unlikely to be a decision until the new year.
You would imagine Steve’s position would have been strongest immediately after the series win and that every passing day allows Red Hall to further hedge its bets.
No doubt Wayne Bennett – who helped win New Zealand its first World Cup in 2008 – would be top of Nigel Wood’s shopping list.
McNamara rightly has support amongst the players to keep his job until after the next World Cup, Under his guidance, they beat the number one country in the world.
But few coaches have reason to grumble when they are replaced by Wayne Bennett Just ask Anthony Griffin.
Twitter @BondiBeat

World Cup final: AUSTRALIA 34 NEW ZEALAND 2 at Old Trafford, Manchester

By STEVE MASCORD
AUSTRALIAN players repeatedly claimed before the World Cup final that revenge was not a motivation. “Probably told a little white lie,” captain Cameron Smith admitted after his men reclaimed in ruthless fashion the trophy lost to New Zealand five years ago.
Tim Sheens’ men brought their total minutes at the World Cup without conceding a try to 404 with a crushing 34-2 victory in front of a world Test record 74,468 crowd at Old Trafford. The gamble to include Billy Slater despite a knee injury payed off; he posted two tries.
“We probably told a little white lie along the way, where this didn’t mean much against what happened in 2008,” said hooker Smith.
“But I think, standing out on that field after the match, a little bit of that disappointment from 2008 was erased.”.
Coach Sheens admitted his career, and that of his medical staff, had been put on the line with the decision to play fullback Slater. “He had to be bashed (at training) and he was,’ Sheens said. “He had to get through Greg Inglis, who secretly wanted the fullback role.”
But after losing Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to a leg injury following just six minutes of play, rival Stephen Kearney denied any such risk despite the winger having been in doubt with a similar injury during the build-up.
“We think there’s a hairline fracture there,” said Kearney, “(but) we did all the relevant tests and x-rays during the week and there was nothing wrong with him there. In his first carry, he heard a crack.”
Australia held a decisive 16-2 lead at halftime, after attacking the right side defence left vulnerable by Tuivasa-Sheck’s departure. But Australia centre Jarryd Hayne also went down with apparent concussion – before playing on in what should prompt a review of concussion enforcement in internationals.
The first points arrived when Kieran Foran was ruled to have taken out chaser Billy Slater in front of the New Zealand sticks, Johnathan Thurston landing the penalty goal. When Cameron Smith took Elijah Taylor high, the ledger was levelled.
While proceedings to this point led some commentators to compare this to a rugby union international, it soon began to more closely resemble an AFL match with attacking kicks holding sway.
At 20 minutes, Johnathan Thurston dropped a kick just inside the field of play, and to the right of the posts, where it was claimed by Melbourne’s Slater.
He spun midair as he avoided Foran, before ducking under Bryson Goodwin to score.
Rather than allow the modest in-goal areas to supress their kicking game, Australia just seem to become more accurate. Hemmed into a corner by the Kiwis defence, Jarryd Hayne centre-kicked for Cronk who wrestled with Issac Luke as he attempted to get the ball down.
Replays suggested Melbourne’s Cronk did touch the Steeden to the turf – but video referee Ashley Klein chalked off the four points.
There was no denying halfback Cronk four minutes later, however – and again the try was orchestrated by foot rather than hand. Brett Morris made the break, Darius Boyd kicked ahead and the no.7 won the race.
Thurston’s conversion made it 14-2 and a later penalty goal brought up the halftime ledger.
What the contest sorely needed immediately after the break was a New Zealand try. Instead, Slater set the the crowd on a course for the Mexican wave by backing up a break made by winger Boyd and engineered by man of the match Thurston to score his second.
Tries from kicks and interceptions are often derided as having not been honestly earned but there was no denying Australia’s dominance as they scored from one of each in the remaining 39 minutes.
The first of winger Morris’ brace started with a sublime flick pass from replacement Josh Papalii to the flanker, who kicked ahead. Hayne attempted to regather but hacked at the ball with his foot – with devastating effect.
Morris spectacularly won the race to the ball but then barreled into the fence, injuring a hip in the process. Rival Manu Vatuvei also collided with a hoarding in another incident that seemed to confirm the fears of players, expressed on match eve, about the slender in-goal areas and elevated pitch.
Centre Greg Inglis suffered a suspected broken bone in his hand, while Morris’ hip injury was said to not be serious. Sheens said it was the best performance in his time as Australia coach, and that he had not made a decision on his future.
Kearney said the youth in his side was a consolation. “Next time we find ourselves in that position, Australia’s performance is what it’s going to take to lift that trophy again,” he said.
AUSTRALIA 34 (Billy Slater 2, Brett Morris 2, Cooper Cronk tries; Johnathan Thurston 7 goals) beat NEW ZEALAND 2 (Shaun Johnson goal) at Old Trafford. Referee: Richard Silverwood (England).
Filed for SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

