FAR & WIDE: Domestic rugby league kicks off in the Netherlands

World Cup ebay By STEVE MASCORD

 THE Netherlands recently had their own equivalent of our afternoon at Birchgrove Oval in 1908 when the first domestic competition kicked off.

Far & WideFor now it’s just three teams over a short season and Rotterdam Pitbulls had a big 60-14 win over Amsterdam Cobras.

The third team is Den Haag Knights with Harderwijk Dolphins to be added next year.

You might thnk it unusual that the Netherlands have planed internationals before having a domestic competiton but it happened almost the same way in Australia.

The 1907 New Zealand All Golds took Dally Messenger to England with them and on the way home played teams of converted rugby union players, with the Sydney premiership kicking off a few days later.

New South Wales played long before any of the foundation clubs made their debuts.

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AFTER the Challenge Cup, France’s Lord Derby Cup might be our most famous surviving knockout competition.

And this year’s final has been run and won. Saint-Esteve XIII Catalan beat Limoux 33-16 at the Stade Albert Domec in Carcassone, with two tries from man of the match Antoni Maria.

The Lord Derby Cup has been contested since 1935.

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BURUNDI is the sixth African nation to join the rugby league family.

Burundi Rugby League president Jean Du Christ Rusiga said: “We believe that rugby league can be a promoter of peace and development in Burundi and even within Africa itself. If we get together with our partners around the continent and work with them, there will be more and more opportunities for the sport.”

The other African nations playing our game are South Africa, Morocco, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Ethiopia.

Filed for; RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

FAR & WIDE: Number One 2015

Far & WideBy STEVE MASCORD
TOP flight rugby league is kicking off early, and in unusual surrounds, this Sunday when Leeds play the United States Pioneers at the University of Northern Florida in Jacksonville.
The Rhinos have been to Florida for pre-season camps three times previously. On this occasion, they have brought in several players from their new sister club in the US, the Atlanta Rhinos, to train with them.
The really historic aspect of the game is that this is the first time the Pioneers are taking the field as the official representatives of the governing body in the US, following the collapse of the AMNRL.
It was the AMNRL that sent the Tomahawks to the 2013 World Cup. The USARL has taken over the running of the national side.
The Rhinos have taken a number of supports with them for the game. Kick-off is at 2pm local time.
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FRENCH Federation president Carlos Zalduendo was recently part of a government delegation – headed by president François Hollande, to Australia.
donateAfter returning from the trip, Zalduendo declared his intention to strengthen his federation’s ties to the Pacific.
“We want to work again with New Caledonia, where we had a presence less than ten years ago, involved in player, coach and referee development,” Zalduendo said.
“This could be an excellent way to bring New Caledonia closer not only to its South Pacific neighbours.”
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ANOTHER big event coming up is the Reconciliation Nines in Redcliffe on January 24 and 25.
Thailand is the only international side currently taking part and they are looking for recruits. Hit them up on Facebook for details.
amazonThere’s another Nines tournament coming up in Mexico in February.
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DANNY Brough was recently voted Scotland’s player of the year.
The Huddersfield Giant continues to choose the Bravehearts over England – and the SRL continues to be grateful. Gold Coast’s Luke Douglas was the 2013 winner of the award.

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FAR & WIDE: Number 31

Far & WideBy STEVE MASCORD

MORE World Cup warm-up news from your favourite RLWC news source and New Zealand are set to take on the Cook Islands the week before the tournament commences.

Far & Wide has been told Doncaster is being looked at as a possible venue. It’s going to be a big moment for the Cooks to take on their ‘big brothers’, whom they are unlikely to meet in the tournament proper.

Of course, the Kiwis owe the Cooks big time after canning an international in Rarotonga at the last minute when the Warriors made the 2011 grand final the previous week.

At the time, there was great disquiet in the Cooks and demands for compensation.

Salford is likely to host the England-Italy warm-up while France will tangle with the United States in Toulouse on October 18.

