The A-List: KEVIN PROCTOR (Melbourne, New Zealand Maori, New Zealand)

2013 Melbourne Storm HeadshotsBy STEVE MASCORD

 ON May 27, 2014, the Canberra times breathlessly reported that the Raiders “sign James Tedesco and miss out on Kevin Proctor”.

Subsequently, of course, the Wests Tigers and Italy fullback reneged on that contract with the Green Machine – thereby guaranteeing himself a lifetime’s worth of jeers every time the road gets smoother as he crosses into the ACT.

Many, many kilometres from Bruce – Liverpool, England to be exact – we learn exactly what a bad month May, 2014, was for Ricky Stuart.

How close did 26-year-old Kevin Proctor come to signing with Canberra?

“It was pretty close. I think we’d shaken hands and everything,” says the corkscrew-curled back-rower, across the table in the hotel coffee shop

“Something just didn’t feel right, when I woke up the next day. I told them the truth. You don’t really want someone going to your club if they aren’t 100 per cent committed.

“I just told them the truth and he was sweet with that.”

“He”, of course, being coach Stuart. Not someone I’d like to face in such circumstances. Wasn’t young Kev just a little intimidated?

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“I was but you don’t really want to go there half-hearted. You want to go there and put your full commitment behind it. I just told them how I felt.

“Especially because I’ve got a daughter to worry about now and I’ve got a partner as well. That all came into account as well”

During our chat, Proctor admits he “hated” Melbourne at first. But after sleeping on his verbal agreement, he found his view had changed so much that he just couldn’t leave.

“It’s just the lifestyle there. It’s so cruisy for a city, anyway. You’re not fully under the spotlight like Sydney is and Queensland and Canberra I suppose, north Queensland.

“It’s all AFL down there so you fly under the radar and do your own thing and my partner and daughter love living there too. That all came into account as well and Storm, they’re the ones who have given me my opportunity to start so I guess it’s a little bit of payback there.”

Perhaps because of the reduced scrutiny on Melbourne players, Kevin Proctor is probably one of those players you know little about outside the weekly green rectangle. He played three codes of football in four cities before he was 21, only picking up league because there was no local rugby union sides when he resided on the Gold Coast.

That’s where his second bombshell comes from. When his current Storm contract expires in three years, he’d like to go back to the 15-man game.

He says: “I loved my rugby union growing up. I played that pretty much my whole life, until I was 16, 17 and then made the transition. It was really good and I’d probably like that to be my second option.

“I wouldn’t mind giving it a crack, eh? Just because I grew up with it so much and I know the game so well.

“I don’t know, I suppose you could leave that to my manager to try and help me find a club somewhere maybe. I wouldn’t mind having a go at something like that.”

Born in Te Kuiti, Proctor is an unaffected sort of chap. He travelled from New Zealand to Perth to the Gold Coast, playing whatever was going before being unearthed by the Storm.

Suddenly, everything changed for him.

“Moving down to Melbourne, the culture they have down there and the professional side of things made me grow up a lot quicker,” he reasons.

“Because I was moving away from my family and didn’t really know anyone down in Melbourne, you kind of have to…

“.I really hated it the first week I went there but … I was only 18 and the first one (in my family) to move away from home and I suppose I just didn’t really like the lifestyle down there at the time.

“Now I love it. I think I’ve been there eight years now. It was the culture down in Melbourne that really got me to where I am now.. They teach you all the good traits and I suppose I take that onto the field with me. I Craig (Bellamy) has been a big help for me too. He’s such a good coach. He gives you things to work on and … oh, mate I can’t really explain it too much.

“He turns you into one of those players and if he doesn’t like you, you’re pretty much … if you can’t keep up with the Melbourne training and the workload and all that stuff I suppose you’re in and you’re out. He’s taught me most things I know with my rugby league today and … I wouldn’t have got too far without him and the Melbourne Storm.”

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Another beneficiary of that tutelage is Proctor’s New Zealand team-mate, Tohu Harris.