World Cup second quarter-final: AUSTRALIA 62 UNITED STATES 0 at Racecourse Ground, Wrexham

By STEVE MASCORD
IF injury realistically presented a bigger hurdle at this World Cup than many of Australia’s opponents, then it is becoming an increasingly vengeful foe.
Two weeks after back rower Luke Lewis’ tournament ended in a collision with an advertising hoarding, fullback Billy Slater’s recent off-field misfortune following him onto the Racecourse Ground for the 62-0 quarter-final whipping of the United States.
Slater, who was detained without charge by Manchester Police after a dispute outside a nightclub last week, finds himself in the hands of another branch of the emergency services after suffering an injury relating to the absence of posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee a minute into the second half.
“It’s an old injury – he’s got no PCL so he can’t hurt it,” said the Australia coach, Tim Sheens.
“But damage may have been done to the cartilage and other things. He’s gone for scans.
“We haven’t given up hope that he may be possibly available – if not this week after that sort of knock, then the next week if we get get that far.”
It’s a measure of Australia’s depth, however, that the man who replaced Slater in the custodian role yesterday – Greg Inglis – was considered by opposition coach Terry Matterson a more dangerous prospect there than in the centres.
Slater may have been the offical player of the 2008 World Cup but the prospect of facing Inglis wearing the number one will not exacly fill Australia’s opponents with glee.
By almost any measure, Sheens’ side was ruthless in Wrexham. It ran in 12 tries, with centre Jarryd Hayne and winger Brett Morris each equalling the Australian record for a full international with four.
Hayne’s selection in the centres is something of a leap of faith for Sheens, and it paid off spectacularly. One of the three men he kept out – Michael Jennings, Josh Morris and Brent Tate – will now be called up as a replacement for Slater in a reshuffled backline.
If ever there was a team in less need of luck, it was Australia playing the United States in rugby league.
Nonetheless, the green and golds’ kick-off to start the mismatch rebounded off the wordwork and into the arms of loose forward Paul Gallen.
The Tomahawks initially held them out, but it was only two minutes before Hayne scored his side’s opening try.
There were positive moments for the American initially. By the time 19 minutes had elapsed, the score was only 10-0 and stand-off Joseph Paulo has been unfortunate not to have scored after charging down a clearing kick.
But Morris equalled his country’s try-scoring record in a full international by halftime. His hat-trick was registered in just 14 minutes.
The World Cup favourites showed no favouritism when it came to their route to the tryline. There were sweeping backline movements, pin-point kicks and soft walk-ins.
They didn’t try to find the easy way to points but nor did they display the previous week’s stubborn insistance on talking the hard road.
Parramatta’s Hayne could scarcely have done more to justify Sheens’ vote of confidence, with the extra work required of a centre preventing him from zoning out of a contest, as he can sometimes do.
Hayne started and ended the scoring spree; the score could have been uglier had Johnathan Thurston kicked more than seven from 12.
Sheens took particular pride in his men having kept their tryline intact.
“I think we’ve the best defensive record in the competitiom at the moment,” he said.
“We had our pants pulled down early by England and we were determined that won’t happen again so we’ve worked hard on that aspect.”
Matterson said he was relieved the game was over and proud of his previously unheralded charges despite the margin.
“We won’t dwell too much on what happened today,” he said. “It’s an experience. What we’ve done over the past four weeks has been special.
“It’s a group of people I wil always remember and we’ll always have a very strong bond.”
Tomahawks captain Joseph Paulo said the tournament had given him the confidence to speak more on the field and become a more dominant player with his club, Parramatta.

