The A-List: SAM BURGESS (South Sydney, NRL All Stars, England & Great Britain)

South Sydney - Sam BurgessBy STEVE MASCORD

ON a dreary, cold, wet Sydney day, the redeveloped Redfern Oval gives off an unearthly green hue. It’s almost as if the lighting that allows Melbourne AAMI Park to turn the colour of the host team has been installed just below the historic patch of grass.

In the Park Cafe at the northern end of the grandstand, Sam Burgess’ face completes the club colours. The topic of conversation is the Sydney media and, specifically, gossip column speculation about who he is dating.

Big Sam is, unmistakeably, blushing.

“I looked at it and I had a bit of chuckle. There’s no truth in what’s been written in some of the stories,” the 21-year-old says of those Candice Falzon stories.

“It doesn’t help me socially. People think I’m in relationships with girls and all that. It doesn’t help me at all – if you know what I mean.”

A few minutes earlier, A-List had happened upon Sam sharing a coffee and a laugh with cafe owner Harry Azar and some of his friends. Burgess calls them all by name and seems to have spent plenty of time in the modest but often busy little establishment.

It’s a snapshot that sums the England forward up. Remember the 1997 World Club Challenge slogan “we’re not here for a holiday?” Well Sam, kind of, is. Not as in getting pissed up every night and sleeping all day, but as in “getting new life experiences”.

“It’s good to get as many life experiences as you can from footy because it’s not a long career,’ he explains.

“I’d like to think I’ll stay for a while now. I’m having the best time of my life at the moment.”

He sees away games in Perth and Auckland as “free travel”. He’s curious and inquisitive and – most of all – personable. This isn’t about making money or getting famous, it’s about doing something many of his mates back home never get to do – and representing them well while he does it.

To take it for granted or become arrogant would be to disrespect them.

As you’ve probably guessed, Sam has plenty to say – which is why we’re going to revert to one of A-List’s favourite journalistic mechanisms, the sub-heading.

LIFESTYLE

“I’ve never lived in a big city. I’ve always lived away from home, since I’ve been old enough so I’m used to that but living in a big city under a little bit of a spotlight, compared to how I used to live in England … it’s a bit of a difference. It’s not a bad difference. It’s been the best decision I ever made.

“Everyone since I got here … they give me advice. Other players, the staff at Souths, they warned me what it’s like. I think of myself as well-behaved lad anyway but they just sort of warned me to be careful.

“Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a burden, this (points to voice recorder) part of the game. We’ve got to realise we play in a big sport, a well-documented sport. It’s part of being a professional footballer. You’ve got to deal with it and just enjoy it.”

MID-SEASON TEST

“It definitely took its toll on the body. I struggled with my sleep, waking up in the middle of the night but that wasn’t the thing. It was just how fatigued I were. We played Manly that weekend. I’ve never been as tired in my life. I probably had the worst game of my NRL career. It took it’s toll and some of that I’ll have to think about next year, whether I go or not.”

ENGLISHMEN IN THE NRL

“I think there’s a bit more interest now, with obviously Mark (Flanagan), myself and Gaz (Gareth Ellis). There’s a bit more interest in players coming over. Who knows? Maybe we’ll see a few more in the next few years. “

James Graham? “I’m not saying he will, I’m not saying he won’t. I’m not sure where he’s thinking of going but I think it’s an option for James. He’s fairly young and he’s an outstanding player. He’s got a great attitude, he’s got a very competitive attitude and I think he’d do really well. Whether he decides to come or not … he’s a fan favourite back in St Helens. He’s well-liked. He’s been there all his life so it would be a tough decision for him to leave if he did. But I’m sure he’d fit in well over here – especially in a Souths jersey.

“It would be nice. I’m sure there would be a way to do it. It would be nice to get him here. I’m going to try and twist his arm and tell him to come.”

DEBUT AT REDFERN AGAINST MANLY

“It was quite an emotional day. I don’t know why, the build-up to putting on the Souths jersey was quite big for me. Everywhere I’d go, people would be looking forward to seeing you play. I got really into the Souths tradition.”

RUSSELL CROWE

“I consider myself really good friends with Russell. He’s a champion bloke. He’s helped me settle into things over here and he’s been a port of call if I do get any problems. He’s been good to me. I’m in close contact with him. He works very hard and is very busy in his own life but he’s good with all the boys. It’s unbelievable for us that he’s involved in the club.”

HIS CONTRACT STORY

The Sydney Morning Herald quoted leaked Immigration Department documents to suggest his contract with Souths was under-the-odds. “That were one of the only things that pissed me off. I laugh about it now but for people to go to such lengths … I wouldn’t have signed here if I was cheating on anything. I know it’s their job but just to print my salary, or what they believe is my salary, in the papers was – I thought – a bit of a bullshit thing. That was one of the only things that has pissed me off since I’ve been here.

