BONDI BEAT: September 2016

rlw-september-2016By STEVE MASCORD

BECAUSE next year’s World Cup is in Australia, expect officials to pull out all the stops to have as many NRL stars sprinked across the teams as possible.
The new CEO of the tournament, Andrew Hill, has been working on eligibility rules for years and walking a diplomatic tightrope in his dual roles as RLIF secretary and NRL head of integration.
In one ear, he’s had NSW and Queensland officials stridently refusing to budge on their oft-heard refrain ‘you must be Australian to play Origin’ which translates to “son, if you play for that country we won’t pick you’.
Then there’s the NRL’s own investment in the South Pacific, which would be far more useful if those countries had their best teams on the pitch.
And finally, there’s been his empathy for the objectives of the RLIF and the countries frustrated by the likes of Wayne Bennett barring Anthony Milford from representing Samoa with no reason given.
Now Hill can be a little more unequivocal – and it wills start with new eligibility rules at the end of the year.
Origin players will hopefully be permitted to represent tier two nations without changing their country of election.
(These changes don’t help the likes of, say, Scotland for this year).
And Bondi Beat expects Hill to go door to door, if necessary, to make sure as many of the world’s best players as possible are on show next October and November.
The question is whether a Tongan side full of players born in south Auckland, Penrith and Logan City – to use an example – is a threat to England’s chances.
It probably is.
Full strength Samoa, PNG, Tongan and Fiji teams on hard grounds during an Australasian spring will present Wayne Bennett with plenty of headaches.
One suspects another big part of Hill’s role will be ease the concerns of his colleagues in Fitzrovia and Red Hall.
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LAST month we reported for you how RLWC chief executive Michael Brown was forced to resign after leaving an abusive voicemail for Penrith CEO Corey Payne.
Michael was browned off that Payne – the youngest chief exec in the NRL, only a couple of years out of playing – had claimed Pepper Stadium was snubbed for a World Cup match when in fact they Panthers had demanded half a million dollars to host one.
We thought that was typically rugby league.
But the follow-up is even less likely to happen in any other sport, or indeed field of endeavour.
Payne himself has fallen out with someone or another and is no longer involved in the game! The Panthers issued a media release referring only vaguely to “overseas business interests”.
Maybe he’s buying Salford off Marwan.
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IF there’re two things rugby league fans love to moan about, it’s refereeing and the disciplinary system.
We can have match fixing and chaotic international eligibility rules and Gawd knows what else but if Johnny Appleseed got two weeks when he should have got four, the sky is falling in.
Same goes for that knock-on Warren Whistleblower failed to detect.
Here and Bond Beat Towers we try not to get caught up in such minutae. We really do. But in the last couple of weeks we have seen things get a tad daft.
First, St George Illawarra’s Welshman-cum-New South Welshman Tyson Frizell is suspended for a week for brushing a referee as he walked past.
I’d have no problem with that on its own. We don’t want to go the way of soccer in this area. But the way it is enforced Down Under is woefully inconsistent.
Then, a couple of weeks later, Gold Coast Titan Ryan James breaks the jaw of Wests Tigers starlet James Tedesco. Sure, Tedesco was falling but James still copped a grade two careless high tackle charge.
He chose to challenge, as is his right.
After he is found guilty, he and his counsel take a deep breath and begin to gather up their paper when judiciary member Royce Ayliffe says “you’ve only been found guilty”.
You mean we can still challenge the grading? Yes. And what do you know, James gets downgraded to one and doesn’t miss a match.
You touch a referee as you walk past – one week. You break a star fullback’s jaw – none. I mean, really….
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ONE of the reservations many people have about the 2021 World Cup bid from America is that it does not come from the governing body, the USARL.
But have you thought about how many national governing bodies in our game CAN afford to bid for the World Cup?
Sure, South Africa made play for next year’s tournament but they used an external consultant with soccer experience all the way, Chris Botes, and basically just stood alongside him and nodded.
Even Leagues with the right business acumen in their ranks probably wouldn’t be able to attract the requisite government support
Steve Williams is the communications manager for the USARL. He recently told my Kiwi colleague: “We do not have any affiliation with Jason Moore.
“We weren’t consulted about the actual bid. This was a bid submitted to the international federation.
“We’re happy to partner with anybody who is willing to help promote rugby league in the USA.
“That being said, we are 100 per cent an amateur, volunteer based organisation so if something like this was to come along and let’s say the international federation did embrace it, we would expect them to also provide assistance and a plan to support any type of growth that would be expected.
“You’re talking about a 350 million population so … I’d consider it unfortunate if we weren’t structured properly to funnel (the interest) into development at some level.”
The places where we need to have World Cups – Japan, mainland Europe and North America – do not have viable local leagues who can submit applications.
It’s going to come down to people like Chris Botes and Jason Moore.
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JUST quick note to wish all the best for the departed editor of this esteemed organ, Joe Whitley.
He was only a young lad but I’m sure you’ll agree his flair for design, in particular, was obvious and abundant.
Good luck in your next endeavour, old chap.
@BondiBeat

