Far & Wide: Papua New Guinea, Malta, World Cup, France, United States, Canada

By STEVE MASCORD

Far & Wide

CONGRATULATIONS to Lae Tigers, who took out Papua New Guinea’s Digicel Cup with a 14-8 win over Angmark Gurias at the weekend.

The grand final was played in front of 15,000 rapturous fans at Sir John Guise Oval in Port Moresby at the weekend.
On a much sadder note, a man has died from injuries suffered when a riot broke out after the previous week’s preliminary final, won by the Gurias against Mt Hagen Eagles.
After an Eagles official punched the referee, fighting spilled into the streets. Joe Pidik was in a truck when he was hit in the head with a brick.

WHEN a group of developing league countries approached World Cup organisers recently about playing curtain-raisers during next year’s tournament, they were advised to put together a business plan.
Now, business plans don’t write themselves so the group – let by Malta – has asked for readers of this column to help out.
Far & Wide can reveals that if the curtain-raisers are played, they will have to be funded by the competing nations and will only be staged at the following venues:
* Sunday 29 October – Canberra Stadium – France vs Lebanon

* Friday 3 November – Canberra Stadium – Australia vs France

* Saturday 4 November – Sydney Football Stadium – England vs Lebanon

* Friday 10 November – Canberra Stadium – Fiji vs European Qualifier #3

* Saturday 11 November – Sydney Football Stadium – Australia vs Lebanon

If you would like to help out, go to generosity.com/sports-fundraising and type in “Emerging Nations feasibility report”.
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FRANCE are suddenly without a coach after Warrington assistant Richard Agar quit.
The change is linked to the election of Marc Palanques as president of the French Federation in July. He over from Carlos Zalduendo, who appointed Agar in February 2013.
On October 22, France will be Wayne Bennett’s first opposition as England coach when the sides meet at Parc des Sports in Avignon.
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FURTHER to our item last week about the Ohana Cup, plans for Wests Tigers to play a trial in Hawaii next year are gathering momentum.
Organiser Steve Johnson says the off-field work done by Canada, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa around the recent tournament in Honolulu was just as important as the two matches.
“Canada are moving their base somewhat from Toronto to British Columbia and are starting to look west,” said Johnson.
“This was a great opportunity for officials from the four countries to get together and talk about developing the game.”
The Hawaiian Rugby League have entered into a partnership with Wests Tigers.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

World Cup third quarter-final: ENGLAND 34 FRANCE 6 at DW Stadium

By STEVE MASCORD

ENGLAND showed more willingness to admit problems on the field than they previousy had off it after a deeply unconvincing quarter-final win over France.
While New Zealand and Australia crushed their first opponents in the knockout stages of the World Cup, the English were fortunate not to have conceded more than one try in their 34-6 win over a plucky France at DW Stadium.
England coach Steve McNamara has refused to discuss the banishment of Gareth Hock and Zak Hardaker and suspension of James Graham for disciplinary reasons earier in the tournament but was far more forthcoming in discussing his disappointment at the showing.
“Scratchy, very scratching – probably our worse performance out of all the games,” McNamara said, who said his men would have to improve “a lot” before Saturday’s semi-final against New Zealand.
“Australia, Ireland and Fiji – I think there’s been some really positive things from that. Tonight, we didn’t go out with any fear of the opposition in us and that didn’t help us
“We put in a very substandard performance. We’ve shown how good we can be. If we needed a wake-up call, that was it tonight.
“(But) there’s no major drama, there’s no major concern from me.”
France scored first through centre Vincent Duport – who hurt his shoulder in the process, meaning he joined on the sidelines hooker Kane Bentley who had been injured in the opening seconds.
The French nonetheless managed to prize open the English defence on a number of occasions but lacked the finesse to finish.
England led 22-6 at halftime and managed only two second-session tries, although the performances of wingers Josh Charnley and Ryan Hall was a positive. They each scored try braces, with Hall at the top of the tournament list with eight.
Among other selection posers, Gareth Widdop has again hardly been sighted in red and white for England and McNamara insists each team he picks is his best.
But he added: “The best 17 can fluctuate and change according to the opposition … regardless of the performance tonight, that 17 may not have been the best 17 to play New Zealand the week after.”
France’s Engish coach Richard Agar, tried to be diplomatic when asked if he still believed England could beat New Zealand in Saturday’s semi-final.
“They’ll need to improve,” he said. “They’ll have that little bit of fear in their bellies too, which they probably didn’t have at stages tonight
“The other two teams, from what I’ve seen and what we’ve all seen, deserve to be down as favourites.”
One England player with a lot on his mind going into the clash with the Kiwis is young forward Liam Farrell, the cousin of former Golden Boot winner Andy Farrel who idolises Sonny Bill Williams.
“I don’t think you can look at the scorelines too much … if we contend with New Zealand’s forward pack and control them, we stand a good chance of winning,” Farrell told Fairfax Media.
“Everyone’s talking about (Williams). To me, he is the superstar of the game. I’ve watched him since being a kid. I’ve loved watching him play. It’s going to be a massive task for us.
“As a second rower myself, I like to assess myself against people like that.”
This England side’s unusual relationship with the media was still evident: captain Kevin Sinfield said: “This press room’s the busiest I’ve seen after any of our internationals this year.
“You’re all looking for a line but we just need to be better – and we will be.”
ENGLAND 34 (Ryan Hall 2, Josh Charnley 2, Sean O’Loughlin, Brett Ferres tries; Kevin Sinfield 5 goals) beat FRANCE 6 (Vincent Duport try; Thomas Bosc goal) at DW Stadium. Referee: Ashley Klein (Australia). Crowd: 22,276


