THE JOY OF SIX: Round 22



THE NRL is adamant it won’t be forced to back down over another potential fixture clash with the AFL a week after revising their draw because ANZ Stadium was double-booked. On September 6, South Sydney are due to host Sydney Roosters at Homebush in a game that could decide the minor premiership. But there is also some chance that Sydney Swans will have a home final assigned to the same weekend. “Our game is locked in to the Friday night and it won’t be moved,” and NRL spokesman said late Sunday. South Sydney chief executive Shane Richardson added: “When Allianz Stadium offered to host the game, ANZ said they definitely wanted it.” The Swans will just have to play on Saturday – at least that’s what the Mungos are saying. Set of Six was told P1 parking tickets were hard to come by, leading to suggestions the venue remained undecided on who it would favour if the clash occurred.


WHILE this is one of the few rugby league columns you’ll read that’s in favour of the punching ban, predictions that it would be interpreted by some players as a licence to niggle were just about proven right at Suncorp Stadium. “I held him down in the tackle, fair enough,” St George Illawarra halfback Nathan Fien told referee Jason Robinson, in reference to Brisbane’s Corey Parker, “but that doesn’t give him the right to strike out at me. You referees have made a big deal about that.” In other words, the rules now make it acceptable to drop knees and elbows into attacking players and if they retaliate, it’s they who should be punished. If Fien’s interpretation was in vogue, the punching ban would be unworkable. There should never be an incentive to niggle. If Parker had thrown a punch, he should have been sent to the sin bin but the penalty should still have gone to the Broncos.


EVEN the referees and touch judges didn’t think Joel Thompson knocked on when he tried to catch a line drop-out with Canberra coming to get the Sydney Roosters and a couple of minutes left at Allianz Stadium on Saturday. But when the Raiders second rower froze, they thought they must be mistaken, packed a scrum, and the tricolours hung on. The match officials’ boss, Daniel Anderson, however says their eventual decision was the right one. “I thought it was a knock-on, as a spectator,” Anderson said. Anderson added there was little alternative but to penalised Newcastle’s Jeremy Smith for kicking the ball loose in a tackle at Remondis Stadium, even though it appeared an accident. “The ball has to come out some way – it’s either dropped or a defender is responsible,” he said. “Under the rules, there is nowhere else for the referee to go. Sometimes they have to make miserable decisions.”


ONLY at Wests Tigers could bad news become good news and then be bad again. When the club released a statement saying three staff members had been let go, it was reported these included assistants Royce Simmons and Steve Georgallis. Bad news – the experienced coaches said they had been used in a publicity stunt because they had each told the joint venture weeks before that they would be departing of their own accord. On Sunday, club chief executive Grant Mayer said they weren’t the men being referred to. Good news. But that mean there are still three officials who are sready for the high jump – and who may very well have some unkind things to say about the decision. Bad news again. Mayer’s comment on ABC that Wests Tigers seem behind Manly when it comes to “sports science”? Could have been better timed….


A couple more of points regarding the Auckland Nines. If clubs have to field one of their five highest-paid players, but all five go to the World Cup and are therefore exempt, what then? Also, club reportedly resent the NRL is “out-sourcing” the tournament but would you have our governing body steal the intellectual property of someone else who had done all the spade work? I’d suggest they would be in court quicker than you can say “chilly bin”. What the ARLC should have done is gone back to promoters with what they wanted out of the concept. It could have been the launching pad for a Nines circuit, it could have involved Pacific countries or the states or Super League clubs. Instead, all the ARLC and the clubs seem to want out of it is the moolah -– and admittedly some valuable promotion for the sport in New Zealand.


COACH Stephen Kearney has received help from the unlikeliest of sources for New Zealand’s bid to retain the World Cup. The Auckland Blues and Waikato chief rugby union franchises have reportedly told Benji Marshall and Sonny Bill Williams respectively that they are happy for them to play in the tournament, to be played in England, Wales, Ireland and France from October 25 to November 30. Marshall wrote in his Sun-Herald column that although his is available for selection, he does not believe his form warrants selection ahead of Shaun Johnson and Kieran Foran. He’s right – but Marshall could be a game breaker off the bench. Australia’s stocks were severely dented on Sunday with the loss of Justin Hodges (Achilles), Boyd Cordner (ankle) and perhaps Trent Merrin (knee).