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD

FAR & WIDE: Eligibility, United States, Philippines, Canada

Far & WideBy STEVE MASCORD

NIGEL Wood, the chief executive of the Rugby Football League and chairman of the Rugby League International Federation, recently held a media briefing and there were were some interesting revelations.
Firstly, Wood says the residency threshold allowing players to represent a country in which they reside is likely to be increased from the current two years. He also pointed to players being able to represent a tier two nation without changing their country of election – which would allow Origin stars to turn out for the Pacific countries.
Secondly, England will play a mid-season international during the NRL representative round next year. Wood says the game could be in Hong Kong or Dubai, but most likely in Britain or Australia.
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THE United States is shaping up for the World Cup strongly, having lapped Jamaica 54-4 in the penultimate game of the Americas Cup in Philadelphia.
The Americans led 20-0 at halftime and were far too strong for their Caribbean rivals in the second session. Jamaica was beaten by Canada in the earlier match.
Junior Vaivai, who we wrote about last week in Far & Wide, posted a try for the Americans.
That means the US and Canada will decide the American Championship when they meet on September 24 in Toronto.
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CANADA are only new to rugby league but they are putting some of the sport’s more established countries to shame.
A Canadian military team recently visited Poland, playing a local selection and holding coaching clinics for kids.
Elsewhere, Ireland semi-finals have been played with Longhorns defeating Athy Sharks 30-16, while the Tribesmen overcame Dublin City Exiles 30-24 in the other game.
In Italy, Spartans Catania will play XIII del Ducato in the grand final of the Italian Serie in Rome, following what has been described as “the most extensive domestic season in Italy’s 60-year rugby league history”.
They teams won their respective zone championships, each of which included four teams playing on a home-and-away basis.
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THE Filipino rugby league has launched a drive to find sponsors for individual players.
They are asking people in established rugby league countries to sponsor players for A$100 per year. With a competition kicking off in October, 80 sponsors are needed. The drive is being led by the league’s vice president, Paul Sheedy, a former Melbourne Storm player
If you can help, hit up the Philippines National Rugby League on Facebook.
@RLWfarandwide

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

Far & Wide: Welcome, Wolfpack

Far & WideBy STEVE MASCORD

IT’s the first Trans-Atlantic sports club in history – welcome to rugby league, the Toronto Wolfpack.

Toronto mayor John Tory was on hand for the gala launch last week of a truly historic venture – a place in England’s National League One next year.

As an expansion franchise, this makes the New Zealand Warriors look like Newtown in comparison.

To put it into perspective, its believed no North American professional sports team has ever played in a promotion and relegations league before, because franchising is the dominant system in the US and Canada.

The Wolfpack, to be coached by ex-Leigh boss Paul Rowley, will play roughly a month of home games at a time and then go on tour for a month in England – just as we have been saying an English team in the NRL would operate.

Players will be drawn initially from England but Rowley will scout all of North America.

World Cup ebay
National League One is still two divisions below Super League so it’s a long haul to the top flight.

But that conference now covers the length and breadth of England, with teams from France, Wales and now Canada.

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SEMI Radradra aside, confusion of eligibility continues to rule during the lead-up to the NRL representative weekend.

The Queensland Rugby League tried to tell people Anthony Milford was tied to Australia even though he’d not yet played for them at senior level!

Meanwhile, David Mead was – correctly – chosen by Papua New Guinea despite playing NSW Country less than 12 months before.

Queensland and NSW are provinces and in the eyes of the RLIF have no more impact on a player’s national eligibility than Group 16 would tie a player to Australia.

You are not tied to a country until you represent it at senior level during a World Cup cycle.

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THE announcement of the Four Nations dates and venues happened between the last column being written and the mag coming out.