The recent Kiwis tour of Britain, of course, should have been Harris’ second…

 “It was kind of … it was weird how they did that, when they picked him and then Sonny Bill made himself available and they didn’t pick him,” says Proctor, happy to discuss one of the touchiest recent subjects surrounding the black jumper.

“It would have been good to have him … he would have been one of the young guys like Sio Sia (Taukeiaho) now and Curtis Rona and all those boys getting the experience. He could have had it back then and it probably would have made him a better player.

“He’s doing really well now anyway. I’m happy he’s playing some good footy.”

Like his club-mate, Proctor was approached mid-season by the NZRL about the tour – which saw the Kiwis just fail to snatch a draw in the final Test at Wigan.

“They told us what was happening and we probably weren’t going to get as much pay but it doesn’t matter. Once you get the opportunity to play for your country, I don’t think anyone’s stupid enough to turn that down.”

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And there’s an upside. Because Australian players cried off playing last Spring, the likes of Tohu and Kevin had their feet up for a few weeks with The Big Three sweated it out.

“We’ve had a fair bit of a clean-out actually. We’ve got a new conditioning coach, we’ve got a couple of new physios, a couple of new coaches. I’m actually excited to see what we’ve got when we get back to training.”

Maybe the next visit to Canberra, however, won’t be so exciting…

 Kevin Proctor’s Kiwi Tour Highlights.

One: Liverpool FC. “It was schmick, all their fields. It was probably the best ground I’ve trained on.  Their facilities, their pools, their spas, their gym, they had chefs there and the quality of food they had there as well … they had lamb shanks and all that stuff for dinner. It was probably one of the best feeds we’ve had for the whole trip as well.”

Two: South Of France & Barcelona. “Perpignan was a cool change and Barcelona, we went down there for a couple of days. I’ve never seen a city so big before. We went down that street (La Rambla), we got scooters to go around the city, we got to see … it’s a pity we didn’t stay there for as long as we would have liked. We had four or five hours there, we had a feed there.”

Three: London. “London was cool. It’s just so busy there. I don’t think I could ever live there. It’s just way too busy for me. That was probably the three things that stood out to me.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

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The A-List: JOSH HOFFMAN (Gold Coast, Indigenous All Stars & New Zealand)

Hoffman, JoshBy STEVE MASCORD

JOSH Hoffman is said to have greeted reporters for his first media opportunity this year by saying “haven’t seen you guys for a while”.

The smiling 27-year-old Titans fullback was a favourite of reporters during his six years at the Broncos. The Mackay product was always co-operative and good for a quote – perhaps too much so in the eyes of his club, at times.

But things went sour at Red Hill. Not once, but twice. First, while he was away at the World Cup, club-mate Justin Hodges was quoted as saying he was not fullback material. Hoffman’s father Shane attacked Hodges on social media, calling him a “dog”.

Then the cousin of new Queensland rep Dane Gagai – and relative of Wendell Sailor, Ben Barba and Travis Waddell – was repeatedly photographed with Canterbury members of the Kiwis squad – and asked for a release.

There was a season of truce while the Broncos waited for Anthony Milford and Wayne Bennett to arrive – and Hoffman finally got the hell out of Dodge, although only an hour down the freeway.

During it all, Josh maintained an uncharacteristic silence in the mainstream media – even if his social media accounts remained entertaining. This year, he’s dressed up as superhero for the club website, posted Instagram videos to kill the time during the commute to and from training – but has been interviewed only briefly.

A-List meets Josh during a break in training at Burleigh Leagues Club, overlooking the Gold Coast Titans’ new training ground. New, because they were kicked out of a school facility when the drugs story broke earlier this year.

A couple of times, looking back over the past couple of years, Josh will use an expression like “this blew up in the media” … before going onto confirm the story concerned was more or less right. There’s much to catch up with since he last spoke in depth about pretty-much anything. We’ll not pussyfoot around….

