FAR & WIDE: Ireland, Czech Republic, Japan, Greece, Hungary, France, Malta

IN locations as diverse as Bray, Ireland, Prague, Czech Republic and Tokyo, Japan, our international season got underway at the weekend.
In Bray, the Irish Wolfhounds were taking on Malta and the home side ran out 56-10 winners. It was only in the dying stages they ran away with the match, however with the score 22-4 at halftime and 34-10 with 18 minutes to play.
Greece have had a tough year domestically, with the country expelled from the European Federation for a number of administrative irregularities.
But they have shown their fighting qualities with a successful visit to the Japanese capital, winning 74-0.
The game was played on an artificial surface in front of a vocal crowd of a couple of hundred. Australia-based players now proceed to Athens for a number of rugby league events.
In Prague the Czechs went down heavily to the visiting Ukraine, 64-12. The Ukraine won the earlier match 46-6, meaning they will be the side to progress in the World Cup qualifiers.
AN innovative series played over the weekend was the Capitals of Europe Nines in Budapest.
The tournament at Epitok Sports Field featured teams from London, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Belgrade, Paris, Vitez and Budapest.
London Warriors took out the event. Hungary are taking part in the Cabramatta Nines next year.
MEETINGS are continuing aimed at having Emerging Nations curtain-raisers for next year’s World Cup in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
There now appears to be an alternate plan under consideration – a seven team Emerging Nations World Cup played in western Sydney.
The matches would all be played between November 20 and 25, with venues to include Pepper Stadium and Campbelltown Stadium.
FORMER international Marc Palanques has joined the RLEF board as a representative of France.
Elsewhere, Wests Tigers’ Daniel Burke, alongside Jordan Grant and James Mirceski are newcomers to Serbia’s squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers – starting with this weekend’s visit to Wales.
Spain have also called up a couple of foreign-based stars, Hull’s Joel Laynez and Leandre Torres of French outfit Palau XIII.
Follow @RLWfarandwide


FAR & WIDE: Wales, Czech Republic, Norway, Serbia, Spain

IN rugby league we like to do things at the last minute. It’s how we roll. But this has got to take the cake.
Jamaica are to tour the UK, playing Ireland at Bray and Wales at Wakefield. When? IN TWO WEEKS!
That’s right, an historic international tour has been announced three weeks before it commences. The games are on October 16 and October 21.
It will be the first international at Belle Vue since 1909.
In other international action recently, the Czech Republic beat Norway 12-6 in Krupka.
The Czechs scored unconverted tries to Petr Šedina, Petr Fanda and Jan Howard with centre Henning Jørgensen posting the visitors’ touchdown.
Meanwhile, Serbia warmed up for the coming World Cup qualifiers by beating Spain 64-4 in Valencia.
There is also an Under 21s series between Lebanon and Serbia underway, with the Cedars winning game two 22-6.
WELSH language TV station S4C is to show live the Dragons’ World Cup qualifier against Serbia on October 15 from Parc Stebonheath in Llanelli.
It’s the first time the national side has featured in a live broadcast on the station since the heady days of the 1995 World Cup, when their semi-final against England was played before a well-populated Old Trafford with thousands


FAR & WIDE: United States, Malta, Norway, Czech Republic, Jamaica, Canada, Wales, Germany, Thailand

JACKSONVILLE Axemen have been the outstanding team of American rugby league for the last decade but they were toppled in the USARL grand final a couple of weekends back.
Northern Conference champions Philadelphia Fight took out the big one 42-20 at Boston University after eliminating the local club the previous week.
The Fight finished the season undefeated.
The US has announced a clash with Canada at Wilmington, Delaware on October 1.
FORMER Penrith and Celtic Crusaders star Jarrod Sammut has been named in Malta’s squad for the upcoming internationals against Ireland and Thailand.
The Ireland game is in Bray on October 8, the Thailand match in Chiang Mai on October 28. The Knights will have different coaches for each match.

NORDIC Cup winners Norway are about to put their pride on the line with an away international against the Czech Republic.
The match will take place at RLC Dragons Krupka Stadium on September 24 (4pm kick-off if you’re thinking of going.
The sides last met three years ago, with Norway winning 26-14 in Oslo.
JAMAICA and Canada have met in the first youth international for each team.
The Canadians won the Under 17s game 24-4 in Kingston.
SOUTH Wales Scorpions have been rebranded South Wales Ironmen and the club’s new CEO is a former rugby union international, Lee Byrne who wants to pilot the team into Super League.
A number of Scorpions/Ironmen players have been named in the Welsh side which is about to embark on a tour of Germany.


THE JOY OF SIX: International Season Week One 2014


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


FAR & WIDE: Number 49


FOR the first time, the Australian Prime Minister’s XIII will travel to Papua New Guinea post-season.
The annual game will be played at Kopoko on October 12. A week later, the Kumuls hope to take on one of the teams taking part in the Four Nations – with England top of the wish list.
On May 4, PNG Residents play an opponent yet to be determined.
A Scandinavian Australian Rugby League organisation has been formed to enable Australians to help the game in the likes of Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
The season kicked off a couple of weeks back with a sevens tournament hosted by the Flekkefjord Tigers. Rugby union team Stavanger Thunder was the winner.
This weekend, there’s another sevens tournament in Kungsbacka, Sweden. The Pan Skandinavian Championship starts on March 29.
If you’d like to keep up to date with the SARL, or help, then start by liking their Facebook page.
JACKSONVILLE Axemen star Taylor Alley has signed with south coast club Narooma.
The tough centre is tipped to be a hit, Narooma president Jaimie Wright saying: I’m not trying to put too much pressure on the young fella but a position is available for him in firsts.
“We also hope Taylor takes back to America that he has had the time of his life, met some great people and life long friends, and most importantly gained more knowledge of our great game and return to the USA as a true asset in developing the sport over there.”
AN elite match officials squad has been formed for the first time by the Rugby League European Federation.
The squad has had its first meeting in Leeds. It will provide referees and touch judges to the three levels on European competition.