Filed for SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

World Cup: SAMOA 22 FRANCE 6 at Stade Gilbert Brutus

By STEVE MASCORD
FRANCE coach Richard Agar accused NRL referee Henry Perenara of being “weak” and jokingly questioned whether he was a New Zealander or a Samoan following a rugged end to the group stages of the World Cup.
The Samoans had three players reported a total of four times and one of them – Mose Masoe – also sent to the sin bin during an 22-6 win in Perpignan which allowed them to avoid England in the quarter-finals.
Instead, the Samoans -they dedicated the win to squad member Penani Manumalealii whose mother May died in a car crash during the week – will play Fiji on Sunday. The remaining quarters pit New Zealand against Scotland, the United States against Australia and France against England.
“I thought it was weak at times,” said Englisman Agar. “How many guys did they have on report? I lost count at times.
“Is Henry a Kiwi or Samoan? I’m just trying to work that one out.
“There were penalties for absolutely nothng in the ruck and our halfbacks were just open targets for some very, very late challenges. One sin binning, I think they’d be happy with the result, it was probably worth their while.
“We had one halfback leave the field twice on the back of those challenges.”
France’s Roosters-bound prop Remi Casty added: “We’ve had red cards for lesser infractions. I don’t know if the rules are different in this tournament,.”
But Samoa coach Matt Parish reckoned “some of the Frenchmen could be in line for Academy Awards” for their reactions to the incidents.
“Their ball players went to the line; all our blokes made contact with their shoulder, their were no high shots. It was debatable whether they were late.”
|In front of the angriest crowd of the tournamernt so far, Leeson Ah Mau took out William Bathau late and high after 12 minutes and 60 seconds later Sauaso Sue claimed the halfback from behind.
An off-the-ball shoulder charge went unpunished before Sydney Rooster Masoe was give a spell for another, on Thomas Bosc.
Then centre Tim Lafai got a mention in referee Henry Perenara’s report for a speak tackle, and Wests Tigers’ Sue another one, for a possible trip. “There’s no way he stuck his foot out to tray and trip someone,” said Parish
On each occasion, the 11,576 crowd made it very clear it expected sterner action from the match officials.
But amid such uncouthness, it was pure rugby league poetry that assured the Samoans of victory.
Taking the ball 15 metres out with a standing start, fullback Anthony Milford dazzled the French defence with probably the individual try of the tournament five minutes after halftime.
He beat five defenders to dot down between the posts and converted himself to break a 6-6 deadlock; from there the Samoans weren’t headed.
France went close a number of times, however, with a two man overlap completely slaughtered on one occasion by Sebastian Raguin to the audible frustration of the fans, who follow Catalan in Super League.
Cronulla’s Manumalealii decided to stay in camp despite the loss of his mother in Christchurch. His father, who was also reportedly hurt in the accident, encouraged him to stay on.
France go into the quarters with the worst record of any surviving team
SAMOA 22 (Daniel Vidot, Anthony Milford, Antonio Winterstein, Pita Godinet tries; Milford 3 goals) bt FRANCE 6 (Morgan Escare try; Thomas Bosc goal) at Stade Gilbert Brutus. Crowd: 11,576. Referee: Henry Perenara (New Zealand).