HOFFMAN left Brisbane for Gold Coast this year with a season left on his contract. “I had the chance to go in and meet Wayne (Bennett). I didn’t really even have to say much. He sort of knew my position. He just said Darius was coming to the LeagueWeek Back Issuesclub and he wanted Darius to play fullback and he said ‘I know that’s your preferred position and I’m not going to hold you back from going out there and finding another opportunity’. In saying that, he said ‘you’re signed with the Broncos and you’re welcome to stay here and you’ve always got a club here’. He was really good like that. At the time, Canberra were in the mix and Ricky (Stuart) was chasing pretty hard I had a young family, I had a little girl and my wife as well and we were trying to decide on whether we wanted to move to Canberra. It was a little bit too far away considering my wife and her mother were very close. We wanted to stay somewhere … stay in Brisbane. And the Warriors were chasing as well.

“There was a little bit of talk and a little bit of interest (from rugby union) but I don’t think they pushed too hard on getting me over there. That would have been another thing I would have considered but I really wanted to stay and play rugby league. I felt like I had more to give to the game. I rang my manager up and he rang around and I said ‘what about Gold Coast, do you reckon they’d be keen?’ and he gave Neil (Henry) a ring and we set up a meeting and happy days.”

A YEAR earlier, Hoffman had asked for a release while at the World Cup. “I wasn’t sure where I was going to be in the future because of everything happening at the club and my positional changes with everywhere I was being moved. I just didn’t know where I was going to fit in the team and I felt like there was no certainty there at the club. I spoke to Hook (Anthony Griffin) and asked for a release … like I said to Wayne, if I could find other opportunities out there to play fullback. I guess things went a bit sour after that. I stayed at the club. The best thing for me is I didn’t go around kicking stones and dragging my lip on the ground and feeling sorry for myself.

amazon“Me and hook, we don’t have any malice against one another.”

THE matter came to a head when veteran Broncos centre Justin Hodges was quoted as saying Hoffman was not the answer for the club at fullback. “Coming from your own team-mate, you sort of … I know I was young at the time and I took it the wrong way and I understand where Justin was coming from; the Broncos were looking for someone who could ball-play, someone who could be another five-eighth and my game, it’s purely a running game. I like to bring the ball back hard and get as many metres as I can. That’s just what I do. At the time I took it as a personal attack and I got a bit upset after that. That was another thing that made me want to leave the club as well. Having your own team-mate say that, it’s made my confidence go down a bit.” But he never approached Hodges over the slight. “I didn’t want to cause drama over it because at the time we were trying to keep our season alive. I didn’t want to cause drama between team-mates.”

AT the World Cup, Hoffman was photographed with Bulldogs players repeatedly, leading to intense speculation he was headed to Belmore. “I was walking down the street in Manchester and I was with big Sammy (Kasiano) and Franky (Pritchard) and Greggy Eastwood and they were in my ear, telling me to come to the Doggies, you know? They were trying to get me over there. And I was like ‘boys, I’m still with the Broncos and I’ve still got two years left and this and that. Being stubborn boys, they just kept pushing and pushing. We eventually got a photo together and it got in the paper and I think the Broncos took it the wrong way and it was blown out of proportion. It was a bit hard being over in the UK and reading all donate2this stuff on the website and being asked about it as well, getting attacked on Twitter from fans and that. It was pretty hurtful but there’s nothing you can do about that. Everyone’s got their opinions. “

HOFFMAN was overlooked for selection by the Kiwis at the end of the tournament and has not played for his father’s country since. “We played against Papua New Guinea and I did my shoulder and it was bothering me at the time. Steve (Kearney) knew I wasn’t 100 per cent but I was adamant I wanted to play. I guess he thought it was in the best interests of the team to play Kevin Locke. At the time, I was a bit disappointed, a bit angry about it because I would really have loved to finish the World Cup off playing in the finals but the boys really did well to get to the final.”

JOSH appears to be facing an up-hill battle to make the touring squad for England at the end of this season. “There’s a lot of competition for the fullback spot. Dallin (Watene-Zelezniak) has been playing a lot of fullback since (Matt) Moylan’s been out, he’s been going really well. And Roger (Tuivasa-Skeck) is the incumbent fullback at the moment. He’s been playing really good footy. There’s a lot of competition there and also in the backline as well. At this stage I’m just focusing on the Titans. If we can get some wins together, hopefully we can get to play in September.”

BUT since Hoffman signed on with the Titans, Aiden Sezer plus Nate Myles have left and Daley Cherry Evans announced he would not be joining, as originally agreed. DCE “It is a big loss for the club and something Neil’s going to have to shuffle around. I’d hate to be in his shoes right now, trying to figure out what he’s going to do for next year. But I guess in saying that we need to focus on this year. It was disappointing and sad to see Nate leave – such a great player with great experience. I really look up to him.’

Filed for RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

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NRL round two: WESTS TIGERS 42 GOLD COAST 12 at CBUS Super Stadium

By STEVE MASCORD

WESTS Tigers coach Michael Potter feared fullback James Tedesco‘s potential-laden season  was over almost before it began.
Fans of the joint venture – even those with sunburn at a sweltering CBUS Super Stadium – went pale when the 21-year-old play motionless after a first half collision during the 42-12 pizzling of Gold Coast.
“I thought ‘oh no’ – I shat myself,” Potter told Fairfax Media. “You think it’s his knee. My first message to the runners was ‘check onTeddy’.”
But a grinning Tedesco‘s said after terrorising Gold Coast with 140 metres gained, nine tackle breaks and a line break: “It was never the knee.
“I copped a knock in the personals. There was a fair bit of pain down there but I was OK before long.”
Some water to the affected area also helped … “I waited for the cameras to be off me first.”
Up 12-6 at halftime, Wests Tigers belted an inexplicably poor Gold Coast after the break to bury the memory of last week’s heavy loss to St George Illawarra.
Wests Tigers centre Chris Lawrence suffered a hamstring injury in the first half and will have scans today.
The oppressive conditions could not have been more different to those in Wigan where he set multiple records, but veteran winger Pat Richards yesterday helped Wests Tigers bury Gold Coast on what was accurately marketed as “White Hot Sunday”.
Temperatures in the middle of the newly renamed CBUS Super Stadium topped 40 degrees; drinks breaks and an extended halftime would have done little to assuage the distress of the 34 players .
Richards, returning to the NRL after a stellar eight years in Super League, scored his first try after four minutes and another in the 31st, and booted goals from all over, in a dominant performance from the joint venture.
The game was only four minutes old when Richards scored the first of his tries, from a simple overlap, in the north-western corner. He was unable to convert but had no trouble three minutes later when Tedesco crossed much closer to the posts after a kick from a sharp-looking Luke Brooks.
Wests Tigers looked to have taken an early stranglehold at 17 minutes, replacement Marty Taupau charging at the line and appearing to have grounded the ball one-handed. But after repeated viewings, video referees Bernard Sutton and Andrew Dunemann chalked off the try.
“They’ve had a look at it and they’ve found he was short of the line and then lost it,” referee Gerard Sutton told Wests Tigers captain Robbie Farah.
Hooker Farah responded: “What? They had to look at it 15 times! It’s inconclusive.”
While travelling well on the scoreboard, the joint venture side lost centre Lawrence with less than quarter of the game played. Cory Paterson, who replaced him in the centres was among his side’s best.
After replacement Sauaso Suu was booked for diving at the legs of Titans kicker Aiden Sezer, the five-eighth showed no ill-effects when he crossed in the 23rd minute off a Greg Bird break and converted himself, leaving the home side closer than it probably deserved to be.
But after the outstanding Tedesco executed a try-saving ankle-tap on Albert Kelly, Wests Tigers extended their lead when Richards scored in similar circumstances to
his first with nine minutes remaining in the half, outdoing his previous effort by converting from the sidelines.
Former Titan Boden Thompson then hammered in another nail in the shadows of halftime by fielding Braith Anasta’s bomb for a try confirmed by the video referees.
Paterson was denied a try when the ball bounced off the posts two minutes into the second half; Bird fumbled but replays showed Wests Tigers’ James Gavet getting a hand to Steeden.
But less than another 60 seconds elapsed before late inclusion David Nofaluma scored after some smart lead-up by Brooks; shortly before the second drinks break, Tapau made up for his ealier near miss by steamrolling over for another.
The crowd was told a collarbone injury to Titans five-eighth Bird was not serious but coach John Cartwright was afterwards not completely sure of the prognosis.
“It’s an impact injury … he’s a quick healer,” Cartwright said.

WESTS TIGERS 42 (P Richards 2 L Brooks D Nofoaluma M Taupau J Tedesco B Thompson tries P Richards 7 goals) bt GOLD COAST 12 (A Kelly A Sezer tries A Sezer 2 goals) at Cbus Super Stadium. Referee: G Sutton/D Munro. Crowd: 12,038.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

NRL round one: GOLD COAST 18 CRONULLA 12 at Remondis Stadium

By STEVE MASCORD
AFTER another dismal day at strife-torn Cronulla, injured captain Paul Gallen insisted he would be back from an ankle injury in “three or four weeks” and dismissed the significance of Australia prop Andrew Fifita’s impending departure.
Going into the opening Monday Night Football match of 2014, it seemed things could only improve for the Sharks after their $1 million doping fine, the suspension of coach Shane Flanagan and injuries to Todd Carney (hamstring), Beau Ryan (neck), Chris Heighington (calf), Luke Lewis (shoulder), Anthony Tupou (knee) and Jeff Robson (cheekbone).
But by the end of the night, NSW skipper Gallen had been sidelined indefinitely by a syndesmosis injury to the right ankle, Gold Coast had come from behind to win 18-12 and Fifita had walked out of Remondis Stadium, cameras trailing him, without denying he had agreed to join Canterbury next season.
Fifita was also on report for a shoulder charge on David Mead.
“Something cracked – I knew I did something straight away,” Gallen said of his injury, suffered in a 31st minute tackle by Titan Matthew White. “I did it in trial game in 2006 or seven – it cracked twice – so I knew what it was straight away.
“I’m thinking I’d like to be back in three or four weeks … get a scan tomorrow and see what it says. I’m pretty confident it’s not going to be a long-term thing.”
Asked for his thoughts on Fifita’s departure, Gallen said: “I know the club will come very close to their offer. I don’t think it’s going to be chalk and cheese, the two offers.
“It’s just going to be up to where Andrew wants to play. He’s got a young family. You’ve got to do the best for yourself.
“Of course I’d be upset if he left. We’ve put a lot of work into him. He’s a great player and he’s played his best football here.
“In saying that, I remember three or four years ago when everyone thought the world was going to end when Luke Douglas and Kade Snowden left. I wouldn’t say them two boys have kicked on since they left and we’ve got six front rowers.
“It’s a good opportunity for us to pick up some other players – if he goes.”
The comment about Douglas came as the former Sharks prop broke a new premiership consective appearance record with 195 in the Titans victory, secured with a 71st minute William Zillman try.
Gold Coast had would-be touchdowns to hooker Beau Falloon (14th minute) and halfback Albert Kelly (42nd) chalked off but it was the try Kelly was awarded – when he took an intercept off his own line eight minutes before halftime – that angered the Sharks.
“I thought he was offside, I thought they were offside most of the night to tell you the truth,” said coach Peter Sharp.
There was also some controversy surrounding the concussion rule; stand-in Sharks captain Wade Graham called for Gold Coast winger Mead to be taken off for assessment after he stayed on the ground long enough for a penalty to be awarded.
“The bloke stayed down, they’ve had a check upstairs and they’ve found there was contact with the head,” said five-eighth Graham.
“I don’t know what the new five-point-plan is but obviously, staying down, there’s got to be an indication he’s hurt and if there’s head contact, it’s got to be something with the head. I was a bit confused by that.”
And Titans coach John Cartwright reckoned legislators had sped the game up too much this year.
“I think you’ve got to find a balance,” he said. “If you blow a lot of penalties, it is going to be a lot of dummy-half running. That’s where the easy yards are.”

GOLD COAST 18 (A Kelly G Bird W Zillman tries A Sezer 3 goals) bt CRONULLA 12 (T Arona try M Gordon goal) at Remonidis Stadium. Referees: J Maxwell/G Atkins. Crowd: 9321.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

The A-List: JAMAL IDRIS (Gold Coast, NSW, Indigenous Allstars & Australia)

Canterbury - Jamal IdrisBy STEVE MASCORD

“The first few swings missed me, I ducked back and it went across my face. The next time it got me…”

Jamal Idris is talking about September 2010 in Forster, where – at a family gathering – he was attacked with a samurai sword.