“That’s what I don’t understand. That’s the difference. In England, that just wouldn’t happen. It did piss me off that it’s come off my visa application, that that’s come out somewhere. It’s a bit shit. These things happen.”

BROTHERS CONTACTED FOR A STORY

Sam and Souths were up in arms when a journalist contacted his brothers for a profile story. “I’ll tell you what: looking back on it now, I shouldn’t have been pissed off. But I’d just got here and I’d been warned about this press, media and all that crap and I just thought someone were out to get me. And then, ringing my little brothers who were daft as a brush … great guys, I love them to bits but they don’t understand the press out here. They could have said anything stupid and I was just a bit worried that they’d say something and it would get taken the wrong way. That’s what I was worried about. I’d not spoken to either of my brothers about it. I know Glenn (Jackson), he’s a good fella. At the time I didn’t know Glenn, I couldn’t put his name to his face. It were a really good story that he ran. My little brothers, they’re just crackers…”

GOALS

“I want to play in a grand final and win one. That would be my main goal. That’s my only goal. That’s what drives me each week to win a comp and just better myself as a player.

ENGLAND

“From coming over here and experiencing life in Australia, playing rugby league as a professional player, to going back and seeing it back there – it just makes you think ‘I don’t want to leave Australia’.

“It’s a great place to play footy and enjoy yourself. Who knows what will happen in England. There’s soccer that’s massive, cricket, rugby union…’’

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

BONDI BEAT: September 2013

September 2013By STEVE MASCORD
THE big debate in Australia at the moment is on how the State of Origin juggernaut is completely overshadowing, and causing serious damage to, the NRL.
Attendance figures at club games have plummeted over the six weeks that the interstate series occupies and a week or two either side of it, when we have split rounds
Bondi Beat talks about scheduling far more than we should. You’ve already read here about we would like to have the Origin games played on weekends and internationals built around those weekends, with players returning to their homelands as happens in soccer.
The big stumbling block is that the Australian game has already accepted at total of $1.025 billion in television rights money from a free-to-air operation and a pay operator.
The pay operator, Fox Sports, wants club games each weekend. The free-to-air company, Channel Nine, wants to keep Origin on Wednesday night where it has a captive audience and can attract premium advertising dollars.
Bondi Beat has been told the current set-up was “driven” by the NRL, so they’re unlikely to push for a change. And the current TV deal doesn’t expire for four more years….
Now, one of the suggestions thrown up is to give Fox and Nine a DIFFERENT club competition during Origin. Sure, some players will be missing but it won’t interfere with the premiership and will hopefully attract fans with a novelty factor that is sorely missing at this point.
This week’s column comes to you from Jamaica, where I am enjoying a bit of a break after working every day bar one for five months.
You would imagine my reaction at turning on the TV to see my room has US network Fox Soccer Plus, which featured an enthralling Super League derby match between Saints and Wigan the other night. You would imagine I was horrified and threw something at the TV – but in fact I was enthralled.
Eddie Hemmings thought it was “boiling hot” at Langtree Park. He’d have received little sympathy from viewers in Negril.
Fox Soccer Plus also broadcast an NRL game between Sydney Roosters and Cronulla played in front of a huge crowd of empty plastic seats and ending in a less than enthralling 40-0 result.
Here’s what we are building up to: despite the disaster of 1997, is it time to bring back a variant of the mid-season World Club Championship?
Of course, we could never call it that. Never agaon. But what about the Champions’ League – the top two clubs from the previous season in England and Australia, plus the Warriors representing New Zealand and the Dragons representing France.
Meanwhile, the rest of the sides in Super League and the NRL could play ‘on the road’ games in a Cup competition. Some Challenge Cup games could be played in the northern hemisphere.
Maybe clubs completely unaffected by Origin could continue to play NRL matches in the southern hemisphere, but only in frontier areas. Or we could have a cup competition of our own.
Instead of being three weeks apart, the Origins could be separated by only a fortnight, which used to be the case.
Look, the key to all this is convincing Fox and Nine to accept something other than premiership NRL matches for four weekends. If that hurdle can be overcome, then a whole world of opportunities opens up for us with international club and Test fixtures.
I have my doubts they can be convinced. But I didn’t think an Australian TV network would ever ASK for a Tonga-Samoa game either. I hope I’m wrong again.
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MY ‘ead ‘itter here at RLW Towers thought a Burgess Brothers feature was somewhat overdue, focusing on the amazing rise of George.
He was right. But the reason you’ve not been reading many of those – anywhere – is that George Burgess is pretty much off limits to the media, save the occasional fulltime interview.
And that was before he was featured in a nude photo online and smashed a signpost through the window of a hapless Cairns car.
The NRL does have strict new media guidelines but they do not force given players to speak. There are minimum numbers of “media opps” over the course of a week but clubs think nothing of exploiting that situation by having their press sessions all at the same time, on the day of a State Of Origin decider.
Tony Smith prepared his team for the last World Cup by allowing media representatives into the sheds at lead-up games, because that’s how they did things in Australia.
But the practice was already on the way out by the time England arrived for the tournament and at most venues, with most teams, it is now firmly a thing of the past.
Oh for the American NFL system, when the media are allowed dressingrooms after games but at training sessions. Interestingly, Souths are one club who can see the benefit in that – but they aren’t going to do it while everyone else doesn’t.
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THE easy thing to do after the NRL grand final would be to jet out to London and take in some warm-up matches.
But since when was the easy thing the most fun?
Instead, Bondi Beat is contemplating a quick trip to Vanuatu to see the fledgling nation take on the Solomon Islands, then a dash to Pretoria, where NSW Country will play South Africa some time around the 19th, then to Angeles City in the Philippines.
The Tamaraws will host Thailand and Japan in a triangular tournament around that time. And there is still enough of a window there to be Cardiff for the kick-off of the World Cup.
Oh, and KISS are playing Tokyo’s famous Budokan Arena on October 23. Just saying….
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OK, a bit of a survey now: how many of you would like to be a professional rugby league player?
I don’t mean that question to be in any way esoteric. If you could wake up tomorrow a first grade rugby league player, would you take the option?
I would not. Here are the key reasons: short career span, high risk of injury, the inability to do what I do now, which I enjoy and …. drug testing.
Not that I am a pill popping party animal or a steroid freak. I just don’t want people watching me pee. I don’t want to be woken up in the middle of the night by someone asking for a blood sample or a vial of urine.
Johnathan Thurston and Gareth Widdop recently complained about, variously, a child being woken up and a dinner going cold because of unannounced visits by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency.
I have sympathy for them, I really do. Thurston’s agent, Sam Ayoub, has a good point about there being little difference between a 6am visit and a 9am visit.
But increasingly, being drug tested at all hours – and having people watch you pee – is part of being a professional athlete. If you don’t like heights, don’t be an airline pilot and if you don’t like that, do something else.
Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD

Sheens Awaits Front Row Face-Off

Australia - Tim SheensBy STEVE MASCORD

AUSTRALIA coach Tim Sheens admits he’ll be taking a special interest on Friday night when his props James Tamou and Matt Scott face up to a combination that could form England’s World Cup front row.

Late team changes before South Sydney’s 32-4 win over Gold Coast on Saturday resulted in Sam and George Burgess packing down together upfront.

The crushing performance of the pair and brother Tom was labelled by veteran photographer Col Whelan “carnage a trois”.

“Obviously it’s going to be worthwhile watching,” Sheens tells RLW of the 1300smiles clash between the Rabbitohs and North Queensland.

“On one had you’ve got the fellas who are seen as the Australian pair and on the other you’ve got two young bulls who might be playing for England.

“The Burgess boys will be trying to show the England coach, Steve McNamara, even from Australia that they are capable of matching it with the Australian props.

“And the Cowboys season will be on the line. I’d imagine James and Scotty will primarily want to be playing well for the Cowboys.’

Sheens stressed he didn’t want to pre-empt the selection of George, Tom or Luke Burgess for England, although he expected Sam to be there.

phonto (1)“If they have more players who are performing at at this level over here, obviously they are going to be more dangerous,” he said.

“But I watched England beat the Exiles recently with domestic players and there were some good combinations there as well. We shouldn’t just assume certain players will be picked because they are over here.”

Meanwhile, the Test coach said Jarryd Hayne would be considered for selection if there was any chance of him passing a fitness test at the end of next month.

Parramatta are considering resting Hayne for the remainder of the season.

NB: Since this story appeared, Scott and Tamou scored a decisive win over their opposites, with North Queensland winning 30-12.
Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

Taking Out The Burgess Brothers

p1_coverBy STEVE MASCORD

WHEN Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson saw Steve McNamara at Allianz Stadium on July 1, he had a proposal for the visiting England coach.

“Trent here was hoping I could go to as many Souths games and do him a favour by taking out a few Burgess boys,” McNamara told Forty20 in the tunnel shortly after the conversation.

That’s not out to dinner, Steve explains. “Last year unfortunately I came and Gareth Ellis and Sam Burgess got injured in the same game. James Graham got injured last Friday, thankfully he’s alright I’ve seen him today.”

Yes, McNamara has a reputation Down Under as something of a jinx. Whenever he shows up at an NRL ground, any Englishman within a 1 mile radius is likely to slip over on the footpath, get hit by lightning or – if he’s a rugby league player – do a knee, foot, shoulder or something.

It happened against in round 15, when stand-off Gareth Widdop suffered an horrendous injury, a dislocated hip, playing for Melbourne Storm in Monday Night Football against Gold Coast.

At least the England coach was on hand to visit Widdop in hospital the next morning. “He was surprisingly good,” McNamara says.

“ From the state he was in the previous night … obviously when they got it (hip) back in he was pretty much up and running again. And he was. He was standing on his feet, he had crutches but he could stand up. He’s a chance, he’s a chance. He’s in a real positive frame of mind, which helps.”

That’s right folks, Gareth Widdop’s World Cup hopes are not dead yet. Playing without a club game under his belt between now and then, however?

“We’d have to look at that. That would be difficult but you never say never. He’s in a really positive frame of mind, he thinks he’s a chance of being back to play some games before the end of the year

The primary reason for the visit to Oz, as you will have read elsewhere, is to spend time with NRL-based players. In future, there may be so many of them that England actually plays internationals in the southern hemisphere.

It also happens to be Origin time.

And it seems that the parallels between England and Queensland will increase as the years pass. Many of the Queensland players live and play in NSW but have no trouble raising the requisite motivation – even hate –when he interstate series comes around.

The Queensland bus driver got McNamara into the Maroons’ final training session before Origin II.

“You look at the Queensland team and the consistency and continuity over a period of time – they really look like a team, don’t they?” McNamara observes.

“Sometimes you see a rep team and all the players do different things by different systems because they just don’t play with each other.

“Queensland just look like they’re so much on the same page.

“There’s a little bit of that in us. We’re sort of the minnows. We haven’t got as many players as Australia, we probably don’t have the same sort of climate to train in (the Maroons can’t play that card) so there’s a lot of things that go against us which I think, Queensland, in their own little way, use.

“We’re the underdogs, in some regards. The players we’ve got, we’ve got fewer to chose from than Australia and New Zealand but we’ll be very tight knit, very close as a group.”

You’ll hear Steve Mac talk about that a lot. The main reason for his trips to Australia are to “take out” his players – but not in a bad way..

“We’ve had four camps back in England this year as a group of players,” he explains. “We’ve had a fair bit of time together, we’ve played a Test match, and at the end of the year when our NRL-based players come into camp, I want them to be fully up to speed. I don’t want them to feel they’ve been isolated across here. My intention is to spend as much time with those players as I can and constantly remind them of England with videos … I want them to feel as close to that group as possible, even though they’re 12,000 miles away. I’m never astonished by the patriotism they show, when I speak to them individually. When they come together as a group, they’re very, very focused on doing well at the end of the year.
“It’s our two-team mentality, something we’ve worked on extremely hard – that you feel that you play for South Sydney or Brisbane Broncos AND England – not that you play for South Sydney and England is something you do every now and then. It’s important that you feel like you’re part of two teams and that’s something we do right through Super League and that is part of our NRL players too. These players actually feel that they are England players.”

The surprising aspect of all this is that everyone in Australia seems happy to help McNamara. Seeing him at NRL grounds, he comes and goes as he pleases and seems to know everyone.

“I think there’s a real sense of people wanting England to do well,” he reckons. “There’s a history there and there ’re a lot of good memories of a lot of good English players who have played in this country and competition. And not only of how they’ve played but how they’ve conducted themselves and there’s a number of boys now. So there’s a real affection towards English rugby league and, yeah, I see that. The hospitality and the access to everything is incredible. I’m grateful for it.”

What is the most surprising aspect of prowling behind the scenes at an NRL game? “How many people you have in the dressingroom, that’s for one! It’s ridiculous! The press aren’t in there (anymore) but I think everyone else in the stadium is to get a piece of the action.

“The competition is very strong. It’s still not too different to our competition. There is still a gap out here between the best teams and the others. That’s been quite clear to me since I’ve been out here. As much as we talk about in England that being a problem and an issue, it’s similar. There are some teams (here) that are definitely better than the other teams.”

McNamara says England have nothing to learn from the Aussies in terms of sports science and training methods – the national team are at the cutting edge there.

“It’s just the size of the game over here and the publicity it generates and on the back of that, they have a lot of kids playing the game,” he says when pressed for other observations.

“We have between 50,000 and 60,000 participants in the whole of the country. That’s the difference. I couldn’t bear to think how many people are registered as players here. We understand that that’s where we’re at and we have to do the very best with what we’ve got and that’s what we plan to do.”

Before speaking to me, McNamara was seen chatting to Manly’s England-eligible stand-off Daly Cherry Evans. But he says there’ll be no more additions to his squad when it comes to foreign-based stars.

How about another issue: the biff. Will the crackdown on punching be carried over to the World Cup?

“I think it’s very difficult for the authorities. They do have a responsibility for the image of the game and everything else that goes with it. I think there was a quote from Sonny Bill during the week – “it’s parents’ responsibility to raise kids, not the rugby league” and I agree with that. We don’t have to clean everything up. Rugby league isn’t a black and white sport. It’s not a line in the sand where if you cross it, you’re offside. It’s not American Football where the game stops.