Australia aren’t planning a warm-up but just about everyone else is. We’ll update you as soon as we can.

Meanwhile, Affiliated States combination will tour Samoa some time in September.

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FRENCH rugby league has been restructured for the coming season, which runs during the northern hemisphere winter.

There will be an eight-team Elite One Championship and then Elite Two East and Elite Two West. You play every team in your league once and then there is some complicated inter-league system which Far and Wide is struggling to understand.

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NORWAY have a bit European Bowl appointment with the Ukraine this weekend and if you think the State of Origin coaches bend the rules regarding bringing extra players into camp, check out coach Matt South’s squad.

He has whittled it down to …. 38 players. Ten are provided by the gun Oslo Capitals club.

The match is in Kharkov on July 6. The Ukraine squad is a much less unwieldy 20 players.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

FAR & WIDE: Number 29

Far & WideBy STEVE MASCORD

OK, we think we’ve got to the bottom of what happened to the Samoans who were stranded in Hawaii for almost a week after their clash with the United States after failing to board their plane.

AMNRL officials Steve Johnson has corroborated what he was told by the Samoan Rugby League with Hawaiian Airlines.

Apparently all 23 players checked in but only 13 took off. The rest wandered around the airport and missed their flight. Because the first landfall was within US territory, the airline was able to give their seats to standby passengers.

New flights home were arranged several days later. We aren’t sure of the expense but there was minimal consular embarrassment, which is good for future events in the islands.

The good news is that 7000 people showed up for the game and rugby league is gaining a real foothold in Hawaii.

“We had two US congresspersons, the mayor and head of Hawaiian Tourism at the game,” says Johnson.

“It’s seriously exciting after a few years of hard work. We’re bringing another two Hawaiian lads to Ipswich to play for rest of the year.

“We have built some high level connections in Hawaii including government and TV”.

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MORE exotic fixtures continue to pop up at the end of the year.

Greece are going on a big adventure, fielding an ‘A’ team against Thailand in Bangkok on October 12 and playing a full international against Hungry in Budapest on October 26.

Australian –based players in the squad will also get the chance to play in the Greek domestic competition.

On July 12 at the Grand Roxy in Brighton Le Sands, the Greeks will be holding a fundraising dinner. It sounds like a top night and most drinks are included in the cover price. If you’re interested, contact Terry on 02 95348015.

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WE have a date and venue for the historic World Cup warm-up game between France and the US, the first game between the countries.

It’s going to be held on October 18 in Toulouse. More news on RLWC warm-ups as they come to hand.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

TRAVELS: XIII

TravelsBy STEVE MASCORD

THE recent L’Equipe story on rugby union’s collusion with the Vichy government and the impact on French rugby league rammed home a big point to me about our game’s weaknesses.
That is, our lack of awareness in the rugby league “first world” about what is happening in the rugby league “second world” and especially the “third world”. While most of the readers of this column would have been aware of what occured during the Second World War in France, the vast majority of Australian fans were not.
They knew absolutely nothing about it.
Since this is column number 13, I thought I might do a bit of sabre-rattling on behalf of our game. If, as a sport, we are only as strong as our weakest links then we are very, very weak indeed.
While rugby league as a sport strives to attract the casual sports fan and waivering young amateur player, those of us at centre of rugby league fandom should be trying engage those at the periphery.
We should be telling those who only watch on TV or read about the game in the daily press as much as we can about out history, our cherished myths and re-inforce the fact that over vast tracts of our slowly expanding empire we are worse than underdogs, we are invisible, marginalised, even victimised.
We have great stories to tell but we tell them to each other, when we should be reaching out to those who could make us stronger.
To this end I was alarmed to read today that the South African Olympic Commitee has written to regional sports councils warning them not to affiliate with the SARL after one such body recently had the temerity to do so. Here’s the story: http://www.sarugbyleague.co.za/article/9836/sascoc-bullying-sports-federations
In South Africa, the Olympic Committee refuses to recognise rugby league as a separate sport to rugby union. In taking its stand, the Committee is wilfully overlooking a clause in its own bylaws which says it should recognise any sport with which the Commonwealth Games Committee is affiliated, of which rugby league is one.
That a publically funded body will not recognise a game that has been around since 1895 is absurd and disgraceful.
Where is the Rugby League International Federation in all this? Who is fighting in the corner of the real heroes of our game, those trying to start (or in South Africa, revive) the game in hostile territory?
Surely the RLIF should be lobbying the IOC to end this outrageous bigotry forthwith.
But the RLIF exists mainly in theory rather than reality. And we are all inward looking fans of clubs and players, who don’t actively do much to promote our ideals and ambitions to others.
We look back on the Vichy days as scandalous and sad. But what are we doing about what is now happening right under our noses?
The man who has written to the provincial organisations is one Tubby Reddy. He has a website, Tubbyreddy.com, and the contact email address is given as Jean.kelly@tubbyreddy.com
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THANKS for all the comments on the last column.