October 28: Australia v Scotland at Craven Park; October 29: England v New Zealand at John Smith’s Stadium; November 5: England v Scotland and New Zealand v Australia at Ricoh Arena, Coventry; November 11: New Zealand v Scotland at Derwent Park, Workington; November 13: England v Australia at Olympic Stadium, London; November 20: FINAL at Anfield, Liverpool.

Filed for RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

DISCORD 2013: Edition 19

DiscordBy STEVE MASCORD

DON’T be surprised to see a host of players switch allegiances away from Australia after the State of Origin series – and then switch right back in time for next year’s interstate encounters.

Discord hears the Tonga-Samoa game struck quite a chord with many players of island heritage last month. They all know the rules – they can apply to change their country of election once in a World Cup cycle.

Most – Feleti Mateo aside – haven’t done that, as defined under the rules, since 2008.

From the incumbent NSW side, Jarryd Hayne (Fiji), Michael Jennings (Tonga) and maybe Tony Williams (Tonga) could all be playing against the green and golds in Europe.

From the incumbent Queensland side, Ben Teo could change back to Samoa – although the exact date of his most recent switch would need to be checked. Petero Civoniceva will also be captaining Fiji.

Had Lebanon not missed out on the World Cup on a count-back in the qualifiers, the Cedars could have called on Tim Mannah and Robbie Farah.

Now, you might ask “if they played for someone else in the last World Cup, and have played for Australia since, how can they switch again?

Good question. I had to make a calls to Tas Baitieri and Andrew Hill to check on this. Firstly, after each World Cup, there is a clean slate. You don’t have to change your country of election. There is also mandatory stand-down period of two years that works in conjunction with being permitted to change your country of election once in every World Cup cycle.

So if effectively, if you swapped countries more than two years ago, you can switch back. This could have an interesting impact on Aquila Uate. His first Test for Australia was in October, 2011.

He played for Fiji in 2009 and then switched to Australia. Effectively, he is not allowed to represent Fiji for two years after first appearing for Australia. It’s possible he could get a clearance to play for the Bati at the World Cup by a matter of days, if he missed out on Tim Sheens’s squad.

Mateo, however, changed his country of election in the last year or so; he can’t play for Tonga.

Below the level of Origin players, there is an absolute slew of players ready to change their country of election. Most teams will be full of Super League and NRL stars.

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CONGRATULATIONS to the Western Cape Rugby League in South Africa, which has gained formal recognition from its local sports council.

The South African government does not recognised rugby league as a separate sport to rugby union.

Given this rather major handicap, many people expect the country’s bid to host the 2017 World Cup to prove futile.

But if the public has the same attitude as the government and can’t tell the rugby codes apart, Discord reckons it would be a raging success!

Meanwhile, here’s a story about the launch of our great game in Dubai!  And journalist Robert Burgin is launching rugby league in Brazil. Find him on Facebook if you are interested in helping.

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A few issues you might have expected to read about in Discord this week:

1) ASADA. I had a look at League HQ and there was plenty of reading on that topic for you already;
2) David Morrow. What can you say? He made a mistake but David is not at all a hateful person in my experience;
3) Andrew Johns. Not a football story and how can any meaningful comment be made without knowing what actually happened?
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COMMENTS time and I’ve got to say I’m happily surprised at the response the Monday Set Of Six column has been getting

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BONDI BEAT: May 2013

Rugby League World May 2013By STEVE MASCORD

IT’S a simple question which could do with answering: if a player represents New South Wales or Queensland this year but misses out on the Australian team, can he represent another country at the World Cup?

The absence of qualifiers for all but two countries involved in RLWC13 has allowed a large body of NRL stars to hedge their bets.

When Reece Robinson, a lightning quick Canberra winger or fullback who has represented the Australian Indigenous side and Lebanon, was asked after a recent game who he was eligible for, he responded: “Whoever picks me”.

So we called the NRL and put the question to them. Here’s what they said.

“You can change your eligibility once in a two year period,” a spokesman told Bondi Beat. “So if Willie Mason plays for NSW but missed out on the Australian side, he can switch to Tonga.

“But Feleti Mateo cannot switch back to Tonga because he changed his eligibility to Australian last year.”

Of course, in 2008 – the year of the previous World Cup – Mateo was given special dispensation to represent City against Country and still turn out for the Tongans.

And how about this one: Anthony Minichiello represented NSW in 2011, helped Italy qualify for the World Cup later that year, and was considered by the Blues again in 2012!

At the risk of sounding like a standup comic…. what’s up with that?

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YOU might think you’ve caught up with us by banning the shoulder charge. You might even be considering two referees and a video ref at every game.

