World Cup: UNITED STATES 24 WALES 16 at Racecourse Ground, Wrexham

By STEVE MASCORD
AFTER securing a quarter-final tie against Australia, United States officials revealed that World Cup organisers had booked them on flights home before the pool stage of the tournament is even completed.
The Tomahawks further enhanced their reputations a the biggest stories of the Cup by downing woeful Wales 24-16 at Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground on Sunday; it was 24-4 with 10 minutes to go.
In doing so, the Americans assured themselves of a November 16 appointment with Tim Sheens’ green and golds at the same venue, which had been locked in in the expectation of Wales progressing.
“Under tournament rules, you are supposed to fly out two days after you are eliminated,” Tomahawks team manager Steve Johnson told Fairfax Media.
“Well, we were booked to leave on November 9 – two days before the last pool game when we could always have still been alive.
“It shows how little was expected of us. We ain’t going nowhere now.”
They may be part timers to no-timers – possible Wests Tigers recruit Les Solaia has merely trained once with a rugby union team in Portland, Oregon, this year – but it didn’t take long for the Tomahawks to adopt a decidedly NRL approach to their first game against Australia since the now-legendary 2004 clash in Philadelphia.
Players were instructed to talk only about this week’s final pool match against Scotland,
But former Parramatta and Gold Coast winger Matt Petersen, a tryscorer on Sunday, says each game so far on the campagn has beaten every previous match in a 216-game NRL career and with the quarter’ Australia, his likely final game will now be his most memorable.
“It was definitely one if the highlights of my career (in 2004),” said Petersen, the only survivor from the game a decade ago which rhe US led 24-6 at halftime before losing 36-24
“We’ve got to play Scotland first but it’s a highlight (to do it again). When we played France and we won, to be honest that’s been the highlight of my career, of 10 years of NRL.
“Then we beat Cook Islands. The we came up here and beat Wales. There were 50 people in the crowd with (US) flags and 8000 Welsh people – definitely the hightlight of my career.
“To be still involved after 10 years is massive. When I came away, I had four weeks left in me and I knew it.”
The Welsh did manage to score first, through centre centre Christian Roets, and his brace comprised probably the tries of the match.
But Iestyn Harris’ side was mostly pedestrian in attack.
Tomahawks captain Clint Newton crashed over to tie the scores in the 22nd minute. The try of Petersen, who played bush football to keep himself fit for the tounament, seven minutes before the break gave the Americans a halftime lead.
When man of the match Joseph Paulo waltzed through retreating defence 14 minutes into the second half, the writing was on the wall.
Paulo finally managed a conversion when Tui Samoa barged over from dummy half just short of the hour and Penrith’s Newton tossed the ball in the air after posting his second soon afterwards.
RLWC officials began contemplating the size of next Sunday’s crowd in Neath for Wales’ final pool game at this point, while restless members of the crowd began contemplating the jeering of their own team.
This, at least, was averted by late scores by Roets and Anthony Walker, which were greeted enthusiastically.
Harris earned himself a rebuke from the Tomahawks when he said afterwards: “Come World Cup time, they come from all over the world. There’s one USA man in the whole squad”.
The AMNRL posted online: “Just to correct uninformed comments by Wales coach Iestyn Harris about the USA team. We had ten USA nationals and residents on field today” and Petersen commented on Facebook: “You can’t help sore losers”
Harris – whose comment would have been more or less accurate if he was referencing players with American accents – continued: “When we sit down to look at that game, we’ll see 25, 30 opportunities to score points. That’s very frustrating.
“It’s a bad result, yeah.”
Harris seemed keen on keep the players on the straight and narrow for the remainder of the tournament wit nothing to play for.
“What you’ve got to show over the next seven days is your professionalism,” he said. “When players look back on this World Cup campaign … they’ll see how they conducted themselves over the seven days.”
UNITED STATES 24 (Clint Newton 2, Matt Petersen, Joseph Paulo, Tui Samoa tries; Paulo 2 goals) beat WALES 16 (Christian Roets 2, Antony Walker tries; Lloyd White 2 goals) at Racecourse Ground, Wrexham. Referee: Ben Cummins (Australia). Crowd: 8019.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

Sliding Doors, Consumed Chickens – The Story Of The Burgess Brothers

Burgess BrothersBy STEVE MASCORD

SOMETIME soon, maybe next year, Sam, Luke, Tom and George Burgess will become the first set of four brothers to play together in a premiership match since 1910.

And the tale of how it came to pass will go back much further than you think, to late June 2004.

Chris Caisley, then the chairman of Super League club Bradford, sits down with former Great Britain five-eighth Iestyn Harris and agrees to bring him back to rugby league from Welsh rugby union for an estimated one million pounds over four seasons. “I am delighted that we have been able to recruit a player of Iestyn’s calibre and standing,” Caisley says in a statement dated July 2.

Harris says he is returning to the north of England for family reasons. Neither he nor Caisley makes any reference tp the fact that Leeds claim an option on Harris’ services should he return to rugby league.

