DISCORD 2013: Edition 37

DiscordBy STEVE MASCORD

EVERY year, for as long as I can remember, I’ve been organising, promoting and – occasionally – attending Media Mad Monday.

We’ve held it in Balmain, the Rocks, Darling Harbour, Clovelly/Coogee and the City. I don’t remember anything really outrageous ever happening, although it would be completely unrealistic to say no-one was ever refused service.

But this year, I don’t think it’s appropriate to have one.

In about 1994, when I mentioned Mad Monday to the Sydney Morning Herald sports editor Peter Christopher, he had never heard of it. Outside of footballers, few people had.

He got me to write a funny story about some of the hijinks players got up to, leaving out the names. It was one of those good natured “public service announcement” columns. We might have said ‘lock your pets’ and ‘tell the police’ and chortled along.

Fast forward almost two decades and the police – and pets – no longer looked at Mad Monday as a laughing matter.

Have footballers become more rowdy and irresponsible in that time? Of course not. But 1994 was just on the cusp of the fulltime era. Some players still had jobs. And the media was not so celebrity obsessed, the line between what was private and public was much clearer.

The world has become a more serious place.

There’s a catch 22 situation in clubs trying to “contain” Mad Monday by organising the venue and hiring security. On one hand, it can stop things getting out of control. On another, once the club is involved, there is an implication it is endorsing everything that takes place, lingerie waitresses and all.

Why have we had Media Mad Monday since the early 1990s? Because it’s a long bloody season, a hard slog, and the finals in particular can be draining for reporters with the increased pressure to get good yarns.

Rugby league is seasonal work and there is an enormous sense of relief when it’s over and summer is around the corner. Media managers, match officials, sound technicians and turnstile attendants all get their weekends back, and it’s human nature to want to celebrate that.

But, as I said, the world has become a more serious place. Everyone is expected to work harder and have less fun. The misdemeanors of the few dictate that the majority should refrain from a list of activities a mile long. And we can hardly tsk-tsk at drunken footballers and then go and get drunk ourselves, can we?

So Media Mad Monday is off.

PS: If you see me in a pub on October 7 with Brad Walter, Paul Crawley and Stuart Honeysett, it’s just a co-incidence. OK?

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THE loss of Jack Reed is a big World Cup blow to England but the fact there are 12 Englishmen and a Scot in the Super League dream team has been good for confidence in the host nation.

While Leeds’ Kallum Watkins has plenty of admirers among NRL talent scouts, Huddersfield’s Leroy Cudjoe and Hull’s Ben Crooks were the dream team centres. I’m backing Cudjoe and Watkins for the tournament opener.

If you live in Australia and religiously watch eight games a week – you still can this weekend. Sky Sports in the UK usually only covers two Super League games and that’s all we get on Eurosports here.

But all four play-offs will be televised, starting with the Huddersfield-Wigan blockbuster
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TRAVELS: XVIII

TravelsBy STEVE MASCORD
THE Australian Rugby League Commission has today cut a deal that, in terms of participants, is far more significant than even a reunification of the rugby codes would be.
The ARLC and NRL has formed a “partnership” with Touch Football Australia, which has suddenly taken the number of participants in rugby league in this country to well over over one million.
You read that right: one million players. The NRL claims 844,000 people play the game already, although this includes schools programmes that involve one-off carnivals. The combined sport is now arguably the biggest in Australia – ahead of netball, soccer and Australian Rules.
And the announcement is typical of the administration of CEO and former Welsh banker David Smith. There were no leaks, no whispers that it was happening – just a media conference and an a release..
Touch football (I’m sure you used to call it ‘tig and pass’) is a massive participant sport in Australia, even in states where the AFL is dominant. All those men and women of all ages we see playing at dusk each in cities and towns will now be linked to the NRL.
Together, they will be able to attract more government funding and sponsorship. League players will be directed to touch teams in summer and – more importantly – vice versa. Their officials, offices and infrastructure will now also help recruit and promote full contact rugby league.
It’s a massive development for our game – but there are still recidivists who are complaining that “the commission has turned out game into touch anyway – now they’re making it official”.
The merger with touch football makes us a more inclusive sport. It hopefully allows us to cherry pick the Benji Marshalls and Shaun Johnsons of the future and prevent them playing the other code.
The boss of TFA, Colm Maguire, said: “Touch Football in Australia was born out of Rugby League and the opportunity to create Australia’s largest sporting community aligned with the NRL is as compelling as it is ambitious and fortuitous.”
If this sounds like cheerleading from me, then it comes with no agenda. Your columnist doesn’t cheer for a team, he cheers for rugby league against other sports. And this feels like we’ve won the grand final.
Unfortunately, I am told touch in the UK is linked very closely with rugby union. Having this marriage happen at an RLIF level might be problematic, but it’s worth a try, right?
Announcements like this make it more apparent why the NRL currently needs 140 staff. Trying to integrate two sports like this to maximum benefit won’t be easy. One can only wonder what other projects Smith and his men have in store.
I am glad David Smith doesn’t care what I or any other journalist writes. As long as he keeps coming up with coups like this, I am happy to be completely ignored.
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THE way in which Super League is consumed in Australia has just changed enormously.

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