RUGBY league has taken two important steps over the past fortnight towards realising latent potential – which is what the ARLC was put there to do.

Yet neither decision was actually taken by the commission.

NRL referees coach Daniel Anderson took the first of them, announcing that anyone throwing a punch at the top level would likely be sent to the sin bin from now on.

Many of you disagreed with this edict but it was the reason for it that was most telling. “We need to make sure our game can recruit young kids,” Anderson said. “We’ve got a duty to the community and to people involved in our sport.”

Why, in our sport, do we never talk about participation rates? I’ll answer the question for you: because they’re terrible. We’re in the top three for general popularity but in Australia we are eighth for participation.

Until recently, the women’s game – using an example – got almost no help from the traditional governing bodies. We deliberately kept participation and the NRL at arm’s length, probably because we fair so poorly in the former and were a tad embarrassed.

The choice the game’s administration had to make got down to this: do we have a “don’t try this at home, these are paid professionals” warning before every telecast or do we take ownership of our comparatively poor performance as a participation sport and use the popularity of our stars on television to improve the situation?

As a spectator, you just want to be entertained. So you may not like Anderson’s crackdown. But rugby league has responsibilities that extend beyond entertaining you. That’s why players are held to different standards of behaviour than actors and musicians – because people have given up their time along with way to get them to where they are.

Rugby league in not UFC. There’s no “grassroots” UFC with parents manning the canteen each Saturday morning. Maybe the NRL will lose a few spectators for the Hills District Under 10s to gain a few participants. And perhaps in the first year of a five year TV contract is the best time to make that sacrifice – because the money’s already in our pockets, isn’t it?

Which brings us to the second decision, which wasn’t even made in Australia.

The Rugby League International Federation sold the television rights to the World Cup to International Management Group, guaranteeing a big pay day for the RLIF which will hopefully filter down to the countries who need it most.

IMG’s responsibility then is to make a profit, not help rugby league.

In the case of selling the UK free-to-air rights to the BBC, the game’s interests will be served pretty well anyway given the enormous audiences that deal will deliver.

In the case of selling the pay TV rights in Britain to Premier Sports … maybe not so much, given that the channel is a small start-up with a comparatively tiny audience.

But when it comes to Australia and Channel Seven, the benefits could be enormous.

If reconnecting the grassroots game with the professional sport is crucial, then ramping up international football is absolutely essential for us to make meaningful growth in the years ahead.

With more than 100 NRL stars likely to be playing in the World Cup between October 26 and November 30, this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for colours, concepts and brands of our national teams to be embedded in the minds of rugby league fans and the wider sporting market.

Philosophically, I’ve never agreed with the NRL’s position that sticking with one commercial broadcaster gives you greater support across the board. Nine do a fine job on the NRL but this is a capitalist society and competitive tensions get the best out of everyone.

Unconfirmed reports said one of the reasons for the financial disaster of the 2000 World Cup was that when a rights broker tried to sell the tournament in Australia and New Zealand, the broadcasters there claimed they already owned it through their domestic deals.

Finally, 13 years later, we have got our house in order in that respect. The international game is a position to call its own shots. BIG step forward.

In the cases of both decisions discussed here, certain interest groups had to be snubbed. In Anderson’s case, it was the blood thirsty biff fiends who only tune into Origin for the stinks.

In the case of the World Cup TV rights, it was the network that only wanted to show Australia’s games and, via that stance, suggested rugby league has ideas above its station and is not to be taken seriously as an international sport.

The worst thing about the belief that rugby league only has the biff going for it and will always be a joke internationally is that the game’s administration itself – by its inaction – seemed to actually agree.

Thankfully, belatedly … not any more.