FAR & WIDE: Number 34


THE Polish rugby league have gone the route of rock bands and artists by employing crowdfunding.

The game is a couple of years old in Poland, after a 20-year-old student saw some NRL footage on YouTube and decided he’d take it upon himself to start a local league.

His name is Lukasz Lukca and he’s started a club, hosted an incoming tour from the UK and applied to the government for official recognition.

But there’s still only one club. To play one away fixture in a neighbouring country and host one home game will cost just $2000 and the league has started a crowdfunding page to raise the money.

Go to crowdfunder.co.uk and search for polandrl. If you don’t know how crowd funding works, basically you pledge to help a certain cause if it reaches its target.

If the pledges fall short, you pay nothing. A great cause and a great outcome for not a lot of money.


WE’VE had a couple of European Bowl matches since our last column.

In Kharkov, the Ukraine had a big 42-14 win over Norway, Winger Oleksandr Korobov scored four of his side’s nine tries in seering heat. The Ukrainians were pre-tournament favourites.

“We know we have to beat the Czechs in September if we are to be promoted to the European Shield in 2014,” said UFRL president Artur Martyrosyan.

In Oslo, Norway then went onto beat the Czech Republic 26-14 in something of an upset. Isaac Schmidt was the star. The Czechs now have to beat the Ukraine by 20 in late September retain their crown.


GERMAN rugby league founder Simon Cooper is currently touring Australia with his wife and will be a spectator at 1300smiles Stadium on Friday for the North Queensland-Brisbane derby.

There was a time when Simon wanted to recruit Paul Gallen to the cause, perhaps because of his jawline.

But Far & Wide hears there might be some divisions in the German scene with Simon keen on nines when a full team can’t be assembled and the RLEF focusing on 13-a-side.

It would be sad to see a pioneer like Simon lost to the game and we hope the differences can be sorted out.


FAR & WIDE: Number 21


THIS year’s PNG v Australian Prime Minister’s XIII game is to be played in Kokopo, near the New Britain town of Rabaul which was destroyed by the eruption of twin volcanos in 1994.

The writer has great memories of Australia’s visit to the ruggedly beautiful region in 1991. This will be the first major game in the region since ’92.

The PM’s XIII will meet the Kumuls at Kalabond field, Kokopo, on September 29. At this stage, this is only World Cup warm-up game announced for either country.

Meanwhile, PNG national champions the Agmark Gurias recently completed a two-match tour of Queensland undefeated, with wins over the Northern Pride and JCU Saints.


THE NRL and Super League are no longer the only rugby league competitions that cross national boundaries.

Kicking off last weekend, the Pan-Scandinavian League pits three Swedish clubs against the new Copenhagen RLFC from Denmark.

The Copenhagen boys warmed up for their debut with a sevens tournament in Kungsbacka, Sweden, and made the final against Skåne Crusaders, with the Swedes winning 12-6.


RICHARD York from the Czech Rugby League was in Sydney over Easter and was the special guest of South Sydney for their big Good Friday clash with Canterbury.

Richard reports that expansion in the Czech Republic is continuing apace with 10 clubs located around the country. Rabbtiohs chief executive Shane Richardson will return the visit at the end of the season by stopping into Prague.


CANADA has lined up an international season that many other countries – including Australia and New Zealand – would envy.

On July 6 and September 21 they take on the United States but in between are matches against Jamaica (July 20) and Norway (September 7).

All games are at Lamport Stadium, Toronto, and the CRL is selling a “season ticket” for just $20. They’re providing a blueprint of how a national team can be used to drive development in a new rugby league country.

Check out their cool website, http://www.canadarugbyleague.com



FAR & WIDE: Number 15


IF you’re looking for evidence of international development, no-one this year has done better than two teams who are not competing in the World Cup.

We’ve already raved about the work being done in Canada. But how about this for Lebanon: various age group teams have played in Morocco, Serbia, Canada and – perhaps next month – the Cook Islands. In the course of  12 months, the Cedars hope to have played games in Europe, Asia, Oceania, Africa and the Americas.


An interesting story from the Czech Republic.

One of the star players at the Usti nad Labem Dragons club, Jan železný junior, is the son of three times Olympic gold medal winning Javelin thrower Jan železný. Zelezny is responsible for the five top javelin performances of all time.

Our game is trying hard to make the most of the publicity that we could get out of this link. The Czechs beat Hungry to lift the European Bowl this year.


Congratulations to the Jacksonville Axemen for their tight win over Boston 13s to take out the USARL grand final a week and a half back.

Although it was a tight game, the Axemen went through the season undefeated – the second time they’ve done this in three years! The game was played at the prestigious MIT in Boston – which is perhaps why the guns from Florida didn’t have things their own way.

The New York Knights won the rival AMNRL with a big win over Connecticut the previous week. Many people want to see a Super Bowl between the two – but the last we heard talks had broken down.


FAR & Wide is hearing the final of this year’s Tri-Nations tournament involving England, Wales and France will be played at the new City of Salford Stadium.

The tournament will kick off in France and move to the Racecourse Ground in Wrexham and Craven Park in Hull. Personally, we think playing the whole thing in France would have been worth considering.