AUSTRALIA 62 (Jarryd Hayne 4, Brett Morris 4, Greg Inglis 2, Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk tries; Johnathan Thurston 7 goals) beat UNITED STATES 0 at Racecourse Ground, Wrexham. Referee: Henry Perenara (New Zealand). Crowd: 9762

Filed for THE OBSERVER

World Cup: AUSTRALIA 50 IRELAND 0 at Thomond Park, Limerick

By STEVE MASCORD
WITH the talismanic Greg Inglis and Johnathan Thurston rested, Australia deliberately ignored some attacking opportunites to practice their structures ahead of the World Cup knock-out stages.
The 5212 crowd – poor by World Cup standards but a record high for an international in Ireland – probably didn’t hold out much hope for expansive play given the wet, cold conditions at the home Munster rugby union.
But when Australia winger Jarryd Hayne scored after a minute after some clever right-edge attack, the tournament favourites had every right to continue going there.
Instead, they rigidly stuck to a pragmatic attacking template they hope will carry them successfully through the quarters, semis and the World Cup final.
“It’s about playing well. Respect the opposition and play the game-plan you would if you were playing one of the so-called Big Three,” said coach Tim Sheens
“It’s a matter of playing the way you want and not necessarily the opportunities that are in front of you and that we were shown tonight at times.
“We were determined to keep it nice and tight and we designed a gameplan around our kick-and-chase and our defence.”
amazonIreland had a positive period, during which they attacked and defended with greater purpose and confidence, just after halftime. The couldn’t cross the stripe themselves but kept the Aussies out for 18 minutes.
For Australia, Daly Cherry-Evans second start in the halves was an unqualified success. He scored a well-taken kick-and-chase try, was handed man-of-the-match and must now be pushing for a utility bench spot in Sheens’ top side.
Winger Hayne’s early score from a Brent Tate break gave the impression of an avalanche of points but it never really got to that stage.
It was another 10 minutes befoe scrum-half Cooper Cronk snuck over from close range and a further 19 before Greg Bird, running a nice angle after a penalty – ticked the scoreboard over again.
Referee Phil Bentham’s insistence on fast rucks consistenty frustrated and upset the Wolfhounds and Australian tries often followed the shrill of his whistle/
Winger Brett Morris took advantage of a bouncing ball than landed in his arms and fullback Billy Slater found himself over the tryline – almost as an afterthough – after chiming into a well-executed backline movement.
The Irish were a different side after the break but when their defensive line did open, it was a gaping hole in centrefield for Melbourne’s Cronk to dash through.
The came Cherry-Evans’ score – he slid along the lush turf to reclaim his kick and dot down – interchange Andrew Fifita’s thundering run from 15 out, and Hayne’s second which closed the scoring.
Ireland coach Mark Aston and captain Liam Finn were almost ebulient despite the heavy defeat and a campaign which did not feature a victory.
“We got together three Saturdays ago and you could see that in our first couple of performances,” said Aston.
“I think we’ve got something like 20 teams domestically, as amateurs. The big challenge for them is rugby union in Ireland is massive, as we know, and this facility is jammed every week
“There;s 4* (rugby union) development officers in this area alone so how do you get them to play league?
“We’ve got to be smart. We’ve got to set academies up. We’ve got to hit those who don’t quite hit it for rugby union.”
donateSheens did not think England and New Zealand likely playing each other in a semi-final would be an advantage in terms of intensity going into the November 30 final.
“In ’09 when we were over here for the Four Nations, we played New Zealand first, then England, then France,” he said.
“So far as the seedings were concerned, we went backwards but we still came out to win the competition.”
Sheens says he is likely to field his best 17 against the United States at Wrexham on Saturday and that one centre position, loose forward and prop are the positions causing him most angst.
GAMESTAR
DALY CHERRY EVANS: He’s not going to get a starting spot when the whips are cracking by DCE has done everything right against Fiji and Ireland. He executed Sheens’ conservative gameplan to perfections and scored a well-taken try.
GAMEBREAKER: When Jarryd Hayne scored after only one minute, the result was only going to go one way. Surprisingly, it came against the left side defence of Australians Josh Toole and Pat Richards.
TOP TACKLE: James Hasson pulled off a hit on Billy Slater that kept the local fans happy despite a big score in the second half. The Wolfhounds muscled up for long periods.