read on

FAR & WIDE: Number 25

Far & WideBy STEVE MASCORD

THERE was a big moment for our game in France last week when the national sports newspaper L’Equipe ran an expose on the Vichy government’s collusion with rugby union in the Second World War.

As most league fans should know, all of rugby league’s assets were seized and the sport was banned by the Nazi-backed administration.

L’Equipe rarely even covers rugby league and the article – with fantastic photographs from the era and a newspaper clipping featuring the headline “rugby league is dead” in the story – which featured on the cover of a supplement – will have done much to raise awareness of the issue.

However, the French government – while acknowledging the injustice – has so far baulked at any reparations. League in France has not really recovered from the setback.

Rugby union is so powerful in France that until 1991, league was formally banned from using the word “rugby” to describe itself.

To illustrate how deeply this runs, Catalan Dragons play at Gilbert Brutus Stadium – named after a resistance fighter tortured to death by the Gestapo in 1944.

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CAN you rewrite the chorus of “We Didn’t Start The Fire” to take in West Australian Rugby League identities?
“MG, Dale Fritz, Matty Rodwell, Brett Goldspink – We didn’t start the fire…”

Here’s our exclusive photo of Billy Joel signing on as the West Coast Pirates number one US ticket holder, when Pirates official and music industry identity John Sackson recently met him in Sydney.

By the way, the Pirates have shelved plans to apply for a spot in Super League while they wait for admission to the NRL. Shame.

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GERMANY and the Netherlands have played their very first international, in Heidelberg.

A very young German team prevailed 28-22. Rugby League Deutschland vice president Uwe Jansen said: “We hope to make this game an annual tradition. We will visit the Netherlands next year, and defend the trophy the Netherlands team brought with them, called the Griffin Cup.“

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GREAT to see two members of the Wallaroos on The Game Plan TV show last Thursday.

Women’s rugby league is being restarted in Italy, with a selection trial to take place next month for an international tournament in Paris several weeks later.

A womens’ World Cup will be held in conjunction with the mens’ competition in Europe later this year.

@RLWfarandwide

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

FAR & WIDE: Number 22

Far & WideBy STEVE MASCORD

ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA’S Steve Price has been confirmed as coach of the Samoan side to play Tonga on Saturday week at Centrebet Stadium.

Steve Matai has also chosen Samoa over New Zealand, but Sonny Bill Williams has gone the other way. The squads will be named on April 14.

Others to commit to the Samoans are Jeff Lima, Roy Asotasi, Junior Sa’u and David Fa’alogo

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FORMER South Sydney official and Philippines Rugby League director Tom Simpson has started rugby league in his new home, the Zambales province north of Manila.

Tom started coaching the game on the beaches of San Narciso and has squad of around 30 children and young adults.

He is now moving into the nearby Maritime Academy, where coaching will start in July. There are 700 cadets at the Academy and the wider plan of the PRFL is to introduce the game via the maritime industry.