But this year the NRL is determined to go to further extravagant lengths to make sure it remains rugby league’s formula one to everyone else’s hillside gokart racing.

And guess what they’ve introduced to stay ahead of you? TWO video refs! Yes, that’s right, former St Helens coach Daniel Anderson has used his company credit card to purchase eight plastic extra plastic seats to be used in a cramped box each weekend.

And he is filling the seats with men you might regard as familiar: ex-Hull KR coach Justin Morgan and former Salford fullback Luke Patten are among the ex-players who have been recruited.

The problem is that in the big area where they can help most – the obstruction rule – they are somewhat hamstrung.

The interpretation this year in the NRL is that if any decoy runner initiates contact with a defender the ensuing try is disallowed.

This reached a ridiculous stage in round three, when Cooper Cronk scored 14.2 metres away from the collision, which had no influence on the try, and it was still chalked up.

On that night, there was no ex-player in the box. One suspects if there had been, Patten or Morgan would have grabbed their companion by the scruff of the NRL polo and shouted “THAT’S A TRY GODAMN IT!”

And they would have been ignored. Which raises the question of why ex-players were put there in the first place.”

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LAST month, we brought you news of a suggestion from the Melbourne Storm football manager, Frank Ponissi, that a fully-fledged NRL game be played in England the week after the World Club Challenge.

Bondi Beat is hearing that this may not be as far-fetched as it seems.

Before the WCC is used to promote rugby league in complete new areas, like Dubai and Hong Kong, wouldn’t it be good if it became a tool to give our game a kick-along in areas where it is needed?

Say, a one-off in Perth next year and then the second and third-placed NRL teams squaring off in exhibition games in Europe as part of their WCC tour in 2015?

Watch this space.

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THE world of radio coverage in the NRL this year is very confusing indeed.

There’s a third big player in the market, the FM rock network Triple M. They rights were unresolved a matter of days before the competition started, with traditional Brisbane AM broadcaster 4BC cutting their ties with Sydney’s 2GB (home of Ray Hadley) as part of a hard-ball bargaining tactic.

It backfired when 4BC missed out on the rights and now have no rugby league.

Triple M got Brisbane Broncos games as a result – but on weekends where they would have got the Broncos anyway, they get an extra game, usually on a Saturday night.

Are you following all this?

So, on Friday nights where there are two games, 2GB and ABC broadcast games only into the market where they are being shown live on TV.

If that market is Brisbane, Triple M also have the rights.

On Saturdays, ABC and 2GB cover two games. On Sunday, ABC does two or three games while Triple M gets the game that kicks off at 3pm Sydney time and 2GB gets the one that’s on at two.

Mondays are now covered by Triple M and ABC. All that doesn’t include local deals that affect Townsville, Canberra, the Gold Coast, Newcastle and Wollongong.

And to further confuse things, Fox Sports are now sharing on air talent with terrestrial broadcaster Nine, meaning the likes of Peter Sterling appear on both channels.

That led to the demise – under new Fox producer Gary Burns – of the likes of former New Zealand captain Gary Freeman while commentator Mark Braybrook has been demoted to the Under 20s Holden Cup.

HE’S been lost in all the Burgess-mania but young Daniel Smith – a former Leeds Academy forward – is making a big impression in South Sydney’s Under 20s team.

Smith made the big move at the start of the year and is proof that the player drain from England will suck up younger and younger players if the exchange rate stays the way it is.

Meanwhile, news that Gold Coast were sniffing around Sam Tomkins recently would have dismayed one person above all.

Matty Russell joined the Titans because Tomkins was ahead of him at Wigan.

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AFTER flurry of publicity, news on the Auckland Nines which allegedly will kick off next season has gone all quiet.

The main attraction of the idea, of course, was cash. Former Kiwis back rower Dean Lonergan was involved in a consortium willing to put up A$2.2 million for the tournament, which was pencilled in for Eden Park involving every NRL club.

Interestingly, Cronulla was one of the clubs to vote against the idea. Because they don’t have a chief executive, only a football manager, their vote was on behalf of their football department only!

I don’t know many NRL coaches who would choose to take part in a pre-season Nines tournament. I don’t know many clubs who would choose not to earn almost as much in a weekend as you get for winning the premiership.

Bondi Beat believes we, as a sport, should get something out of the Nines except cash. That’s why we want it to include – not clubs, but – the north and south islands of New Zealand and every Australian state and territory.