“The sword sat there for a while so it got fair rusty. Thank God. It was a fair big sword too, it was about the size of my arm or so.

“… it bounced off my neck. What can you do?

“(The assailant) put himself in two days later, he was in for a while, got back out, and he was in again for a while. Obviously, he’s my cousin. He got out again, then he went back in again. I think he’s been in, maybe, two or three times since then.”

That is, in jail. In almost any other area of journalism, this would be an extraordinary and disturbing conversation. But Idris, 192cm and seemingly still growing, just sits there and smiles as he tells it.

We are in the foyer of what used to be the Titans’ Centre of Excellence, one Thursday afternoon. Idris is still recovering from the leg injury which prematurely ended his season. Training has finished for the day and he says he hasn’t got anything better to do than chat to A-List.

No subject is off-limits. For all the brutality of his profession, Idris is an ingénue, a man unable or unwilling to be as cold and dispassionate as his contemporaries. The topics veer from his litany of injuries, moving to the second row, African rugby league and his new academic pursuit, journalism.

But the most moving subjects are family, racism and bigotry. Jamal’s childhood on the NSW mid-north coast looms large for him, and he seems to harbour a deep sense of having being wronged since he walked through a set of gates that led to the outside world.

“I did grow up with a strong sense of family but I grew up in an aboriginal mission,” he explains. “You go outside them gates … when I was younger I did walk into a shop and they kicked me out because they thought I was stealing. I sat there and I looked at them and I was, like, ‘are you serious?’, and they were ‘get the eff out of my shop, you’re stealing you effing black, yada yada yada’. I was maybe 13, 14 years old.

“You don’t understand racism as a kid but as you get older you start to see it and you see your cousins getting arrested, you see people in your family being stopped by cop cars as they walk down the street, and you sit there and you start saying ‘what’s going on?’ You start thinking the world’s against you.”

To illustrate his viewpoint, Idris describes a schoolyard fight in which he punched a kid three years his senior for a racist slur.

“As a kid, you don’t understand. I looked at it, like, he can say anything he wants and I can’t do anything about it. I felt helpless. He (principal) said ‘I’m going to ring your mum’. I stood up, I was in year three so I was seven or eight or so, and I said ‘fine, effing call my mum” and I walked out.

“It all falls back on the parents, that kind of racism. Kids don’t walk around saying those kind of things. Where have they heard it?”

The 23-year-old Australian international recently spoke out against a parent who described a 13-year-old Mudgeeraba Redbacks player as a “fucking nigger” from the sidelines and finds suggestions that racism is fading laughable.

“It’s not in the past, it does happen, that’s stupid,” he says. “The people who believe that aren’t opening their eyes. That annoys me when they say it doesn’t happen anymore. Are you kidding me? Australia’s a young country, of course it’s still happening. It’s frustrating, man.

“That little kid .. he’s a grown man, this is a kid on the field. Who does he think he is?”

Like Jamie Soward and Scott Prince, Idris is taking an interest in journalism and media as a career after football. Like both of them, he has had his run-in with the fourth estate. Those baby-fat photos from a couple of years ago have left much more of a scar than the samurai sword.

“I was 17 or 18 years old and for a bloke to come out and write something like that …. why doesn’t he look at the people in his family, why doesn’t he look at the people in his life. What’s he doing?

“You’re walking down the street and someone’s saying something. You pick up the paper and someone’s saying something. All I do is read the person’s name who wrote that and the next time they try to talk to me – good luck!

“There’s a lot of criticism that’s constructive. If they’re criticising something that I didn’t realise, I’ll look at it and go ‘fair enough, what can you say?’.”

Likewise, Idris was shaken by criticism of his form last year when he was battling the effects of a congenital hip problem, which required surgery. “All of a sudden, round five this year, people say ‘what’s the difference, what’s the difference?’.

“The difference is: I’m not injured. I can run. I can play. The people that who were bagging me are all of a sudden sitting there sucking up to me.

“People look in from the outside and say ‘he must be disappointed, he didn’t do this, he didn’t do that’. I’m happy and blessed every time I run onto a field. When I’m most upset is when I am injured.”

Playing for Canterbury in Sydney between 2008 and 2011, Idris found these two issues – race and celebrity – forming a poisonous combination.

“I got real flustered in Sydney,” Idris says. “In Sydney, you walk down the street and people go for Parramatta. Just because you play for Bulldogs, they want to fight you. There’s so many teams in one area, they think it’s their right to say whatever they want.

“I used to be a fan when I was a kid. I used to love supporting it. But, you know, if you don’t support someone and their team, it doesn’t give you the right to go beyond that and start insulting their family, insulting their race. Insult the team, say what you want, whatever. But for me personally, that’s going too far.’

But, as detailed at the start of this story, Jamal found that even Forster stopped being a refuge after he had become a big star in the city.

“Some of my family members, if I don’t go back to Forster for a year, because I’m playing football, I come back at Christmas time and they say ‘what, you think you’re too good for us because you play football?’ Simple little comments like that and it gets exaggerated when they drink alcohol, you know what I mean?

“You’d go out in the Cross and someone would try start a fight with you, argue with you, and you’d see his mate filming it. Sure enough, you look at the paper the next day and they say ‘so and so was out at this time having a fight’ They don’t say what led into it.

“When they were talking about Choccy Watmough and Matai, when they got bashed and jumped by five or six blokes at, I think, Stevie Matai’s house, and they turned it so negative on him. I thought, ‘they’re victims. They’re at home. They got jumped. What’s going on? Should they not breathe?’

“At the end of the day, why so negative on us? For trying to live a normal life? They go ‘oh, you’re a role model’. We are role models, we go out and do the right thing. They don’t put in the paper every time we go to children’s events or a hospital but they’ll put it in every time they see us out or they see someone blowing up at us or there’s a scrap.

“You know why? Because it sells papers.”

Idris says he’d like to try coaching as well as media work upon retirement. He’s been paying his own way to away matches to cheer on the Titans. He’s anxious to move into the forwards, saying it probably suits his game more. And over the next two months, he will travel to Nigeria and meet pioneers trying to start rugby league there.

“Africans as a race: fast twitch muscles, we’ve got all the skills,” he says enthusiastically. “In saying that, we’ve got to get our hands right.”

Hang on, isn’t that racial stereotyping? “I am African,” he responds. “I said ‘we’, I didn’t say ‘they’.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

THE BIG ISSUE: #59

The Big IssueBy STEVE MASCORD

HOW quickly they forget.

By the time you read this, the campaigns of eight NRL teams is are already fading memories. It’s worth pondering how arbitrary and brutal an industry rugby league, and professional sport in general, is.

You train like a dog all summer, you get locked into a weekly grind which is painful, repetitive and unforgiving. And just like that, sometimes at the whim of a match official, injury or suspension, it ends with a shrill siren in round 26.

Bang, you’re not competing anymore. It doesn’t happen so suddenly in too many other areas of human endeavour, except perhaps life itself.

The play-offs are, objectively, even weirder. You train and play for 10 months just to get into one of these things. If it’s a sudden death game, you have effectively put four days into each minute of that contest.

And if you lose – just one game off football – the entire 10 months is gone. The who 10 months is wasted for 575 out of 600 footballers, who have to start again or will never get another chance. Brutal odds.

GOLD COAST: An admirable rear guard action, desperately short on troops. If the comp was a month longer, they may have made the grand final.

PENRITH: Over-achieved due to own hard work. Ivan Cleary has some claim to coach-of-the-year voting, so impressive were the Panthers at times. Luke Walsh, in particular, will be missed.

WARRIORS: Same number of competition points as Penrith but a completely different performance in relation to expectations. Finding the ark of the covenant or King Solomon’s mines easy compared to making themconsistent.

BRISBANE: No-one seems to think they should be subject to the same cycles as other clubs, chiefly because they’re in the capital of the rugby league world. They still have to comply with the salary cap.