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

THE JOY OF SIX: International season week two 2014

The Joy Of SixBy STEVE MASCORD

PLAY LEAGUE, SEE THE WORLD

TOP players would be hired as ambassadors and sent to promote the game around the world as part of one proposal if the new Rugby League International Federation office is based in Sydney. In a move which could address the loss of stars to rival codes, the scheme would provide legitimate additional earnings for elite players and also match the opportunities for travel offered by other sports, Set Of Six has learned. The scheme would be financed by assembling a portfolio of current NRL sponsors who are headquartered overseas and interested in broadening their involvement in the code. But at the moment it seems likely the RLIF will be based on the northern hemisphere and minimise its engagement with the NRL and NRL players, with its first fulltime CEO to have had no history in the game. In that case, the ambassador scheme would not get past first base.

HAKA HULLABALOO

THANKS to the Junior Kangaroos and Junior Kiwis for reminding us all about one of the perennial yarns of the Four Nations and Tri-Nations – the haka. Remember Willie Mason and David Kidwell? The young Aussies linked arms and advanced on the haka at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday before the junior international, actually touching heads in some cases – pretty remarkable scenes. Some of the forehead-lunges may have brought a penalty or worse after kick-off and the match officials got between the players as things got testy. Could we see Tim Sheens’ men do something similar at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday? And we are already salivating at the prospect of pre-match formalities when the Kiwis take on the Samoans at Whangerei.

NO MORE AWARD DRAMA

donate2ORGANISERS of the RLIF player of the year award have sidestepped the controversy surrounding Ben Hunt and Daly Cherry Evans at the Dally Ms by doing away with positional award voting. Manly’s Cherry-Evans made the Dally M NRL team of the year at halfback even though Brisbane’s Hunt polled more votes. The RLIF Award will be presented at a Brisbane luncheon on Thursday. Instead of judges being asked to vote for players in each position, they were simply given a shortlist and asked to provide a three-two-one on their top three candidates. Sonny Bill Williams got the gong in 2013; there must be a fair chance it will go to another departing star in 2014 with Sam Burgess and Jarryd Hayne among a group of nominees that also include Greg Inglis, James Graham and Johnathan Thurston. Teams for the double-header on Saturday will be named on Tuesday – tournament rules stipulate starting sides must be announced, not just squads as at the World Cup.

PHANTOM SIREN GOES GLOBAL

JARRYD Hayne isn’t the only NRL institution thinking global at the weekend. The Phantom Siren made his international debut when Fiji played Lebanon at Remondis Stadium on Sunday, doing his thing as Fiji made a break while ahead 22-12 a few seconds from halftime. “It’s one of the drummers,” radio sideline eye Daniel Pettigrew reported, in reference to the musicians on the Lebanon bench. Fiji didn’t flinch but also didn’t score before the proper bell rang out. By fulltime, they had run out 40-28 victors in the Hayne-Mannah Cup. “On behalf of all the Fijian-Australian boys, we wish Jarryd luck overseas,” Bati captain Wes Naiqama told a crowd of around 1000 as he accepted the trophy, the name of which seems unlikely to be affected by the Parramatta star’s flirtations with the NFL.

FARAH EYES CEDARS SEND-OFF

ROBBIE Farah is eying a 2017 World Cup send-off – by representing Lebanon alongside new Australia team-mate Josh Mansour. Under new World Cup qualification rules, Africa and the Middle East are guaranteed one spot in the tournament, to be held in Australia, New Zealand and possibly Papua New Guinea. That makes the Cedars odds-on to qualify after missing the last two tournaments by the barest of margins. “Hopefully one day I can get back there and help them out,” Farah told Set Of Six. “The World Cup in 2017 … I’ll be 33 so I’m not sure if I’ll still be picked by Australia or not. The Commission would be very happy if Lebanon qualifies, in terms of the crowd they will generate. I think they’ll get there this time and if we do, we’ll have a pretty good side – myself, Tim Mannah, the Robinson brothers (Reece and Travis), Mitchell Moses and Josh Mansour who is here with me.”