What a great marketing tool for our game on the eve of the new season than to have the likes of Ben Barba playing for the Northern Territory, Timana Tahu for Victoria, Joel Reddy for South Australia and Bronx Goodwin for Western Australia on the even of the new season?

And the presence of Mal Meninga and Laurie Daley in Auckland with their NSW and Queensland squads would still give the even the glamour factor.

Plus… a team of Tasmanian amateurs playing NSW in a game that’s 15 minutes a half? That’s more in keeping with the spirit of sevens and nines than Canterbury playing Wests Tigers, isn’t it?

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD

Matai Is International Man Of Mystery

Manly - Steve MataiBy STEVE MASCORD

THE World Cup eligibility of Manly centre Steve Matai remains a mystery after he failed to apply for dispensation to play for Samoa this Saturday.

Matai was touted as one of the NRL stars who was about to change allegiance and represent Steve Price’s Samoans against Tonga in the mid-season international at Centrebet Stadium.

But the Rugby League International Federation’s Tas Baitieri said the application never arrived. “There was a lot of paper talk but we didn’t hear from him,” said Baitieri.

Nine players succeeded in changing their country of election before the teams were picked. Brent Kite and Anthony Tupou moved from Australia to Tonga, FuiFui MoiMoi and Sika Manu from New Zealand to Tonga, while Jeff Lima, David Fa’alogo, Roy Asotasi, Junior Sau and Eddy Pettybourne move from New Zealand to Samoa.

The application of North Queensland winger Kalifa FaiFai Loa to move from New Zealand to Samoa was still being considered at the time RLW went to press.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

TRAVELS: X

TravelsBy STEVE MASCORD

FOR all the – extremely justified – claims that the British game takes international competition more seriously than rugby league in Australia does, we have something this weekend that you don’t.

It’s a weekend with no club football at all, with a focus on representative games.

This is something that many of us lobbied for, for many years. When it was first introduced, last year, it looked for a while like it would only last one season.

But the entire, then-new, ARL Commission went to Eden Park for the trans-Tasman Test and then chairman John Grant backed up for City-Country at Mudgee in rural NSW on the Sunday.

I certainly wouldn’t be cancelling something that got me my first overseas trip in a new job, would you?

There was a major step forward, if you support the international development of the game, this year when satellite (in Oz they use a mixture of satellite and cable for pay Tv, actually) broadcaster Fox asked for a game to add to the under 20s State of Origin game they showed last year.

What they wanted, and have got, is a full international between Tonga and Samoa. The plan is for two other island countries to compete next year. The ARLC is underwriting the fixture to the tune of A$200,000.

For those of us who have thought the Australian authorities could have done more in the past to help the development of the game in the Pacific, this is a wonderful leap forward.

But to my way of thinking, there is a logical conclusion to this evolution. We need to pause club rugby league worldwide and play a full round of internationals, as soccer does.

I know some players may not arrive until two or three days before their games and won’t be back at their clubs until the middle of the following week – but it’s a great opportunity for the RLIF to start generating some real income from Tv rights.

Which begs the question: is the RLIF getting a levy for the rights paid by television companies for Australia-New Zealand and Tonga-Samoa? I certainly hope so.

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MY copy of Rugby League World arrived in the post yesterday. In it, I posed to Australian authorities the question: if someone plays Origin this year but misses the Australian World Cup team, can they turn out for another country in the World Cup?

The answer is yes: if they have not changed countries once already since the previous World Cup. That rules out Feleti Mateo, who has never represented any country other than Tonga but must watch this weekend while a Tongan team full of those who have represented Australia and New Zealand takes the field at Penrith.

Anthony Minichiello seems to be the wildcard here. He represented New South Wales and Italy in 2011 and was considered by New South Wales again last year.

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IT’S been a terrible week for the game, with Jake Kedzlie, the grandson of Australia halfback Tom Raudonikis, dying after being struck in the side of the head in a junior match.

And then yesterday, we lost the recently retired Queensland Rugby League managing director Ross Livemore.

Ross was one of those administrators with an eye for a bit of show business and an appreciation for colourful publicity. We did not always agree but I found him unstintingly helpful and entertaining.

He’ll be sorely missed.

I ran into Tom Raudonkis leaving the League Central museum before Sunday’s big Heritage Round match next door at the SCG.

After offering my condolences, he said: “It’s good to have good friends”. Times like these, we need them.

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THANKS to those who defended my honour last time around when someone had a go at me for being a meddling Aussie.

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