THE JOY OF SIX: Round 16


DESPITE the complications alcohol and social media have each caused him, NSW and St George Illawarra fullback Josh Dugan still seems to really like both. After reports emerged on Sunday that police were called after he was seen sitting in a boat parked outside a Sutherland Shire house and rowdily pretending to fish, Dugan posted on Instagram a meme (which now means a picture with a slogan superimposed on it) that read “A Lion Doesn’t  Concern Himself With The Opinions Of Sheep” following by the hashtag #anythingtosellastory . Within a few hours, the posting had more than 1000 likes. Most respondents, predictably, agreed with Dugan and criticised the story but some pleaded with him to, in the words of one follower, “pull your head in”.


RICKY Stuart deftly walked the line between getting his message across and not questioning anyone’s integrity with his post-match comments after the South Sydney loss. The Parramatta coach has said before that he doesn’t speak to referees boss Daniel Anderson and did not repeat his earlier contention that referees treat sides down the bottom of the table are treated differently than those at the top. That accusation carries an implication of prejudice and will make you $10,000 poorer in an instant. And while that was still the clear hint on Sunday, the majority of players in the NRL agree anyway. In the Rugby League Week Player Poll, when asked “do lesser clubs cop a rough deal from refs?”, 54 per cent of respondents answered ‘yes’. The NRL recently beefed up its rules to take in criticism which is considered excessive, even if no integrity is questioned. In the view of Joy Of Six, this is blatant censorship.


THE speculation on Thursday and Friday that Sonny Bill Williams was about to pull out of the Sydney Roosters-Canterbury match because he did not want to put money in his former club’s coffers did no-one any favours. Sure, the fact that Williams played should have put the innuendo to bed but in truth a professional sports should not have to endure the whispering in the first place. In the NFL, all clubs have to maintain an injury list outlining who trained, who didn’t and why – which is available to the public. And betting on American football in most US states is illegal. Hiding or lying about injuries is punishable by Draconian fines. Rugby league may have scaled back its involvement with bookmakers but it arguably owes the public more transparency than the NFL because it still benefits from punting. When the Integrity Unit is done with misbehaving players, it should get to work on making clubs completely transparent over injuries and team changes.


ANOTHER job for the Integrity Unit, then. People still seem angry at Josh Dugan, even though he apparently did nothing wrong on his night out with Blake Ferguson and fishing on dry land is not – at this stage – a crime in NSW. It is central to their disquiet that Dugan did “the wrong thing” in Canberra and was “rewarded” with a St George Illawarra contract, and then “rewarded” again with NSW selection. That being the case, surely Jim Doyle’s Integrity Unit should assess each case where a player is sacked for disciplinary reasons and make a ruling on whether he should be able to join a rival club immediately, after a set period or at all. There’s no integrity in deliberately getting yourself sacked by not showing up to work, and then joining a rival employer after a few weeks’ purgatory. The NRL should be involved.


CHANNEL Seven’s signing of an agreement to cover the World Cup is tremendous news and follows a similar deal in the UK, where regular league broadcaster Sky Sports lost out to upstart Premier Sports in rights negotiations. While International Management Group, who negotiated both deals, are motivated by profit and not the welfare of the sport, rugby league has often lacked the confidence to share TV broadcasting rights around. International Rugby League is essential for the sport to go to the next level commercially and in the case of the broadcasters we already have, familiarity has bred contempt. You could argue it is in the interests of our domestic broadcasters for rugby league to remain a local, affordable commodity. They don’t care about international football and in that circumstance, we can either dance to their tune or go out and find someone who does care. Thankfully, we’ve done the latter. It could be a milestone decision.


THE negligible space afforded to Sam Tomkins’ likely signing with the New Zealand Warriors (from Wigan Warriors) in the Australian press is a sad indictment on the perceived strength of Super League. Tomkins is a once-in-a-generation English rugby league player whose evasive skills on kick returns have to be seen to be believed. While Australians decry the denuding of Super League, most English fans have never had illusions of grandeur about their competition. England coach Steve McNamara, speaking to Set Of Six in the South Sydney dressingrooms late on Sunday, spoke for many of them when he said fans would far rather see Tomkins stay in rugby league on the other side of the world than defect to rugby union at home. “It’s almost like the lesser of two evils, if you get my meaning,” McNamara said. Compare that to Australian fans, who view Super League and rugby union more or less equally as predators. Some of them would prefer a league player represent the Wallabies than Wigan, no doubt – a position that would be considered utter treason in the north of England.


DISCORD 2013: Edition 25


LAST week Discord was rightly criticised for posting yet another column on the Origin I biff, a couple of readers pointing out that they’d already read much more than enough on the subject.

Fair cop.

But sometimes, when the current debate on a footy-relate issue seems to be missing something, Discord feels a duty to point out the elephants in the room. So we’ll do that regarding recent events and move straight on to something else.

The first elephant is not in any way highlighted as an excuse for some of the boorish behaviour we have seen over the last week… but it is a major contributing facotr and has been completely overlooked for some mystifying reason.

It’s hormones. While columns like this love to point out that players have limited careers and should learn to stay indoors and out of trouble, to the players the limited time span is a reason to go out. They’ll only be this fit, this famous, this single and this good looking – all at once – for less than a decade and there are plenty of wild oats to sow in that time.

To a 23-year-old, there is a fear that if you don’t take advantage of these unique circumstances, you’ll regret it in your old age. The jealousy of your contemporaries can be over-powering. Of course, getting in trouble creates even bigger regrets … but that may not happen … so it seems worth the gamble.

To Blake Ferguson and Josh Dugan, NOT going out on Sunday night would have seemed a terrible, tragic waste of an opportunity.

Secondly – and I will use this as an excuse for the Mal Meninga ‘incident’ – how easy is it to be refused service or even entry to a pub these days? I’m sure many readers have been refused entry in Sydney when they have not had a single drink, just because the guys on the door don’t like the look of their eyes as a result of some training course they did.

I have been refused service, or entry, in licensed establishments at least 20 times. I probably deserved it on more than half those occasions but I have never done anything more anti social than drop a glass on the floor.

It’s easy to understand why Mal would feel aggrieved that every daily newspaper saw fit to put his transgression on the back page today. But footballers (and their coaches) are really just reality TV stars these days. Without television, they’d be amateur or part time.

Bluntly, the media machine sees them as merely being there for our amusement, offering us two-dimensional pulp morality tales with everything they do.

So they get treated the same as reality TV stars. If Joel Madden was in town to promote a record, his little dope stash would get less space than if he was judging a massive talent show, publicity for which has been deliberately whipped up by a television network.

Same with Mal. If he is asked to leave the local pub in Redcliffe in November, it would be lucky to rate a paragraph in a gossip column. But Origin is the best rating piece of reality television in Australia.

If the players thought of it more like The Voice, they might understand a little better the way the gossip-obsessed mainstream media treats it.

OK, onto something else.


FOR the record, your correspondent was only joking on Monday when he described Daniel Anderson’s trip to the NHL “bunker” as a junket.

Of course, it’s a good idea for the NRL referees’ boss to drop in on the way back from the World Cup. We were just making the point that commercial radio stations have already set up similar facilities in this country which would be worth checking out.

Of course, commercial radio stations don’t need to communicate with referees and touch judges. And they often have communication breakdowns with their people at the ground which would be disastrous for match officials.


COMMENTS now, and I’ll go through everything written on the bottom of a story on or for the last week.

read on

THE JOY OF SIX: Round 14



CAMERON Smith might be as influential as any active premiership player since the days of Dally Messenger. The decision to use the sin bin for those who throw punches, presumably from now on in all club and representative games, was largely influenced by the Australia captain’s comment on NRL 360 last Wednesday. Hooker Smith said the Gallen-Myles incident was “not a good look” and referees boss Daniel Anderson twice made reference to this comment on ABC Radio yesterday. Anderson said the tough stance was not an edict from NRL CEO David Smith but rather a reaction to changing community standards. He said the game had to preserve its ability to attract young players. There was a sign at Barlow Park yesterday that read “Bring Back The Biff” but Joy of Six reckons if that’s still what you want from State of Origin, your choice is simple – don’t watch. Cameron, meanwhile, reportedly asked for three journalists’ accreditation to be revoked over Jon Mannah story recently.


THE decision by Anderson may turn out to be a milestone. If it is, then it will be because we have finally made a decision that the sport played at Suncorp Stadium next week is the same one played on Saturday morning in parks across the country. These pumped up supermen are not just there to sell whatever product is on their jerseys along with the stuff on the perimeter advertising and TV commercials – every one of them is a recruiter, trying to entice children to play the game. The only problem with that is that it’s not the same game. We have international rules, NRL rules, Super League rules and multiple interpretations of those rules. If we are really going to use players as recruiters effectively, we have to make sure they are playing the same sport they are trying to sell to kids. At the moment, they’re not.


A VIDEO refereeing ‘bunker’ is being pushed as the answer to all our officiating problems. One video ref could do five games in a weekend, giving us greater consistency of decisions. But is there any guarantee that video referee wouldn’t make mistakes of the same kind we are now seeing? Of course not. In fact, the only guaranteed benefit for the NRL would be to save money on travel and accommodation. As someone who works at rugby league grounds with electronic communications equipment every weekend, this writer is acutely aware of the myriad things that can go awry. But if Daniel Anderson remains keen to press on with the concept, he may be able to save the money being spent on his trip to the NHL bunker next off-season. These days, plenty of rugby league games are broadcast on radio not from stadia but from studios, where very similar facilities with direct v ideo feeds and HD screens have been set up. Daniel could easily check one of them out for a fraction of the cost of going to North America.


WE’VE had some pretty handy mid-season recruits over the years – Krisnan Inu at the Bulldogs is one who couldn’t get a game at the Warriors and completely reinvigorated Canterbury. But Josh Dugan may be viewed at the end of the year as the best in recent memory. He was an exciting player in a team of will o’wisps at Canberra. In a more tradesmanlike, programmed outfit like St George Illawarra, he’s simply electrifying. Dugan handles as often as he can in every set of six and tries to create as well as finish. At times, in terms of sheer ability, he seems head and shoulders above every other player on the field – a rare commodity in modern professional sport. Realising the difference he is making at the Dragons could give him the confidence to make one at Origin level.


CAIRNS hosted two of the worst rugby league games your correspondent ever had the misfortune to witness – North Queensland v Northern Eagles in and the Cowboys against Penrith in 2001. But yesterday’s South Sydney-Gold Coast game at Barlow Park was a delight, even if referee Matt Cecchin commented early that there didn’t seem to be much of an atmosphere. It built – and a 16,118 crowd at a provincial venue is a success in any language. Souths fans, drawn from wide geographical origins, are becoming a financial powerhouse and pumped an estimated $1 million into the local economy. The city was awash with cardinal and myrtle on match eve. Cairns is a major battlefront with the AFL and yesterday’s game marked a victory for rugby league. Our game needs more pilgrimage- type events and this is a welcome addition.


FROM time to time this year, we’ve had a whinge about poor attendances. But what do you say about the English national team attracting just 7926 on home soil in a World Cup year? The crowd at Halliwell Jones Stadium for the 30-10 win over the Exiles came despite months of promotion and must be a concern for RLWC organisers. With more English players coming to the NRL every year and the standard of those going in the other direction eroding, the Exiles concept has probably run its course. How to give England a mid-season run? The answer is simple: that Super League be paused for the NRL’s representative weekend and all countries – including England – play proper internationals with full strength sides as happens in soccer.




IN the NRL, we tend to give new officials a honeymoon period – then we smash them.

The honeymoon period of referees coach Daniel Anderson is well and truly over, thanks to Parramatta coach Ricky Stuart who last week accused him of writing incomprehensible match summaries and needlessly factoring “discretionary penalties” in his assessment of match officials.

Stuart also said whistlers spoke to players in “friggin Spanish”, prompting the clowns on the Fire Up! radio show to say Ricky should have listened when they advised him to appoint at least one Spanish-speaking captain!

The other NRL official who is copping it is the new chief executive, David Smith.

As a journalist, you might expect me to join the cacophony of complaints that Smith doesn’t answer his phone that often and isn’t accessible to those of us in the fourth estate.

But as a rugby league fan, I am not sure I want a leader who even cares what I am typing right now. I want someone who is a bit of a statesman, above the daily cycle of criticism that drives the media machine.