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MORE movements in Italy, where former international Pierluigi Gentile has been appointed general director at Gladiators Roma, a Serie B rugby union club.
Gentile plans to introduce some 450 juniors to rugby league at training, saying there is no reason for the codes to be at war.
The breakaway FIRL will also be able to use Stadio del Rugby di Cocciano, in Frascati, Rome, as its base.
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THE new season in Serbia has kicked off with a three-division senior league, an under-18 league and a student competition.

The six clubs making up the first division are: Podbara, Radnicki, Dorcol, Red Star, Novi Beograd and Nis.
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THERE’S plenty of good young talent in France if the recent under 16s Test series against England is anything to go by.
The French took out the First Test 34-26 a couple of weeks ago, meaning the English had to win by eight points or more last week in Wakefield to clinch the series.
That they did – 42-16 – but now there’s a challenge for the French game to keep and develop the youngsters on show.

NB: Steve Matai subsequently failed to make himself available for Samoa.
@RLWfarandwide

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

MEN OF THE WORLD One: DUSTIN COOPER (Australia, France, United States)

 

Photo: Redcliffe Dolphins

Photo: Redcliffe Dolphins

By STEVE MASCORD

WHEN his NRL career finished, former Melbourne, Newcastle and Cronulla utility Dustin Cooper believed those who said “play rugby union and see the world, play rugby league and see Batley”.

So he went and played rugby union in Japan.

“But now,” says the Pia Donkeys import, “I’ve played rugby league in more countries than I’ve played rugby (union).”

Welcome to Men Of The World, a series that aims to explore just how diverse the lives really are of the 750,000 or more people who play our game worldwide.

Generally speaking, 99.9 per cent of the rugby league players you read about are fulltime professionals whose lives revolve around training and playing. Some of them are on television, some of them dodge the media. The word “pampered” may or may not apply.

But what about those playing in bare feet a few miles outside Nadi? Or lining up in sub zero temperatures in Prague? Or taking time off work after breaking a leg in a tackle at Mt Isa? What are their lives like and why have they chosen to make rugby league part of it?

Cooper – a centre or stand-off who has migrated into the second row – played 37 first grade games with three NRL clubs between 2003 and 2008.

“I look back on my NRL career as a blessing – it’s what I always wanted to do as a kid,” he reflects from the south of France.

“I didn’t quite achieve what I set out to achieve. A hundred percent, I’d still love to be there. But it’s sort of like a Sliding Doors thing. If I was still there, I wouldn’t be able to experience what I’ve been able to experience.

“I’ve had the privilege and honour to play with some of the best players ever to play the game and to be coached by some of the best coaches ever. At the Storm with Craig Bellamy … a huge influence on my career and on me as a person.

“In Newcastle, I was there when Joey (Andrew Johns) was there. I got Cronulla to and there was Birdman (Greg Bird) and Gal (Paul Gallen) and Brett Kimmorley.

“At the end of the day, if I played one NRL game then I reached my goal.”

So believing the credo that he could see the world through the 15-man game, Cooper headed to Japan and top league club Toyota in 2011.

“I had a contract ready to sign at Mazda, after I left Toyota,” he explains, taking up the story (Japanese rugby union clubs are owned by major corporations).

“And then the tsunami hit after that and that was the reason I didn’t continue in Japan. Obviously the car industry got hit pretty hard with the tsunami and they were looking to cut costs with their foreign players and their rugby team.

“Unfortunately I was one of them, I was left high and dry.”

Cooper returned to our loving embrace in Gladstone, central Queensland, playing socially. “I got the opportunity to play rugby (union) again, in France,” he says. “I came over here.

“One weekend we had a week off and I came down to Perpignan to visit some friends who I’d played with at the Sharks, we got chatting, and they said ‘you should come down and play for us’.

“I grabbed it. Three years out of league, the biggest thing I missed was the contact. With rugby, you get tackled and you go into a maul or you go into a ruck and you’re getting hammered. There’re skills you have to pick up on the way…

“In league, it’s one-on-one. From there, it snowballed. I was playing good footy and I loved it.”