“Each incident should be judged on its own merits and not just …. I think there’s varying types of ill-discipline. Some deserve to be punished, some don’t. I think the referees are having that taken out of their hands in some regard and that makes it tough for them.”

Sounds like a ‘no’ then.

Forty-20 may have played a its own little role in England’s preparation when we asked if England would be in South Africa in October at the same time as the NSW Country teams. Steve didn’t know anything about the tour.

“We might get in some opposed sessions against them. Where are they playing? I’ll have to try and get a number off you.”

Always happy to help good people. If I’m there at the same time, maybe Steve can return the favour by taking me out.

I mean, you know, to dinner ….

Filed for: FORTY20 MAGAZINE

TRAVELS: XVII

TravelsBy STEVE MASCORD

LONDON’S heavy loss on Saturday led to a reader contacting me about one of my favourite hobby horses – an English team in the NRL.
But this reader, whose given name was Leigh of Dallas (?) came at the idea from an interesting angle. What are the drawbacks of an NRL franchises based in Leeds or Manchester? That it would completely overshadow Super League and effectively relegate it to what the Brisbane comp has become.
But what if the franchise was based in London, and aimed not at league-loving northerners but Aussie and Kiwi expats in the capital?
Let’s get some of the obvious reservations you might have about the idea out of the way immediately. The travel time in Super rugby union between Dunedin and Durban is roughly similar, as is the time difference, and they manage just fine.
There is now a flight that leaves Sydney at 6am and arrives in London the same day, meaning a team could have plenty of time to acclimatise – as much or more as successful World Club Club Challenge sides have had
Of course, London Exiles (or whatever) would not be away every second week. They’d go “on tour”, playing two, three or four away games at once. Visiting teams would play the previous Friday and the following Sunday or Monday.
They would not steal every player from Super League because they would be subject to the NRL salary cap. They would not detract from Super League because they are geographically distant from most of the teams. They would earn the NRL a shedload in TV rights but not detract from the value of the existing SL rights.
I can’t see too many negatives. It’s time to get the ball rolling.
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GEORGE and Tom Burgess have just re-signed with South Sydney.
George and Sam are now pretty much the first choice props for the bunnies, ahead of Warrington signing Roy Asotasi, and this Saturday phonto (1)night they come up against the Australian pairing of James Tamou and Matt Scott when Souths take on North Queensland.
Australia coach Tim Sheens will be watching. Even at this early stage, I am told Sheens is considering picking a bigger side to take on England in the World Cup opener than the side that will eventually play New Zealand.
He believes the Kiwis’ dummy-half running will make the big fellows vulnerable against the Kiwis.
The big loser out of the rise of the Burgesses is set to be Cronulla back-rower Chris Heighington. It’s hard to see him getting a starting berth with all the talent at Steve McNamara’s disposal.
Meanwhile, the return from a pectoral muscle tear of Wests Tigers prop Keith Galloway on Monday is a big boost for Scotland. I spoke to him at training yesterday and he’s very keen to play for the Bravehearts.

read on

NRL round 20: SOUTH SYDNEY 32 GOLD COAST 4 at Skilled Park

By STEVE MASCORD

SOUTH Sydney coach Michael Maguire said after watching the competition leaders crush Gold Coast he would not be afraid to make further major team changes – and even “experiment” – despite a looming minor premiership.
The Burgess brothers steamrolled the Titans in a 32-4 victory which saw Sam post two tries, George one and Tom also make a big impression. Between them, the Dewsbury brood ran for 434 metres.
But it was the late, two-try cameo from halfback Luke Keary which could have the biggest impact on Souths’ bid for their first premiership in more than four decades.
“It’s about opportunity,” said Maguire. “(We lost) on Monday and it allowed a few fellows and opportunity tonight and they’ve taken them.
“Everyone behind the boys who played tonight is fighting very, very hard to get their positions … back in the team.”
He said Ipswich youngster Keary’s best position was “in the halves”. “It allows us to put John (Sutton) in the pack and play with two halves.
“It’s allowed us to look at how we can play the game, it allows us to experiment with the players we’re bringing in. We’ve just got to find the right combination.
“I’m sure if he had the opportunity to start for us, he’d do well. It’s just a matter of time.
“If he keeps performing like that, he’s pushing his way into the team.”
Gold Coast co-captain Greg Bird and his coach said the Burgess boys were almost interchangeable.
“The Burgess brothers are all the same – one comes on, one goes off,” said John Cartwright.
“If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all, those guys. They’re all big physical and aggressive.”
Bird, who will probably face the Burgesses at the World Cup, added: “They’ve big and powerful and they’ve got late footwork. They’re not just lumbering up,m they’ve got that late feet which makes it hard to get a good shot on.
“They kept coming, they were relentless.”
Maguire said the fourth Burgess brother, Luke, was pushing heavily for inclusion.
“Luke is working extremely hard,” the coach said. “He’s come back from a fair injury so he’s now played a few games in reserve grade.”
A couple of early mistakes from Gold Coast fullback Jordan Rankin helped the Rabbitohs, with Sam Burgess stepping his way over in the 11th minute. George then reached out to score just before halftime, giving his side a 14-0 advantage.
When prop Sam Burgess scooped up a loose ball and dived over at 44 minutes, the contest was over.
But Keary set Robina alight when he backed up comeback centre Matt King to score one touchdown in the 68th minute and then appeared to palm off a team-mate after breaking free to touch down seven minutes later.
A compelling side-story for Souths was the return from a broken arm of King. “It’s a great story,” said Maguire. “When he heard about his arm and broke it a second time, he was probably thinking about retirement.
“Kingy’s been a major part of everything that’s been going on.”
Having played his 300th game for the club, captain John Sutton said: “Probably this is the best team I’ve been associated with at the club. It’s good times here.”
The Titans looked to have lost hooker Matt Srama (sydesmosis of the ankle) for an extended period while prop Luke Bailey twisted an ankle.
“We got bashed up all over the park,” said coach John Cartwright. “…steamrolled
“Confidence is that invisible force. When it’s there you know it, when it’s not there you know it and it’s missing at the moment.”
SOUTH SYDNEY 32 (S Burgess 2 L Keary 2 G Burgess tries A Reynolds 6 goals) bt GOLD COAST 4 (K Gordon try) at Skilled Park. Referees: A Klein/P Haines. Crowd: 20,302


Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

BONDI BEAT: July 2013

RLW July 2013By STEVE MASCORD
NEXT year’s World Club Challenge in Perth? Someone should hurry up and tell Perth about it.
Normally reliable Bondi Beat sources have informed us the most isolated city in the world outside of Siberia is just about nailed on for the first WCC in Australia since 1994.
But John Sackson, the CEO of the WARL, tells us: “If an event of that magnitude was going to take place in Perth next year, I would say negotiations would be well under way.
“And aside from Gary Hetherington throwing up Perth at some stage, I haven’t heard a whisper.
“They’d need to be talking the West Australian Events Corporation, they’d need to be talking to nib Stadium and maybe other venues and I hope they’d be talking to us.
“I haven’t heard a whisper. WCC in Perth? Very doubtful if you ask me.”
All of which suggests two possibilities. One, we’re going to have a one off in the north of England for the fifteenth consecutive year or two, we’re doing things by the seat of our pants as usual.
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“I’M Welsh. Does that make me a pom?”
With that, former Harlequins and Saracens chief executive Mark Evans introduced himself to the Melbourne media as the new boss of the world champion Storm – and the World Cup lost a consultant.
Evans has been appointed by Bart Campbell, a London-based New Zealander who will be the new majority shareholder of our greatest club side.
But amid all the business related questions at the media conference on May 21, there were others like “do you feel the Purple Pride?” – a good sign I guess from reporters who usually cover religion (ie: AFL).
Are you just bringing outsiders, they wanted to know – conveniently overlooking the fact that only one Victorian has ever played for the Storm.
Hence Evans’ question back to a reporter. “Well, it makes you British,” she responded.
“Right, I’m British. I’m the only Brit. Everybody else is Australasian including Melbournians. Is that how you say it?”
Having watched a live feed of the press conference on my Ustream channel (sorry about the plug!), one fan commented that Evans needed to learn how to say Melbourne.
It’s not “Mell born”, it’s “Melbin”
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IT was gratifying to see the Rugby Football League’s Blake Solly reveal that what we suggested in last week’s column – a marquee player system for Super League – is under consideration.
The question now is: who would these marquee players be and which clubs would sign them?
I am sure Salford, whose owner has already vowed to cheat the cap, would be one. Although perhaps he means a “marquee player” in the Melbourne Storm sense, where funds for the hire of a tent are funnelled into players’ bank accounts.
Wigan could afford one, Leeds could afford one, Warrington, maybe Saints … who else?
Personally, I hope the system is introduced in time for North Queensland’s mercurial Matt Bowen to be a beneficiary. Why Warrington went cold on him, I’m not too sure.
But I reckon he’d be a hit in a town famous for outstanding Australian imports.
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OK, I have a little bit of info about some warm up games that are due to be held the week before the World Cup kicks off in October.
Expect France to host the United States, England to take on Italy, Wales to tussle with Tonga and Fiji to clash with one of rugby league’s top countries, Rochdale.
Australia don’t believe they need a warm up. The Kiwis do, but there’s still no news on an opponent.
The World Cup remains a niche event among rugby league fans but I know plenty who are going or are trying to arrange the journey.
Aaron Wallace, the stats man who so superbly briefs the Fox Spots commentators, has never been the UK and is hiring a campervan to ferry himself and his girlfriend from match to match.
He might have a passenger at times….
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BENJI Marshall is such a big name in Sydney that his wife has a Sunday newspaper column.
So you can imagine the uproar back in round 10 when he was dropped to the bench for the match against South Sydney.
Add that to the fact he has a column in the Sydney broadsheet the Herald and doesn’t say much to the tabloid Telegraph and you have an idea of the level of interest in his dramatic fall from grace
But the whole thing could be played out again come October and November.
Marshall was relieved of the Kiwis captaincy during the pre-season and it’s not impossible to imagine Kieran Foran and Shaun Johnson keeping him out of the New Zealand side at some stage of the tournament.
Such a scenario would put Bondi Beat in mind of the 199five World Cup, when Gary Freeman was dropped and sulked on a bus at training.
One of Sydney’s favourite soap operas, coming to a field near you.
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THIS is not a joke, people have suggested it as a serious promotion.
There are those who want the Burgess brothers – Sam, Tom, Luke and George, to engage in what is known colloquially as a game of “backyard footy” with the Sims boys – Ashton, Tariq and Corbin.
In fact, it was North Queensland back rower Tariq who came up with the idea.
“Dead-set, if we can get that to happen, I would love it. We could do it for charity – it would be awesome,” Tariq said in the lead-up to the City-Country game.
Of course, the Englishmen would have a numerical advantage – something that could be remedied by adding Ruan Sims, who plays for the Australian womens’ team.
She recalled on a recent television appearance that one night a week, the four of them were allowed to wrestle in the loungeroom.
It was no holds barred but once someone cried, the bell rang.
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MORE and more NRL types are seeing the error of their ways when it comes to golden point time.
Another chip in the foundations of the controversial rule came in round 10, when Manly played a 10-10 draw with Melbourne in Melbourne. That was the score in regulation time and it was also the score after overtime but only following seven unsuccessful drop goal attempts.
According Sea Eagles coach Geoff Toovey, it’s all gone too far.
After 80 minutes, if it’s a draw, it’s only my personal opinion but it should be a draw,” he said. “When we’re having field goal shootouts, it’s just crazy.
“There’re 26 rounds in the competition. There’s enough football played. You want to see the guys busted and bleeding. It’s a gladiatorial sport, I know, but we’ve got to look after our players as well.”
Commentator Phill Gould agreed, writing the next day: “I was always a fan of the golden point and believed it added to the excitement of the close finish.
“However, when you witness a gladiatorial classic from two teams such as Melbourne and Manly this week, a draw and a competition point each is a fair result.”
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A FUNNY moment from the same game.
Storm winger Sisa Waqa (you’ll see him in action for Fiji in a few short months” was called inside the 10 chasing a kick and started walking off the pitch, asking a touch judge why he had been sent to the sin bin!

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD

DISCORD 2013: Edition 25

DiscordBy STEVE MASCORD

LAST week Discord was rightly criticised for posting yet another column on the Origin I biff, a couple of readers pointing out that they’d already read much more than enough on the subject.

Fair cop.

But sometimes, when the current debate on a footy-relate issue seems to be missing something, Discord feels a duty to point out the elephants in the room. So we’ll do that regarding recent events and move straight on to something else.

The first elephant is not in any way highlighted as an excuse for some of the boorish behaviour we have seen over the last week… but it is a major contributing facotr and has been completely overlooked for some mystifying reason.

It’s hormones. While columns like this love to point out that players have limited careers and should learn to stay indoors and out of trouble, to the players the limited time span is a reason to go out. They’ll only be this fit, this famous, this single and this good looking – all at once – for less than a decade and there are plenty of wild oats to sow in that time.

To a 23-year-old, there is a fear that if you don’t take advantage of these unique circumstances, you’ll regret it in your old age. The jealousy of your contemporaries can be over-powering. Of course, getting in trouble creates even bigger regrets … but that may not happen … so it seems worth the gamble.

To Blake Ferguson and Josh Dugan, NOT going out on Sunday night would have seemed a terrible, tragic waste of an opportunity.

Secondly – and I will use this as an excuse for the Mal Meninga ‘incident’ – how easy is it to be refused service or even entry to a pub these days? I’m sure many readers have been refused entry in Sydney when they have not had a single drink, just because the guys on the door don’t like the look of their eyes as a result of some training course they did.

I have been refused service, or entry, in licensed establishments at least 20 times. I probably deserved it on more than half those occasions but I have never done anything more anti social than drop a glass on the floor.

It’s easy to understand why Mal would feel aggrieved that every daily newspaper saw fit to put his transgression on the back page today. But footballers (and their coaches) are really just reality TV stars these days. Without television, they’d be amateur or part time.

Bluntly, the media machine sees them as merely being there for our amusement, offering us two-dimensional pulp morality tales with everything they do.

So they get treated the same as reality TV stars. If Joel Madden was in town to promote a record, his little dope stash would get less space than if he was judging a massive talent show, publicity for which has been deliberately whipped up by a television network.