INTERNATIONAL MEN OF HISTORY

amazonONCE upon a time, you could comfortably make it to every rugby league international played in a given year. Now, it’s difficult to even keep up with the scores. Aside from events at Remondis Stadium on Sunday, Latin America beat Portugal 40-6 at Woolhara and in Lae, PNG beat Tonga 32-18/ Earlier in the weekend, the Junior Kiwis edged out the Junior Kangaroos 15-14 in Auckland, Ireland upset France 22-12 in Dublin, Greece beat Bosnia-Herzigovina 58-4 and Serbia flogged Hungary 50-0, both in Belgrade, while Scotland returned to happy hunting grounds in Workington to outclass Wales 44-18. The games in Serbia were part of a new competition, the Balkans Cup.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

From Les Chanticleer To Rooster

Casty, RemyBy STEVE MASCORD
HE called it an “amazing day” – and Remy Casty reckons there are plenty more players in France who can scale the heights of the NRL if more is done to encourage them.
The 29-year-old former Catalan prop will next week likely become only the fourth French-born player to turn out for a premiership club, after Penrith centre Jacques Moliner, Canberra prop Jerome Guisset and Cronulla winger Jason Batieri.
It will only take him a month to get the appearance record out of that select group; but after coming off the bench in the 36-14 win over Wigan at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night, Casty is already a world champion.
“It’s an amazing day for me … I can feel the fans, I can feel everything,” Casty tells RLW. “First game, first win and we are world champions. It’s pretty good for me to start like that.
“For me, it’s all different because I come from France. The language is different, I think the players are very professional. They look after themselves, you can see the difference with us in France.
“But it’s not luck because I worked hard to be here. I’m pretty proud to be in this team. All the guys were good with me when I came and I feel like it’s a family in this team.”
Considering rugby league kicked off in France in 1934 and the 1951 French tourists were among the most celebrated ever to visit this country, it’s remarkable that so few players from the league hotbed have made it into the premiership.
“I am proud about that, to be French and come to the NRL comp,” said Casty.
“I hope all the young French players can see that we can do that. If we work hard, we can play against the best.
“If you work hard and you believe in yourself, sure you can come here and train and play and play well for this comp. But you have to work very hard.
“In France, we have not so many teams. There is just one team that is professional and we have to work very, very hard to be in this team and after that you have to work very very hard to stay in it.
“It’s a big difference. In France, the main sport is soccer and after that, rugby union. We don’t have a professional competition.
“I hope now the young players in France want to improve and want to work hard. It’s good for rugby league in the world, the other teams will improve.
“If you take a French or Italian player and he comes here, he will improve very, very quick and very much.”
ends

FAR & WIDE: Number 42

Far & WideSTEVE MASCORD

JAPAN appear to have pulled out of the Asia Cup.

“I have heard that,” Thailand coach Andrew Charles tells Far & Wide. “If that’s the case, we’ll still be going and we’ll play the Philippines.

“There has been some talk about us playing them twice. It depends on our flights. Personally, I’d be happy to play them once and just relax and enjoy the location.

“But I am sure there will be some discussions.”

The Asia Cup was to take place between October 19 and 23 at Clark, near Angeles City, in the Philippines. The Philippines-Thailand game was scheduled for October 23 and will probably go ahead on that date.

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FRED Gruhler was a pioneer of American rugby league, going back to the days of the Patriots in the World Sevens.

Fred was a US Marine, worked in the aviation industry and represented the Tomahawks and Patriots 25 times. He passed away last week in circumstances which are so far unreported, his obituary saying he died “suddenly on September 12, 2013 at his home”

Fred was involved in rugby league as a coach right up until his passing, which has shaken the sport in the US.

Far & Wide and Rugby League Week send our condolences to Fred’s family and friends and everyone in the wider rugby league community who knew him.