The decision to sign Harris, according to the club’s later administration but not according to Caisley, would drive the Bulls to the brink of permanent closure.

And it would send a boy who was just 12 years old when it happened on a journey that began on the set of a Hollywood motion picture and ended in Sydney. His name is Sam Burgess and before long his brothers Luke, George and Tom and mother Julie would join him on the other side of the world.

But if “I Harris” had not been scrawled on that contract nine years ago, it’s possible members of Sydney’s most famous English family would still be going about their lives in west Yorkshire, as they were at the time.

Over the four years from 2004, Leeds pursued legal action against Harris for not honouring his obligation to rejoin them and Bradford for inducing him to breach his contract. Caisley stepped down from running the Bulls – the most successful team of Super League’s first 10 years – in 2006.

According to the next chairman, Peter Hood, the six figure payout to Leeds seriously gored the Bulls. Caisley denies this – but it did leave the club in serious need of cash.

So when Souths came knocking in late 2009 with an offer to pay a transfer fee for Sam Burgess – by then, 21 – they weren’t in a position to turn them away.

“I was friends with Chris Caisley from my time in Super League, when he was running Bradford and I was at Hull,” Souths CEO Shane Richardson explains.

“He’s the one who brought Sam to my attention. I watched him play, I could see that he was something special.

“Steve Menzies was at Bradford at the time and he had been speaking to Sam about going to Manly. He was about to go there.

“At the time, Russell (Crowe) was over in the UK on a movie set. I told him ‘we’ve got to move on this kid’. He watched him in a couple of matches on television and agreed with me.

“I got Sam’s phone number, Russell called him up and they took him and his mum down to the movie set for a chat.

“Bradford wanted a transfer fee. Yes, I knew they were in financial trouble and needed the money. Transfer fees are not covered by the NRL salary cap so we paid it and Sam became a South Sydney player.”

At the time, the idea that all four Burgesses would end up at Souths was fanciful indeed – although Sam had certainly raised it with the club. Luke, who played for Harlequins, Doncaster and Leeds, was not setting the world on fire at the Rhinos.

“There was an opportunity there because he was out of the first team at Leeds and we had some injuries,” Richardson recalls.

“He came out here, got a chance because of another injury, and ended up playing 18 games for us. It worked out well.”

But snaring George, who’s this year’s Burgess flavour of the month, and Tom was another thing altogether. George, who wasn’t even a Super League player when he joined the red and greens, was always keen to try his luck in Australia.

His twin brother Tom, however, took some convincing before linking up with the Bunnies this year. He played 46 first-team games with Bradford.

The question is, are the Burgesses all at Souths on merit? Coach Michael Maguire says they are.

“I first met Sam overseas, before I came back from Wigan,” he says. “I had heard about him but not met him and I was very impressed with him.

“Now, George, when I first met him he was a giant. You look at him now and the way he’s getting around the field and there’s no comparison with what he was like then.

“That’s a result of the small things people don’t see. They are here to play rugby league and they work hard.

“I don’t necessarily treat them as brothers around the place. I treat them like any other members of staff, although there are positives to having brothers in the club.”

The Burgesses aren’t on a media ban, as such, but there is a Souths strategy at work aimed at minimising their profile. When you look at the size of them, that’s no mean feat.

Sam fronts up at all in media opportunities, Luke is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury, George says very little and Tom is being discouraged from doing interviews until he makes first grade.

The last time four brothers played first grade together was 103 years ago, when Ray, Roy, Rex and Bernard Norman played for Annandale. It’s fair to say they may have all just shown up to training together one Tuesday night, rather than been put through the rigorous filtering system employed by pro clubs these days.

“Family is one of the four pillars of this club,” says Richardson. “The others are passion, uniqueness and innovation.

“Having four brothers at this club really makes it like a family. It shows people how we feel about family.

“And now their mother is here too, working around the club.”

Sitting in the background is Caisley. He recently attempted to wrest back control of the Bulls as they floundered under enormous financial pressure before a new owner was found.

Now concentrating on his legal business, Caisley has recently found himself writing to the local paper to defend his reputation against the suggestion his Harris deal ruined what was once a model Super League franchise.

But his role in the Burgesses’ success is a source of pride.

“He isn’t a manager, he is a mentor to the boys – they trust him with their lives,” says Richardson. “It’s similar to the way Russell feels – not like a father but almost like a father.

“I know Chris is proud of what the boys have achieved and I know they are grateful for how he has helped them achieve it.”

When it finally happens and Sam, Luke, George and Tom Burgess run out together in the cardinal and myrtle, it’s to be hoped Caisley gets enough notice to be there. Regardless of how the history of the Bradford Bulls is written, his impact on a family that lost a father and husband to motor neuron disease a decade ago has been profoundly positive.

As for the rest of us, don’t be surprised if Maguire springs the historic moment on the wider world an hour before kick off, to save the boys from a media circus.

The coach laughs. “That’s a fair chance,” he says.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK