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