Same with Mal. If he is asked to leave the local pub in Redcliffe in November, it would be lucky to rate a paragraph in a gossip column. But Origin is the best rating piece of reality television in Australia.

If the players thought of it more like The Voice, they might understand a little better the way the gossip-obsessed mainstream media treats it.

OK, onto something else.

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FOR the record, your correspondent was only joking on Monday when he described Daniel Anderson’s trip to the NHL “bunker” as a junket.

Of course, it’s a good idea for the NRL referees’ boss to drop in on the way back from the World Cup. We were just making the point that commercial radio stations have already set up similar facilities in this country which would be worth checking out.

Of course, commercial radio stations don’t need to communicate with referees and touch judges. And they often have communication breakdowns with their people at the ground which would be disastrous for match officials.

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COMMENTS now, and I’ll go through everything written on the bottom of a story on leaguehq.com.au or stevemascord.com for the last week.

read on

Players In NSW And Queensland Don’t Understand Damage To Game’s Image

Queensland - Cameron Smith 2By STEVE MASCORD
MELBOURNE and Australia captain Cameron Smith has lashed out at misbehaving players who live in cocoon in rugby league’s heartlands and don’t understand how much they are hurting the game in its frontiers.
In an eight-day period which has seen NSW prop James Tamou, would-be team-mate Blake Ferguson and South Sydney prop George Burgess all charged by police, Smith said many players in NSW and Queensland don’t understand the harm they are doing.
“It’s huge – we’re trying to grow the game in new places like Melbourne and they think they can do what they want,” Smith told Fairfax Media in the Brisbane Botanical Gardens, shortly after the Queensland’s team announcement.
“Living down in Melbourne you’re constantly hearing about how far our game is behind and this sort of stuff only adds to that.
“The players who live in NSW and Queensland aren’t confronted with that, they don’t see it.
“I don’t want to make too much comment on it because it’s been dealt with by the NRL and the respective clubs but it’s disappointing because it’s a few blokes letting the whole game down really.
“Nearly the whole competition, except for a few, they uphold their responsibility to the game and to the public.
“They can go out and a have a few beers and do the right thing. But it’s these blokes who think they can do whatever they want who let the game down.
“For someone to say what they did is OK – they’ve got to have a serious look at themselves.”
Smith also defied the conventional rugby league wisdom when it came to the punching ban introduced since Paul Gallen’s attack on Nate Myles two weeks ago. Maroons coach Mal Meninga said during the team announcement media conference he could not guarantee there would be no punches at Suncorp Stadium next Wednesday.
Referees coach Daniel Anderson said at the weekend that Smith’s contention on television last week that the Gallen-Myles incident was “not a good look” was taken into consideration in handing down the edict.
“He changed the rule because of me? I think it’s a good move,” said Smith. “Probably a lot of people would disagree but I think the sport is moving with society.
“It’s unacceptable to go around punching blokes whenever you want now.”
Motioning to a junior player in uniform who had been part of the announcement, he continued: “If we want these little fellas playing the sport when they’re 20 years old….
“And kids being born this year, if we want them playing rugby league then we’ve got to be showing their parents that it’s a good game to play and a lot of people would have seen that incident in game one and though ‘oh, maybe I want my kid to play soccer or something else.”
“It’s a good move for the NRL to come down hard on starting fights because there’s no place in the game for it now.”
Ferguson has been kicked out of the NSW team for indecent assault, Burgess has been stood down by South Sydney for wilfully damaging a car and Tamou was disqualified from Origin selection and suspended by his club for driving unlicensed at four times the legal alcohol limit.
Maroons and South Sydney star Greg Inglis told reporters yesterday he knew nothing about the Burgess incident.
The Maroons dropped Gold Coast lock Ashley Harrison and Canberra prop David Shillington for a game they must win to keep alive their seven-year winning streak against New South Wales.
South Sydney’s Chris McQueen comes into the starting side and Canberra’s Josh Papalii is on the bench with Sydney Roosters’ Martin Kennedy 18th man.
“We’ve got a culture of loyalty … we had to make a touch choice,” said Meninga. “There are young kids poking their heads through who have been in our system for a while.
“There was a long 10 metres … we needed to pick a side with more mobility in the ruck.”
On the punching ban, he said: “I understand where they’re coming from with it.
“But it’s an aggressive and combatative game. It’s difficult to control your emotions. Origin is all about emotion. “
Asked if he could guarantee there would be no punches, he answered: “I don’t think you can guarantee that in any sport … any combatative sport be it rugby or soccer.
“It’s a tough one. It’s black and white. We’ll see what happens.”
Meninga is a confidante of Ferguson and said: “It’s sad to see what happened to Blake.
“He doesn’t have a tendancy to mix with the right people. He’s easily led.”

Filed for: THE AGE