STORY OF THE GAME
1 Jarryd Hayne try………………………..4-0
Cameron Smith missed goal (0/1)…4-0
11 Cooper Cronk try…………………….8-0
Cameron Smith goal (1/2)………….10-0
30 Greg Bird try……………………………14-0
Cameron Smith goal (2/3)…………..16-0
31 Brett Morris try………………………..20-0
Cameron Smith goal (3/4)…………..22-0
39 Billy Slater try…………………………..26-0
Cameron Smith missed goal (3/5)…26-0
55 Cooper Cronk try……………………..30-0
Corey Parker goal (1/1)……………..32-0
59 Daly Cherry-Evans try………………. 36-0
Corey Parker goal (2/2)……………..38-0
64 Andrew Fifita try……………………….44-0
Corey Parker goal (3/3)……………..46-0
72 Jarryd Hayne try……………………….50-0
Corey Parker missed goal (2 from 3) 50-0

MATCH FACTS
AUSTRALIA
1. Billy Slater (Melbourne)
2. Brett Morris (St George Illawarra)
3. Josh Morris (Canterbury)
4. Brent Tate (North Queensland)
5. Jarryd Hayne (Parramatta)
6. Daly Cherry Evans (Manly)\
7. Cooper Cronk (Melbourne)
8. Paul Gallen (Cronulla)\
9. Cameron Smith (capt, Melbourne)
10. James Tamou (North Queensland)
11. Greg Bird (Gold Coast)
12. Sam Thaiday (Brisbane)
13. Nate Myles (Gold Coast)
INTERCHANGE:
14. Boyd Cordner (Sydney Roosters)
15. Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers)\
16. Andrew Fifita (Cronulla)
17. Corey Parker (Brisbane)

IRELAND
1. Scott Grix (Huddersfield)
2. Damien Blanch (Catalan)
3. Stuart Littler (Leigh)
4. Joshua Toole (Illawarra Cutters)
5. Pat Richards (Wigan)
6. James Mendeika (Warrington)
7. Liam Finn (capt, Featherstone)
8. Brett White (Canberra)
9. Rory Kostjsyn (North Queensland)
10. Anthony Mullaly (Huddersfield|)
11. Tyrone McCarthy (Warrington)
12. David Allen (Widnes)
13. Simon Finnigan (Leigh)
INTERCHANGE (all used):
14. Bob Beswick (Leigh)
15. James Hasson (Manly)
16. Ben Currie (Warrington)
17. Luke Ambler (Halifax)
Rugby Leaguer & League Express Men of the Match: Australia: Daly Cherry-Evans. Ireland: Brett White. Penalty count: 5-10. GLDO Forced: 2-0. 40/20s: 0-0.


Filed for: LEAGUE EXPRESS

FIVE LESSONS FROM THE 2014 FOUR NATIONS

photo (2)By STEVE MASCORD

SAM Devereux was a referee. He would wear a cap during matches, which made him look almost exactly like AC/DC singer Brian Johnson, fresh out of a time machine.

Referee Sam Devereaux/Photo: Otago Witness
Referee Sam Devereux/Photo: Otago Witness

In 1928, the expatriot Englishman controlled a rugby league Test at the Caledonian Ground in Dunedin. Until the just-completed Four Nations, it was the most recent Test played in the coastal South Island city.

A former Leigh and St Helens player, Devereux had settled in New Zealand and become the chief plumbing inspector for Dunedin City Council.

We were actually better at appointing neutral referees for internationals in 1928 than we are now. Phil Bentham, who controlled the New Zealand-England game at the magnificent Forsyth Barr Stadium on November 8, was also from Leigh – but unlike Devereux, had no connection at all with the Shaky Isles.

