BONDI BEAT: May 2014

Dr Who? Mockup by @drkockrash
Dr Who? Mockup by @drkockrash

By STEVE MASCORD

LIKE your clubs in England, the NRL is considering ways to hold onto players and to recruit new stars,
Bondi Beat‘s spies tell us that the issue was raised in Auckland before the NRL Nines. The CEO of the league, David Smith, suggested that if one club wanted to sign a rugby union star, for instance, it could apply for central funding.
But every club would have the opportunity to match or exceed the amount of money the recruiting club was willing to pay. If Souths wanted to sign England rahrah George North, for instance, North Queensland could offer to pay a larger part of his wage package. This would leave the league paying less.
North would still have the opportunity to go to the club of his choice, not the highest bidder.
But another idea should be a concern to most readers. The plan is to make transfer fees salary cap-free if the incoming player is not from the NRL.
In other words, a leave pass to raid the Super League if you have enough money to pay the transfer fees.
I am told it was South Sydney chief executive Shane Richardson who pointed this implication out. “They play the same sport as us over there, you know,” was the crux of his argument.
If you go through the current NRL club CEOS, few have much experience in the international game.

THE debate over the marquee player proposal in England is a fascinating one.
I heard on the BBC recently that the NRL has a marquee player allowance of $600,000 per club. That is wrong. There is no marquee player system in the NRL that is even remotely similar to what Dr Marwan Koukash is proposing in Super League.

What is allowed in the NRL are third part agreements – club sponsors paying players up to a limit. It is not the same as allowing clubs to spend their own money on imported talent, regardless of whether it sends them broke.
Instead of offering Stg200,000 for rival clubs’ “golden tickets”, perhaps Dr Koukash should guarantee to under-write the rest of the comp so every club can spend up to the cap as it exists now.
I am a bit of a sociallist when it comes to sporting competitions. I believe our game needs to be outwardly capitalist but inwardly communist.
Until every club in the Super League is spending up to the cap, there is no point giving them more rope to hang themselves. Maybe if every club in the new division of eight is spending up to the cap and is on a sound financialfooting, it can be considered again.
The recent Widnes-Salford epic was a clash of cultures – between licencing and throwing raw cash at something. And who won that?
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THIS column probably features a few too many items which paint my Australian compatriots as being a little ignorant of the realities of rugby league outside their own bubble. It’s a point that gets laboured here too much.
But it was curious the other day to hear Penrith coach Ivan Cleary say this: “I think, personally, we shouldn’t have representative tournaments every year at the end of the year,” Cleary said. ”Maybe a one-off game with Australia and New Zealand straight after the grand final pretty much. Basically, if you are going to have one it needs to finish a lot earlier.”
Cleary, you’ll remember, is the New Zealand assistant coach!
Now, George Gregan played 139 Tests in that other code. Darren Lockyer had played 59 when he retired. But WE’RE playing too many Tests? Clearly, were playing too many club games…
One man who agreed with Cleary was Greg Alexander, who is on the board at Penrith. When I appeared with Andrew Voss and Brandy on 2UE to argue against Cleary’s contention, one of their responses was that if we needed international football so much then perhaps there should be a World Cup every two years!
From the sublime to the ridiculous…..
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IN the wake of the sort of ignorance described above, you’ve got to hand it to the Sydney Roosters and former Catalan coach Trent Robinson.
He has hired the England coach as his assistant and in Remy Casty has a man who is likely to be only the fourth French born player to turn out in the top flight down under, after Jerome Guisset, Jacques Molinet and Jason Baitieri.
And when his team completely outclassed Wigan in the World Club Challenge, Robinson argued that the concept should be expanded. Even in the face of the increasing disparity in the salary caps of the two competitions, he argued an expanded WCC would narrow the gap, not accentuate it.