Like Dane Campbell, the former Newcastle player who helped start rugby league in Jamaica and Vanuatu, Cooper is nothing if not a self-starter. Maybe a little restless, too…

“I got talking to a few of the other (Australian) boys who have been here for a while, like Tony Duggan and Jye Mullane … and we were saying ‘did you know the American league is run over the French off-season?” he says.

“I just put out a blanket email and offered our services. In the end, they didn’t come with me but I ended up going to Boston. It was an awesome experience, my first coaching gig, and I met my beautiful girlfriend there too.

“You had to teach basic skills without treating them like kids, you had to teach them as adults.”

Dustin isn’t across the details of the split in the American game but saw enough there to know one thing. “For the game to move forward, there needs to be reconciliation, the two comps have to come together,” he says.

“There’s always ongoing discussions. Leading into a World Cup year as well, the national team has to have access to the best players it can possibly have.

“I’m hoping and so is everyone else that has to do with rugby league in America that there will be reconciliation between the two comps.”

In the meantime, Cooper and his girlfriend, an international DJ called Liz Ladoux, have moved back to France together. They live near Pia and on the day that we spoke, they were about to take French lessons.

Being multi-lingual is not common in Rugby League and he hopes he can get a job out in the game when he eventually retires. “I’d like to get into the coaching thing, hopefully.

“I want nothing more than for the game to develop in America and I’d love to be part of that.”

But Cooper hopes players reading this story realise they can see more than Batley with rugby league – and that rewarding experiences, travel and making a real contribution to the expansion of the game go hand in hand.

“I wanted to play NRL, I wanted to play professional rugby league and once I finished, I had the goal that I wanted to go out and make the most of the opportunities I’d been given,” he concludes.

“I wasn’ t the most skilful player but I’ve been able to use football – both codes – to see the world.

“… the world is a diverse place and I just want to be a part of it and experience every bit of it until my last breath.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD

WHITE LINE FEVER Column: One

By STEVE MASCORD
IN Townsville on Sunday, it was like the circus had left town. 
All that was missing was a few tumbleweeds blowing down Flinders Street, past the Mad Cow which will no doubt feel the effects of the end of the rugby league season as much as any business in Australasia.
Nate Myles was on his way to Braith Anasta’s wedding (landing half an hour before the ceremony). Johnathan Thurston was heading to New York with tickets to the World Series. Tim Sheens has the small matter of a job for next year to sort out.
Reporters and referees and cameramen and sound operators will see their families for the next twenty weekends or so. Sports nuts will turn their attention to cricket and whatever big-ball sport can come across as trendy enough for the summer months this year.
And it will be easy to forget that when the circus leaves down, it doesn’t cease to exist.
It finds another paddock, and up goes the tent again. Tackling pads, strapping, ballwork, tickets, interviews, precision and pain in roughly equal doses – they’re our tapeses and elephants and ghost trains.
This week in Bangkok, Thailand and Port Vila, Vanuatu, the caravan rolls on.
Titans Kevin Gordon and Matt Srama plus South Sydney’s Andrew Everingham will represent the Philippines against Thailand on Sunday at the Royal Thai Police Stadium.
It’s the first full international ever held in Asia and also possibly the first time a husband-and-wife refereeing team will control any sporting event of note.
NRL ref Gavin Badger was asked to take up the whistle for the game. He asked if his wife Kasey, who has controlled Toyota Cup games, could join him. The Thai Rugby League said yes.
After the game, a selection of Filipino players – hopefully including the NRL trio – will conduct coaching clinics in and around Manila, as well as visiting an orphanage. Next year, while 14 countries compete in the World Cup, these two plan a return bout on a military base outside the Filipino capital.
Next Saturday, Melbourne’s Justin O’Neill will be part of Vanuatu’s first home international, against Greece at the Port Vila Municipal Stadium. Also in the Vanuatu side are Jake and Joe Meninga, nephews of Queensland coach Mal.