CANBERRA: If you can do a “drama and atrocity” graph and overlay it with a “Raiders results” graph, the lines would track each other pretty closely. Dugan, Ferguson, Furner, Earl just does not happen to the same club in the same year.

ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA: Still in the midst of a massive downswing post-2010 premiership. The system is designed to inflict such misfortune – but it shouldn’t last this long.

WESTS TIGERS: A woeful years which you could charitably put down to a new coach who had little influence over the shortcomings of the roster he inherited. Must improve.

PARRAMATTA: Not only is there no light at the end of the playing roster tunnel but the coaching and political tunnels each look pitch black as well.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

Douglas Is A True Braveheart

Gold Coast - Luke DouglasBy STEVE MASCORD
THE United Kingdom is a place of pride for Gold Coast prop Luke Douglas. And a place of sorrow.
Six decades ago, his grandfather Archibald Douglas – a name carried by noblemen in Scotland going back a thousand years – took flight to Australia in the face of difficult economic times. “He’s got a big book about it,” says 27-year-old Luke.
The former Cronulla front rower always intended to represent the Bravehearts rugby league team. It was just a matter of timing.
This spring, he’s in. But travelling to the World Cup won’t just be a case of honouring his grandfather.
“I’m trying to get my dad over,” he tells League Week in the Titans sheds after a recent victory.
“I was over there for a month last year, it was my first ever time. My mum and dad went over last time, that’s when she had the turn.
“It was just hospital every day.
“He’s a bit uncertain yet, because of what happened last time but I’m trying to get him to go over and see the Douglas castle and all that sort of stuff over in Scotland.”
Luke’s mother Trish died in May as a result of the illness that had led to her being hospitalised in Britain late last year. She had a heart attack on the flight over, prompting a dash across the world by Luke, before a melanoma was discovered.
One son, Jake, now plays domestic rugby union in England while Kane is a Wallaby and will be on tour at the time of the World Cup – the event Trish and Chris Douglas followed him on 11 months ago.
For many reasons, Luke Douglas is far from the image of an international rugby league ring-in with no knowledge of the language or culture of the team he’s representing.
“The manager put it (out there) and they asked me,” he said of the link with Steve McCormack’s team. “My pop moved over when he was about 25, 26. There’s pretty strong Scottish heritage there and it should be a good experience and I’m really looking forward to it.
“I’ve learned fair bit off pop. He’s right up to date on all the heritage and it’s pretty strong. There’s a lot of history in the Douglas clans. I’m keen to suss it all out once I get over there.
“He’d be early eighties. (In Scotland), it’s mainly soccer, footy as they call it, and rugby’s second. He’s a soccer guy, all that Catholic v Protestant stuff. He’s brought up on that, came out just a year ago. He had to flee, it was a tough time (when he was young). The rich guys moved onto America and he came through to Australia. There was a bit of a war or something.
“I might spend a week after we get knocked out – hopefully we can go good – and do a bit of background and heritage.”
And despite being in a tough pool, Douglas is confident that with the likes of Keith Galloway, Danny Brough, Michael Robertson, James McManus and Kane Linnett, the Bravehearts can “go good”
“We’ve got a pretty strong draw over there, against Italy who’ve got a pretty good side and also Tonga, who’ve got a good side too,” the Yamba-raised Australian Prime Minister’s XIII rep says.
“We play them and also America. I’m not sure of our squad too much yet. I know Kane Linnett put his hand up. I spoke to (Keith Galloway) and he said if everything goes sweet … he’s just back from injury … he’s going to go … Michael Robertson … James McManus
“This could be my last chance so I thought I’d go and have a go.
“We should be able to give a good show. I think Tonga and Italy are pretty beatable, even though they’ve got good squads. Anything can happen if we can get through that initial pool stage.”
One way or another, Luke Douglas is not going to let a place get him down. His grandfather’s pride will ensure that. And he’s keen that father Chris overcomes his own traumatic fears to make the same trip that ended in tragedy just a year ago.
“I might get over there and get some good memories,” Luke says, “instead of the hospital.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK