FAR & WIDE: October 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

THE JOY OF SIX: International Season week one

The Joy Of SixBy STEVE MASCORD

1. WHAT IN THE WORLD?

ACCORDING to the Rugby League International Federation constitution, the gates of all Tests are to be levied with the money going into central funds. The levy is supposed to apply, as a percentage, the same to Saturday’s Vanuatu-Niue game in Port Vila as April’s Australia-New Zealand match in Canberra. But is it being applied at all? The 2008 World Cup made a reported $4 million profit. How was this spent? If we are all to get behind the 2013 tournament with our cash and enthusiasm, surely a little transparency shouldn’t be too much to ask in return? The fact is, domestic leagues don’t want the RLIF taking sponsors and other financial opportunities off them and that’s been holding back international footy for years.

2. INS AND OUTS

ANOTHER player who could have shone in the World Cup is out. Hooker James Segeyaro’s shoulder injury forced him to withdraw from the Papua New Guinea side over the weekend. Italy have lost both first choice halves, Terry Campese and Craig Gower, but Tonga’s Brent Kite is playing on despite hand and wrist injuries. Samoa coach Matt Parish has not had a good time of it. Frank Pritchard, Krisnan Inu and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck were nabbed by the Kiwis while Jeff Lima, Steve Matai and Carlos Tuimavave were ruled out injured. It appears Matai played in the NRL grand final with a serious hand injury. He ran straight up the tunnel at fulltime against South Sydney the previous week – perhaps he suffered it then. He’s been named as a technical advisor for the Samoans.

3. PACIFIC PRINCES

IT used to be that you could comfortably make it to every rugby league international played in a given year. Yet on one of the quietest weekends of the year, NSW Country beat South African Clubs Selection 50-0 in Silverton, Vanuatu beat Niue 22-20 in Port Vila and Greece downed Thailand 90-0 in Bangkok. The Port Vila game was a great spectacle, with players from both teams forming a circle for a prayer at fulltime and celebrating long into the night – with the referee! Self-starting countries like these need all the help they can get from the RLIF. But it’s a double-edged sword – the Federation probably wouldn’t let them use players who qualify through great grandparents (and there were plenty of them), or allow five reserves!

4. THAIS HAVE LEGS

ON the surface, there wasn’t much for the Thais to be happy about when they were beaten 90-0 by Greece at Technology Stadium, Bangkok, on Saturday. But in the stands for the game run by Shannon Crane’s Thai Rugby League was the boss of the rival organisation, Andrew Charles. Charles’ Thailand Stars play the Philippines away next week and several of those players – including Queensland-based Charlie Jones – turned out in Crane’s team. Charles was also invited to a sponsor’s function. The result of the game is compelling proof a country that has so far hosted just two rugby league games cannot continue with the folly of two governing bodies. Despite the thrashing, everyone also seemed to have a good time afterwards.

5. SMALL WORLD

STROLLING along Port Vila waterfront on Sunday night, Joy Of Six was stunned to run into Gold Coast Titans hooker Matt Srama and his girlfriend. With a trip to the Philippines on hold because of a shoulder injury, Srama decided to head to Vanuatu completely oblivious to the fact a rugby league international was being played there. Titans official Matt Francis – who spoke to several promising local players – must have missed Srama at the airport by a matter of hours on Sunday. Honourable mention, too, to the local French film-makers who shot the Vanuatu players walking towards the camera, Melbourne Storm style, at training two days before the Niue game and turned it into a slick promo video at lightning speed. One suspects they were not paid anything like what our game shells out for similar clips in England, New Zealand and Australia.

6. AMERICAN CIVIL WAR CONTINUES

JACKSONVILLE Axemen owner Daryl ‘Spinner’ Howland continues to rail against the number of foreign-based players in the United States World Cup team. Now comes a claim the team might actually be, in some regards, illegal. Howland has cited the Ted Stevens Act, which impacts on amateur sports in the US and their relationship with the US Olympic Committee. However, given that other sides at the World Cup have fewer, and even no, domestic players, it’s hard to see anything changing with regard to the Tomahawks. In more positive news for Spinner, the Axemen have launched their own beer.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

DISCORD 2013: Edition 40

DiscordBy STEVE MASCORD

BRIAN Smith has quit as the United States’ World Cup coach, continuing a troubled build-up for the Tomahawks which has included a backlash from local players over the squad selection.

Smith tells Discord an unexpected family commitment will prevent him travelling to Europe this month. He’s the second coach, after the Warriors’ Matthew Elliott, to withdraw from the Tomahawks campaign.

“There’s just been something come up that I really couldn’t miss, unfortunately,” Smith said.

While the AMNRL casts around for another clipboard carrier, it has a mini rebellion on its hands over the selection of so many foreign-based players.

Like fellow Cup debutants Italy, the Americans have called in as many professionals as they can muster but unlike the Azzurri, few of them are NRL or Super League first-teamers.

Penrith’s Joseph Paulo is captain, Parramatta’s Junior Paulo is in the squad, as are Panther Clint Newton and former Gold Coast Titan Matt Petersen.

Only three members of the squad played in the recently completed series against Canada.

Daryl ‘Spinner’ Howland – who founded the Jacksonville Axemen, the club that spearheaded the breakaway USARL – blasted on Facebook: “ The USA National Team Selectors have dealt a huge blow to the growth of Rugby League in the USA by selecting a World Cup team where very few have ever played a single game in the states, and even fewer even have a USA passport, and only qualify via the heritage rule. If you want to play for the USA, play in the USA.

“It is a total disgrace to those domestic players.

“You really do have a better chance at making the USA 7’s union

“How about finding some courage to do the right thing!!”

Another prominent US rugby league identity, Ryan McGough, posted: “These pros will get killed too so it makes no sense not to use grass roots guys. Complete sham.”

Like we said, there were similar consternation in Italy, where there is also a rebel competition – but the calibre of players included has ensured the complaints have not been as deafening as across the Atlantic.

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IT’S hard to imagine AFL being on the back page in Sydney during grand final week in the eighties, in the days of Tina Turner and John Quayle, but maybe it was.

More to the point, it’s hard to imagine a Melbourne Storm signing on the back of that city’s papers in AFL grand final week. What the frenzy over Buddy Franklin shows would indicate to someone just passing through town is that the NRL is the “local” competition and the AFL its national overlord.

OK, the sports market generally is more open than it was 30 years ago – and Franklin is hard news compared with the everything-old-is-new-again quote yarns of a typical grand final build-up.

But AFL’s expansion teams get salary cap concessions, they get handed centrally contracted players from other codes and are given other advantages over Melbourne teams.

That just wouldn’t be tolerated in the every-man-for-himself world of rugby league, despite the quite reasonable calls to that effect from Neil Henry.

ABC Radio was even offered the services of coaches not involved in the finals as commentators – by the AFL, which offered to foot the bill!

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A LOT of comments last week. Thanks for your feedback – and for entertaining yourselves, in many cases, without requiring input from me!

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