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TICKETS are now on sale for the Vanuatu-Solomon Islands international at Mackay’s Virgin Australia Stadium the night before the grand final, October 5.

They’re only $10 a pop and are available from the Mackay Events & Convention Centre website. A week later, Vanuatu will host the Niui Islands in Port Vila and we’ll be there.

Kick-off is at 6.30pm. The game marks the 150th anniversary of the Black Bird movement, where South Pacific were forcibly removed from their homelands to work in the sugar cane industry in Australia.

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FRANCE coach Richard Agar has been in Australia for a couple of weeks, checking out Les Chanticleers’ World Cup opposition.

Agar is also on recruitment duty for this Super League club Wakefield and has been spending plenty of time with Catalan’s 2012 coach, Trent Robinson, at Sydney Roosters.

Richard has a 40-man squad for the Coup du Monde which will be cut to 24 on October 1.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

Test: ENGLAND 32 FRANCE 18 at Parc des Sports, Avignon

By STEVE MASCORD

HE was saved from having to sing ‘God Save The Queen’ for the first time in front of 16,000 people but Bronco Jack Reed managed a sensational try in front of his proud parents when he made his debut for England yesterday.

Rookie Brisbane centre Reed stunned Queensland’s Origin setup when he opted to represent a country he left at the age of two and yesterday his decision bore fruit when he donned St George’s Cross for the first time in a 32-18 win over France at Avignon’s Parc des Sports with parents Parents Kath and Joe watching in the stands.

Critics didn’t have the chance to find out if Reed and fellow controversial imports Chris Heighington and Rangi Chase knew the anthem because someone lost the tape and it wasn’t played before kick-off.

“I wouldn’t have a clue what happened – we all linked arms and then there were all these French people talking and I don’t know what they were saying,” Reed told the Sunday Mail. “Apparently no tape. I learnt it and the boys have been giving me a bit of Mick about it. Hopefully I get to scream it in front of a home crowd.

“It doesn’t matter than I live in Australia. When I put on the jersey I’m out there representing my country and I’m over the moon with that.”

The ball went far more often to the other English centre, Kirk Yeaman, but when the 23-year-old got his chance, he took it. Melbourne’s Gareth Widdop collected the ball five metres from his own line and weaved his way upfield before the elusive Reed burned off two defenders and swan-dived between the posts.

“We’ve got as lot to work on but I’m happy with my debut, getting out there, getting across for one, a good day,” said Reed, whose sister Emily will also be in the UK for the duration of the Four Nations.

Chase, the most contentious of the three overseas players in coach Steve McNamara’s squad because he qualifies only on residential grounds, was named man of the match while Wests Tigers’ Heighington played strongly and Widdop was used as a replacement for boom fullback Sam Tomkins rather than in the halves.

Chase said: “It was good to get man of the match but I don’t think I deserved it. We shot ourselves in the foot, could have got some more points but killed ourselves. It was stressful because …. we didn’t get anywhere near what we are capable of. We just blew it every time we got momentum.”

Wests Tigers’ Heighington said he was confident of the side improving – and of doing well when he has to perform God Save The Queen next weekend. “I’m not sure what happened,” he said. “I was going to sing it loud and proud.

“It was a great experience. We didn’t play the best but we got the cobwebs out and it’s great to be a part of the team. The boys have welcomed me.”

Australian referee Matt Cecchin didn’t seem to impress McNamara. “We were a little bit frustrated,” he said. “The Super League competition’s a lot quicker than that game was tonight and I think when we started to go on the front foot, we looked a bit potent.”

The French salvaged some pride in front of a keen 16,866 crowd with consecutive tries to finish the game. France coach Bobbie Goulding was not convinced the English had what was necessary to beat Tim Sheens’ Australians.

ENGLAND 32 (Tom Briscoe 2, Ryan Hall, Kirk Yeaman, James Roby, Jack Reed tries; Kevin Sinfield 4 goals) beat FRANCE 18 (Olivier Elima 2, Vincent Duport tries; Thomas Bosc 3 goals) at Parc des Sports, Avignon. Crowd: 16,866. Referee: Matt Cecchin (Australia).

Filed for: SUNDAY MAIL