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ANOTHER great story in this neck of the woods this year has been the debut in Queensland’s Untrust Super Cup (the Q Cup to you) of the Kopoko-based PNG Hunters.
After the disappointments of the World Cup, the PNGRL signed players from rural areas to contracts, took them away from their families for 11 weeks and put them in a police barracks.
The result was a 24-18 win on debut against Redcliffe in Brisbane. “Back at home, after the World Cup when everyone got back into the country, the guys that played in
the World Cup never went out in public places because a lot of the media and the people around the country were pissed off,” said coach Michael Marum.
PNGRL chairman Sandis Tsaka says Mal Meninga is now the coach of the Kumuls. They hope to play the winner of the mid-year Samoa-Fiji Test before the Four Nations and a warm-up game against another 4N team – perhaps England.
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TYRONE McCarthy and his partner, Helen Lomax, are settling in nicely in Cairns.
The Ireland vice-captain and ex-Warrington star scored two tries on debut for Q Cup side Northern Pride. “I was probably getting stagnant at Warrington, being in and out of the side,” he said.
“It’s pretty different to home here, very hot and humid, but I’m used to it now and the club have been great. Two tries is more than I scored all last year.”
Tyrone is hoping to get his charity project, the FullBloods, going in Oz. It helps kids in disadvantaged areas using rugby league to connect with them. Support Tyrone by visiting thefullbloodproject.org.
Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

DISCORD 2014: Edition Six

DiscordBy STEVE MASCORD

WIGAN coach Shaun Wane says he still doesn’t know what rules next week’s World Club Challenge will be played under.
The Super League and Challenge Cup champions went on a tryscoring spree in the second half last night to flog a depleted New Zealand Warriors 46-22 in a trial played under NRL regulations – but with unlimited interchanges – at Hamilton’s Waikato Stadium.
While it has previously been reported that the WCC against Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium on Saturday week will be played under international rules with just one referee, Wayne tells Discord he has still received no confirmation of this.
“I’m going to find out in a few days,” said Wane. “I’ve not found out a final decision yet, believe it or not.
“We did everything the NRL way (against the Warriors) but I’m not sure how next Saturday’s going to go.”
Wane has also received no confirmation on who next Saturday’s referee will be. “They haven’t made the final decision on substitutes and the new rules coming in and two refs.
“Unbelievably, I’m still waiting to find out.”
A decision on whether youngster Sam Powell makes the Wigan 17 could rely on how many interchanges are permitted.
One feature of the new NRL interpretations which stuck out on Wednesday night was the pace of play with captains no longer permitted to question referees’ decisions when they are given.
“I don’t think (Wednesday’s captain) Sam Rapira was going to get in anyone’s face too much,” said Warriors coach Matthew Elliott. “Maybe he had to. There were a couple of decisions there that I thought were head-scratchers but they’re (match officials) in a trial process as well.
“But I like (the rule).”

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SALFORD owner Dr Marwan Koukash is, of course, wrong in saying that Super League would benefit from the salary cap being completely abolished.
Comparisons with soccer are spurious; it is harder to score in soccer so sides spending widely varying amounts of money on their squads can remain on an even par during the course of a game. That’s what makes their World Cup so compelling; the sport gives underdogs a better chance than rugby league does.
But if Koukash wants to spend more than the RFL wants him to at this point, the answer is simple: enter a team in the NRL.
The idea of an English side in the Australasian competition has been around for a while but never has it been likely to receive a more sympathetic hearing than now, with the NRL already considering a variety of ways to exploit the English market.
Dr Koukash has deep pockets and the prospect of playing home games in large arenas around the UK against the world’s best should be particularly seductive to him. He could corner a market completely.
As we’ve said before, the English NRL team could play a month of away games followed by a month of home games. Visitors would play the previous Friday and the following Monday. Travel time is similar to that between Dunedin and, say, Durbin in Super Rugby.
And Wigan proved last night you can cross the world, play two days later, and still perform at a pretty reasonable level. Over to you, good doctor.

THANKS for the comments last week. Oethesaint said the Sky offer for Super League should have been rejected. You’re going to get criticism either way, aren’t you?

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