I want someone who has a vision for rugby league and is willing to pursue it until it gets him sacked.

Does the commissioner of the NFL finish his day by returning the calls for 47 hacks at every newspaper in the United States?

Big Issue is not suggesting Neil Whittaker, David Moffett and David Gallop were harming rugby league in any way when they spoke to the Sydney dailies and The Australian multiple times per week.

Despite what some may think, Gallop showed no favouritism; I probably spoke to him more when I was at Fairfax than I did at the Telegraph.

It’s great that these men ruled in eras when that was possible.

But if rugby league is going to realise its potential in a changing media environment, it should not be possible for the CEO to do that anymore. We should be aiming to get to a point where there are just too many requests for him to handle.

The influence of traditional outlets is receding as websites, blogs and social media gain more traction. Compelling evidence of this will be the way criticism of Smith from old media has little or no effect, whereas it would have seriously undermined his predecessors.

As a journalist, I cannot endorse anything that restricts freedom of speech. But intellectually, I understand why we need to keep the game out of the defamation courts by fining coaches who question referees’ integrity.

Similarly, as a journalist, it would be great to be able to pick up the phone at any time and ring David Smith.

I’ve been covering rugby league since 1986 and work for a number of media outlets in various capacities.

I’ve never met David Smith.

But if I’m honest, I kind of like it that way.




MY SOMETIMES ABC colleague Tim Gavel on Monday posted a Tweet that was beautiful in its simplicity: “The dangers of gambling on sport and the perils of social media are two major issues facing Australia’s current generation of sportsmen.”

As if to lead by example, Tim left the statement – which was in no way controversial – to stand on its own and didn’t immediately respond to anyone who agreed or disagreed.

Let’s divide this sentence – perfect for Twitter’s character limit – into two.

Sports gambling in Australia is at a crossroads. We live in a country where you can’t buy alcohol at the corner store but bookies are part of the footy commentary team.

The various governments have begun to move on the issue but they earn money themselves out of gambling and are, as a result, conflicted. Most of the NSW-based NRL clubs rely, to some degree, on poker machine income.

In fact, the old Sydney premiership was so deeply rooted in gambling that State of Origin was introduced to counter the attraction of pokie money dragging Queensland talent across the Tweed River.

Who knows? We may one day find out that many, many games in the past were fixed with SP bookies seemingly never too far from our dressing rooms and training fields.

If there ever was corruption in top level rugby league, it is gone. Racism and sexism have been a part of the game too. They, too, have been chased to the fringes.

But don’t kid yourself that just because Tom Waterhouse is on television, gambling is a new scourge. It is an old bedfellow and the only thing new about it is its outrageous generosity.

We relied on gambling when we were a part-time sport and we never developed the guts to become independent of it. Russell Crowe tried, ripping the pokies out of Souths Leagues and after an ownership change, it went broke.

Somehow, we are a now a fulltime professional sport with $1.025 billion in TV rights and gambling still has us by the cohunes. How? Think of the gambling industry as a tide, which will come in day after day, filling the gaps we leave for it.

We thought we could replace it with TV money – so it just paid its way into our television coverage and sponsored a stadium or two! Rugby league delivers working class Australians and no-one sucks money out of working class Australians like the gambling industry.

It was forever thus.

So what are the dangers to players? That they are seduced into affecting the progress and results of matches for the sake of bookmakers? Again, I would say that is nothing particularly new.

Social media, on the other hand, is rather new. When Josh Dugan complained on the weekend that he was “like everybody else”, he had already proven the point.

People love provoking reactions – Dugan included. He loves that people know who he is, that he has thousands of followers and that everybody has an opinion on him. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t engage those people.

We have to get past the mentality of concerning ourselves with what athletes say on social media because social media now IS society. If you are abusive on social media, you are ANTI-SOCIAL. The keystroke is just today’s equivalent of a drunken rant or breaking other people’s property.

The problem is not that Josh Dugan called someone a “nuffie” and a “spastic”, it’s that he THINKS of fans like that. Just banning someone from social media is like putting them on what we used to call “a media ban”.

Just because you don’t do any interviews – or post any pictures on Instagram – does not stop you from being a hazard to yourself, your club or the general public. Making people behave on social media is no more than a copout or a cover-up

The “perils of social media” are now “the perils of life”.


FOLLOWING our item last week about the obstruction rule, it was heartening to hear Daniel Anderson on the ABC strongly suggest he will be giving referees back their discretion when he has enough ex-players who have their heads around working in the video box.

At least, that’s what I read between the lines. He said the aim was to “get to the point” where Cooper Cronk’s round three try against Canterbury would be allowed.

Clearly, Anderson doesn’t trust his charges at this stage to get it right – so he’s introduced the hard and fast rules which have upset so many people.


Simmons Accuses Refs Of Changing The Rules

Wests Tigers - Royce SimmonsBy STEVE MASCORD

PENRITH great and Wests Tigers assistant coach Royce Simmons has accused NRL referees boss Daniel Anderson of changing the rules of rugby league without authorisation in his controversial obstruction interpretation.

The debate over the  edict that any collision with a defender initiated by a decoy runner would result in a disallowed try affected almost every game at the weekend and has just about usurped the ASADA investigation as the game’s number one talking point.

Rugby League Week understands players at one leading club have discussed contacting their rivals over the next week to form a united lobby against the crackdown.

Simmons says: “Generally when you change the rules in the game, you have to go through the International Federation or something to change them.

“To me, it seems like a rule change has been made. Referees, in my opinion, are there to interpret the rules and not make the rules.

“Tries are being rubbed out that haven’t been rubbed out in all the time I’ve been involved in the game, since I was in under sixes.

“Second-man plays have been in the game a long time. I’m not saying it’s going to make the game better or worse or anything but this is fact.

“Some of the calls, I think, have been too far from where the action’s taken place. I’m all for getting it right and I guess we’ve got to go through a procedure where we’re getting it right because it certainly wasn’t right last year.

“But we seem to have gone from one extreme to another.”

Anderson admits the issue is likely to be discussed by the NRL competition committee later this month – but the interpretation will stay at least until then.

He hinted on radio last Sunday that he will give video referees back their discretion when he is confident there are enough ex-players in the box with enough experience in their new roles.

Speaking on the ABC on Sunday, he said referees had “done well” this year but that obstruction represented “the bull in the china shop knocking everything off the shelves”.

He admitted that Cooper Cronk’s disallowed round three touchdown in round three was a “definite try” under the previous interpretation.

“We want the Cooper Cronk try to be allowed – but how do we do that without compromising other components?” he said.

“It cannot change right now … we need a bigger sample (of incidents).”

Anderson said “this is not just my game in my backyard”.

He said criticism from Parramatta coach Ricky Stuart at the weekend didn’t “reflect accurately what has gone on since November last year”.

* NB: video referees were subsequently given permission to award tries, at their discretion, when a collision between a decoy runner and a defender did not obstruct the defence.


BONDI BEAT: January 2013

Rugby League World January 2013By STEVE MASCORD

ONE aspect of the ARL Commission’s moves to abolish the shoulder charge has been overlooked in all the din of resistance.

I’ve already had my say on the issue. I thought Dr Jack Kazandjian was nuts when he ran onto the field in Jacksonville and stopped an international to argue with Phil Bentham because a Jamaican player (Jamaine Wray, for memory) was concussed.

American sports were obsessed with concussion at the time. A Jamaican player told me “he doesn’t understand rugby league. Playing concussed is what we do”.

But Dr Jack was proven right. Within a year or so, his rules for concussion were more or less adopted by the NRL.

So when medicos call for the banning of the shoulder charge and we all say they’re making the game soft, I am reluctant to make the same error in judgement twice.

The medicos are usually right.

We are getting less blood-thirsty in our entertainment tastes and eventually body-contact sport will die out completely – although not until long after all of us are dead.

The point I am trying to make is that at least the ARL Commission had the good grace to say they would lobby the RLIF to outlaw the shoulder charge worldwide.

In my time, that’s a first. When it comes to rule changes, the Australian authorities previously didn’t seem to know that the RLIF exists.


THE NRL may now be flushed with funds and ready to raid Super League but it has found a new rival – Japanese rugby union.

Wests Tigers star and New Zealand captain Benji Marshall, who has three years to run on his contract at Concord, recently asked for a release to play the next off-season (I know, we have a World Cup) in the Land Of The Rising Yen.

The request, from agent Martin Tauber, was immediately refused but Sonny Bill Williams decision to play in Japan after his deal with the NZRU expired – and then sign with Sydney Roosters when everyone knew that’s exactly what he planned – has set a dangerous precedent.

According to agents, more and more players will sign one-year deals, go to Japan, and secretly agree to return the following NRL season on another one year deal.

As I’ve written elsewhere, the antidote is simple – in exchange for the pay rise associated with the new TV deal, players should be contracted from January 1 to December 31. You talk about professionalism – denying yourself an off-season of rest and recuperation is decidedly unprofessional.

Now, there are those of you who might see this as hypocritical of me, given that my byline has been known to appear in more than one publication. Good point – but I deliberately threw away job security, holidays, sick pay and more by quitting newspapers.

So, NRL stars, if you want to play rugby union in the off-season, then maybe you should sign a match-payments-only deal with your club.


SHOULD Brisbane and Sydney have to bid to host State Of Origin games?

ARLC chairman John Grant keeps talking about “the business” of rugby league and his commission initially wanted the states to bid for all three matches next season.

In the end, the traditional homes of the series were given one match each. The third game of 2015 was put up for tender and will probably go to Melbourne. Whether money is changing hands for the third game of any other series over the next four years has not been revealed.

In Bondi Beat’s opinion, charging for at least one match each year makes sense. Our game can make a lot of money from such arrangements.


FIRST the shoulder charge, then the benefit of the doubt rule.

After my ABC colleague (ex-ABC colleague, I guess) Daniel Anderson was appointed referees boss recently, one of the NRL’s most controversial rules seemed to be on borrowed time.

Personally, I think benefit of the doubt is a stupid rule. As we saw with ‘The Hand Of Foran’ during the NRL finals series, it has got to the point where if there is a two per cent chance of it being a try, it’s awarded.

Referees Steve Lyons and Tony De Las Heras, touch judges David Abood and Gavin West and their bosses Stuart Raper and Bill Harrigan were all given the heave-ho at the end of last season.

I am not sure the absence of the benefit-of-the-doubt rule would have saved all of them but it would have helped some.


HERE in magazine world, we are not in the business of plugging other magazines – unless they are online and completely free!

Congrats to the people behind ‘International’ magazine, a completely online publication that has been put out by the Rugby League Planet website and a company called Consultivity.

In past columns, we have suggested that the Rugby League International Federation should be selling memberships and publishing just such a magazine itself. Maybe Consultivity is getting in on the bottom floor and showing the RLIF what can be done.

If so, congratulations. It’s a great start and I hope the people at … well, the RLIF doesn’t have a physical address, does it …  are taking notice. Just in case, I sent a link to Scott Carter and Tas Baitieri.

The second edition of ‘International’ has Olivier Elima on the cover.


NO, there was no pre-season Nines tournament in the NRL draw announced recently. But I am told it has already been pencilled in for 2014.

There should be an interesting tour at the end of that season, too, I am told….

Meanwhile, news that the West Coast Pirates are considering entering Super League should not have been a surprise to readers of this column. We reported it a good month before it appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald.


I HAD  lovely, if unexpected, end to my rugby league season.

At the end of November, Bondi Beat had the pleasure of travelling to Barcelona for the bucks weekend (on a Tuesday and Wednesday, coz we all work weekends, right) of BBC commentator David Woods.

Dave married journalists Julie Stott on November 25.

Anyway, I spotted some familiar faces boarding my RyanAir flight from Liverpool to the Catalan capital – the French team, fresh from their 48-4 pizzling by the English in the Four Nations final.

Strolling into the Barca warmth, chatting about rugby league with the aforementioned Olivier Elima – a fitting end to a year that started in freezing cold at Headingley.

I won’t call it a fitting start to the off-season – because I’m still sitting here writing this column, aren’t I?

Twitter: @BondiBeat