And had Bentham wanted to send off a Burgess during that gripping 16-14 Kiwis victory, he had two to chose from.

Our man Sam dismissed English forward Bill Burgess back in ’28. Despite this, England won – but Sam (Devereux, not Burgess) received a bad review for waiting too long to act.

He never controlled another game, quitting the sport entirely. His descendants told the story to the Otago Times as Test football returned to Dunedin for the first time in 86 years last month.

Why kick off this Four Nations review with such an obscure anecdote?

The story illustrates that some things don’t change in rugby league and other things change dramatically – and which ‘things’ are which is almost completely random, because very few people in the game have a long-term perspective on events.

The 2014 Four Nations has the capacity to prompt a paradigm shift for our sport, away from the parochial focus on club football, away from the belief that we can’t survive without our superstars, away from the idea that player burnout cannot be resolved, away from squeezing every last bit of juice out of the heartland orange.

But when that Test was played in Dunedin in 1928, there had been one just four years before. There was no reason to suspect they would have to wait another 86 years.

We either learn from things or we don’t. It’s up to us if we take anything of value away from the fantastic Four Nations, which finished with the Kiwis winning a gripping final, 22-18 over Australia at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium on November 15.

Here are the things we should remember, or else this clipping will be used as another historical oddity in the year 2100 when we go back to Dunedin again.

  1. INTERNATIONAL SPORT IS BIGGER THAN ANY INDIVIDUALWITHOUT Billy Slater, Sonny Bill Williams, Sam Burgess, Anthony Milford, Johnathan Thurston, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, James Roby, Justin Hodges and the rest, the 2014 Four Nations was tipped to be “a yawn”. Yet 47,813 saw Samoa push England all the way and New Zealand thrash Australia at Suncorp Stadium to kick things off. The 25,093 attendance at the final made it a record-drawing Four Nations tournament. The reason is simple: in the eyes of the general public – as opposed to rugby league fanatics – international sport sits above club sport and always win. It has a lure all of its own; the jumper is more important than the face.
  2. amazonRUGBY LEAGUE CAN BE SOLD OUTSIDE THE BIG CAPITALSA RUGBY league tournament in Australasia without a single match in Sydney or Auckland? It worked. This occurs in tandem with the previous point: international competition helps us reach exactly the people who are somewhat immune to our charms as a club sport. The 18,456 crowd at WIN Stadium on November 9 for Australia-Samoa was the biggest for any event in Wollongong this year. On top of – literally – the 16,912 at Whangarei’s Toll Stadium for New Zealand-Samoa on November 1 were two people up a tree. And of course, we returned to Dunedin after a rather long absence. Test football can widen our horizons within countries that already play the game, by giving us credibility that teams representing suburbs can never provide.4. 3. OUR SPORT COULD, AND SHOULD, BE MORE ENTERTAININGHISTORICALLY, rugby league swings from attack-focus to defence-obsession. The Four Nations should trigger a swing back towards attack – it sometimes embarrassed  the NRL as being safety-first, structured and beset with wrestling. The Kiwis, in particular, seem to relish playing against anyone but Australia, and discarding the percentages in favour of skill, speed, and daring. Their games against Samoa and England were epics. But coach Stephen Kearney has made them adaptable, too: they can beat the Aussies at their own game and did so on consecutive occasions for the first time since 1953. But Samoa and England were arguably better to watch than the finalists. We need to incentivise entertaining play and discourage five hit-ups and a kick.

    4. SAMOA ARE (MAYBE) OUR FOURTH COMPETITIVE NATION

    donate2AT the 1995 World Cup, Wales played England at an Old Trafford semi-final that attracted 30,042 people – including busloads of fans from the Valleys who have long since forgotten us. The English won by the respectable – for the Welsh – score of 25-10. In 2000, the Welsh led Australia at halftime in their semi. Yet the Dragons have not kicked on and we should be wary of getting carried away with Samoa for the same reason. Nonetheless, in their worst showing they were still 20 points better than in their only previous match against Australia. With Anthony Milford on board, it is reasonable to suggest they may have beaten England and New Zealand. The Kiwis need local, competitive opposition because internationals are the only way they make money. They may well have found an enduring new rivalry.

    5. THE CANCELLATION OF THE 2015 LIONS TOUR WAS POINTLESS

    TOP State of Origin players wanted next spring off to rest their weary bones. But a whole heap of them – 12 from Australia’s winning 2013 World Cup squad – took this year off as well! We had a successful, competitive tournament without them. If another 12 cried off in 2015 and the dozen unavailable this year returned, logic dictates Australia would be no more or less competitive against the first Lions tourists in 23 years – who were told to stay home. Great Britain were to play tour games in the bush, travel from Brisbane to Sydney by bus and maybe provide the first-ever opposition for the proposed Pacific All Stars. What a terrible waste of an opportunity. Now tours are supposed to be returning – after the 2017 World Cup – just when the Four Nations finally comes into its prime. There is enormous pressure on Scotland in 2016 to match the feats of Matt Parish’s Samoans.

  3. Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEKaddtext_com_MjAzNTE5NjcwMzQ2

World Cup: SCOTLAND 22 UNITED STATES 8 at Salford City Stadium


By STEVE MASCORD
CAPTAIN Joseph Paulo says the United States just scoring against Australia in the World Cup quarter-finals next Saturday might be as good as victory in another game.
The Tomahawks completed the pool stage of the tournament with their first defeat, 22-8 to a Scotland side inspired by a man injured in the warm-up and aided by a 12-0 second half penalty count in their favour.
That led Paulo to say French referee Theirry Alibert – controlling his final match in the UK after several years in Super League – may have been trying to “get back” at the Americans for beating France.
But it is the November 16 quarter-final against Tim Sheens’ Australians that is now the focus of the plucky Tomahawks, who were no expected to win a game here.
“We’re going in there expecting to win,” said Parramatta’s Paulo of Saturday’s appointment with the green and golds.
“If that means scoring a try or getting points on the board, then that feels like we’ve won against them.”
Coach Terry Matterson added: “I don’t think we’re going to sit down and go through their (Australia’s) last three games. I don’t think we’re going to bother with that.
“I’ve got a fair idea of what Cameron Smith can do. Greg Inglis? I think I’d rather him play centre than fullback.
“But our guys, they’re not going to be star struck. They’re going to go out there and give a good account of themselves.”
Thursday’s result ended Tonga’s tournament and left Scotland needing Tonga to beat Italy at the New Shay in Halifax on Sunday to stay alive.
The 15-5 penalty count, including 12-0 after halftime, infuriated the Americans with Paulo saying: “The ref was going to get his way. I don’t know if it’s because he reffed us in France, he tried to get back at us.
“When I approached the ref, we couldn’t take to him and we tried to take it out on Scotland and that just made it worse for us.”
Scotland had to overcome setbacks of there own. There were serious doubts over the first American try but more significantly hooker Ben Fisher suffered a torn calf in the warm-up for what was shaping as the last game of his career.
He was carried from the field and the team reshuffled to replace him. Australian Fisher, 32, told BBC: “It’s absolutely devastating to finish on that note.
“Words can’t describe how hard it is. It’s a pretty tough realisation. That’s life.”
Prop Luke Douglas, a tryscorer on Thursday, said: “Ben was standing opposite us during the anthem and he was sheding a tear. It was pretty emotional.”
Fisher raised both crutches in the air on the sideline when man of the match Matty Russell scored in the 52nd minute to put the Bravehearts ahead for the first time.
The US defence on the way to an 8-0 halftime lead was nothing short of heroic as Scotland got over the line five times without scoring.
But the penalty count – and having played three games in nine days – took its toll on Terry Matterson’s side in the second half. Former Gold Coast import Russell, current Titan Douglas and winger Alex Hurst and second rower Brett Phillips were the tryscorers
It wasn’t a good night for hookers; America’s Joel Luani was booked for a spear tackle late in the contest.
SCOTLAND 22 (Brett Phillips, Matthew Russell, Luke Douglas, Alex Hurst tries; Danny Brough 3 goals) beat UNITED STATES 8 ( Kristian Freed, Taylor Welch tries) at Salford City Stadium. Referee: Thierry Alibert (France). Crowd: 6041.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD