BONDI BEAT: October 2015 – Disneyland, Globalisation & Jarryd Hayne

September 2015By STEVE MASCORD

ONE day, the Jarryd Hayne story will be held up as one of the great sagas of Pacific Immigration, a touchstone for all Melanesian people.

Manoa Thompson, the father of the San Francisco 49ers recruit who you cannot escape hearing about every day (no matter how hard you try) in Australia, was born in Fiji.

In a recent interview, the former Warrington centre recalled how he raised in idyllic conditions, playing barefoot on rough fields without a care in the world.

‘But I had an auntie in Sydney who couldn’t have kids – so my parents sent me here when I was 11,” Thompson told Rugby League Week magazine.

“I lived with my auntie as her son and she eventually adopted me.

“Luckily I played a little footy while I was in Fiji and got straight into it when I arrived, which helped me make friends and adapt.”

You can already see the sprawling movie shots of rough Fijian jungle and the poor south-western suburbs of Sydney, of broken noses and cold nights at training before Manoa had a child when he was barely a man himself.

“Looking back, I wasn’t as professional as I should have been,” Manoa, who made his name at South Sydney, continued.

“I cut corners and didn’t look after my injuries well enough. I didn’t push myself to the max at training. I didn’t enjoy it.

“Those are the lessons I learned and I can’t change the mistakes I made in my career but I tried to pass on those lessons to my son Jarryd when he was young and I think he got the message.”

Thompson played for the Auckland Warriors on their momentous opening night against Brisbane in 1995, before – in his words – being “shipped off” for an ill-fated stint with Warrington. He finished in reserve grade with Penrith and had two stints in France, one with Carcassonne.

Meanwhile, young Jarryd was growing up in Minto, south-western Sydney, mostly without his semi-famous dad.

“I was only 20 when he was born and it was hard – I was playing at Souths and working and he was living with his mum,” said Thompson.

“I didn’t get to see as much of him as I would have liked but we have become very close over the years.”

Jarryd’s journey has obviously already eclipsed even the colourful adventures of his dad. From smashing Darren Lockyer while played for Fiji (Thompson also played for the Bati, against the 1996 Lions) to being shot at in Kings Cross, it’s going to make a helluva second half for that movie.

donate2In trying to figure out what it means, the migration from Fiji to Australia and onto the US over the course of two generations can be seen as a metaphor for the changing face – and increasing globalisation – of professional sports.

Or, as always, it’s the other way around. Sport is a metaphor for life, and for the trends in wider society.

A generation ago, a young Fijian played rugby union for nothing and grew old in Fiji. Manoa Thompson had the opportunity to move to Australia at a time when most islanders didn’t migrate further than Auckland.

Jarryd, in turn, saw an opportunity that his father could never have dreamed of, and took it – in much the same way kids in all walks of life are doing just that now. It might just mean being the first person in the family to study at university or live overseas.

Or it might mean earning millions of dollars as an NFL star.

With each passing year, our horizons in the west get broader and geographical boundaries come down (as these from war-torn and poverty-stricken countries aspire in greater numbers than ever to emulate us, and risk their lives to do so).

Enough of the philosophy, right? What does I mean for rugby league?

The only reason our rugby league players live in Widnes and Campbelltown and Mount Eden and settle for whatever money we pay them is because their skills are not transferable. Rugby league is a specific game with specific attributes and specific historical, geographic boundaries.

In this way, rugby league exists within its own false economy. Regardless of how commercially successful or otherwise the sport is in its various cities and towns, it does not have to pay players the same as a soccer club or a rugby union governing body or … an NFL teams.

That’s because the vast majority of rugby league’s workforce does not have to the option of playing those sports.

But Hayne, Sonny Bill Williams, Sam Burgess and Brad Thorn do not want to be restricted by this quasi-monopoly. They have worked hard at adjusting their skills so they may enter the more lucrative, wider labour market for athletes.

advertise hereThey are breaking down barriers for those who will follow.

When assessing the impact of this trend on rugby league, we need to look at it from the point of view of athletes and from the point of view of fans and the general popularity of the game.

From a playing point of view, it is fair to say more players will look to follow in the footsteps of those above and adapt their skill sets in order to earn more money.

This is where the parallels with economic migration are apt. Economic migrants moving from countries like Fiji to somewhere like Australia will do more menial jobs in the hopes of working their way up the food chain.

Jarryd Hayne was willing to walk out on a sport in which, it could have been argued, he was best in the world – forgoing guaranteed financial rewards – to climb up the sporting food chain. Broadly speaking, over the course of the last 50 years, social and economic boundaries have been coming down for a large chunk of humanity; Thompson and Hayne how quicky this process has accelerated.

But if we accept the NFL is above rugby league in the food chain, what does that mean for our game?

I would submit that depends very much on the vision and courage of our administrators.

Let’s imagine the global popular culture is like the global, homogenised English that everyone speaks now. Local dialects and slang, you may have noticed, are disappearing. When I first traveled abroad in 1990, there were many things I said that locals did not understand, and vice versa.

Now … not so much.

amazonLet’s say 45 per cent of this global English comes from the UK and 40 per cent from the US, with the rest contributed by Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc. “No worries” is one of Australia’s very few contributions to global English.

Now let’s imagine pop culture the same way, with the US contributing 65 per cent, say, and the rest of the world throwing in the rest. Global is all that matters, since local customs and tastes are being eroded by technology at an alarming rate

I beleve rugby league can buy itself a seat at a giant room full of seats and tables if it tries. As a curiousity, perhaps. As a niche sport for people who sit up all night and watch whatever is only Channel 57. As global sport’s answer to “no worries”.

But that’s a small piece of a gargantuan pie, a piece that would propel the sport far beyond where it is now.

Put another way, the river channels that flow into the soup of the world sports market are much wider from Los Angeles, London and New York than they are from Wigan and Brisbane. And the flow goes both ways – so the force of what’s coming from those cultural hubs pushes back into our tiny ponds.

If we don’t stop fighting amongst ourselves, putting club football ahead of internationals and sticking our hands out for as much TV money we can get from the governing body, instead of allowing them to pump our product back, we will eventually be swamped by globalisation.

We have to make sure we focus on that central reservoir and accept that soon there will be nothing truly local – even the sport we once used to define where we are from. That’s if we don’t want more kids from Fiji who merely see Parramatta as a step along the road to San Francisco.

The mythology of the US, of Twickenham, of the All Black jersey … they are as powerful as the cash one can earn by chasing them

As Jarryd Hayne’s dad said in the interview: “His little brother Julian cried when Jarryd said he was going to the USA.

“But then I said to him ‘Don’t worry – we will go and watch him play and go to go to Disneyland too.

“And then he was OK.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD

FAR & WIDE: October 2014

Far & WideBy STEVE MASCORD
JACKSONVILLE Axemen owner Daryl “Spinner” Howland says a successful move to the NFL by Jarryd Hayne could be a massive boost for rugby league in the States.

While there’s been plenty of hand-wringing within the game over the departure of a current co-Dally M holder, Howland says such an attitude is “crazy”.

“At the start of this year 49 per cent of Americans said they were fans of the NFL,” Spinner tells Far & Wide. “That is about 150 million people. If only one per cent of them become aware of the NRL or rugby league that is positive.

“If rugby league messes this up for the fear of losing a player, they are nuts. The NRL should be all over this and supporting Jarryd Hayne anyway that creates media attention towards them.

“Just one per cent is all they need to interest. That is 1.5 million potential new fans, and it will cost them nothing more than some effort in joining some media and PR dots.”

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ONE fellow who caught the eye at the recent Mitchelton Nines was Latin Heat back rower Ken McKenzie.

Born in Guyana, the big man was light on his feet, ferocious in defence and highly skilful. He’s a prison guard in one of Queensland’s toughest institutions and owns a massage business that has stopped him realising his potential until now.

Even some of his team-mates weren’t sure where Guyana is; it’s above Brazil, on the Caribbean.

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IT’S not just the Four Nations kicking off this weekend.

The European Cup continues with Ireland hosting Scotland in Dublin while France take on Wales in Albi.

In recent results, Greece beat the Czech Republic 68-16 in Athens, Thailand downed Norway 46-6 in Bangkok and Nuie outclassed Philippines 36-22.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

BONDI BEAT: December 2014

December 2014BBy STEVE MASCORD
IT’S not overstating things that there has been something of a paradigm shift in out game as a result of the recently-completed Four Nations.

I have a favourite saying about the warring factions within our game: the parochial populists and the outward-looking anoraks: if the meek are to inherit the earth, then the geeks will get rugby league.

And with Jarryd Hayne, Sonny Bill Williams and Sam Burgess walking out on us all at the same time, the non-geeks are finally starting to get it. Fencing ourselves off and resigning ourselves to always being a regional sport just isn’t an option.

It never has been, but they couldn’t see that.

It works like this: the NFL and Major League Baseball and European soccer bring their teams to our doorsteps and try to make money from us. The money we usually give them would otherwise have gone to sports that were locally traditional, like rugby league.

As globalisation steps up a gear and networked media becomes the norm. those traditional local sports will either continue to lose bigger slices of their market share, or they can go into the markets of other sports and steal something back.

There will eventually be no local sports, local music or local arts. There will just be sport, music and art. The very real long-term choice rugby league has is to be a sport, or be nothing.

That rugby union international between the United States and New Zealand recently was astonishing: 65,000 people watching something that has no history in that society was a watershed moment, up there with the NFL at Wembley.

Sonny Bill Williams went straight from our loving embraced to playing before 140,000 on successive weekends in Chicago and London. Wow.

The ignoramuses can no longer deny that expansion is essential for our game’s survival, and that international competition provides us with the best vehicle to carry us down that road.

Now. Plenty of people commenting on rugby league in Australia and New Zealand are general sports followers rather than devotees of our game. Normally, they should be summarily ignored in talking about our battles with other sports, because it’s a war in which they have invested nothing.

But even some of these cynics are finally admitting that the club season is too long, that international football has enormous potential and that – God forbid – Australia should actually be playing next year.

We have Samoa to thank for this breakthrough. We have been searching for a credible fourth nation for a generation. Eligibility laws should naturally accommodate Samoa as a result, allowing State of Origin players to represent them.

That’s the plan: for Origin players to be free to represent tier two countries, but not New Zealand or England.

Secondly, the Four Nations was on the way out with one – at most – planned between 2017 and 2021. We may have to rethink that now. And what happens when the invited country finishes above one of the big three – and we kick them out of the next Four Nations anyway?

Thirdly, it would seem we don’t need big stars to successfully promote an international series any longer. Australia were missing 12 World Cup stars and still attract great crowds in Brisbane, Melbourne and Wollongong.

The Geek Revolution has begun.

THIS column is called Bondi Beat, which means it is supposed to be about Australian rugby league. From time to time we write about how British rugby league looks from Bondi (like, you really have to squint to see it).

Taking those parameters into account, writing about England’s Four Nations campaign may seem a bit of a stretch. For a start, the closest game to Bondi was in Wollongong, which for the hipsters around the seaside suburb may as well be Sierra Leone.

But what the heck. We’re going to make some observations anyway.

England were probably the best team to watch in the tournament, just edging Samoa. They played with daring and skill and speed and seemed to create overlaps on the fringes of opposition defences with ease.

They have solved their problems in the halves. Matty Smith and Gareth Widdop are an accomplished pairing. Kallum Watkins is all class, Josh Charnley and Ryan Hall were outstanding and the Burgess boys plus Jason Graham make for a ferocious pack.

Daryl Clark enhanced his reputation.

They lost for the same reasons all emerging teams at any level do so. You have to pay your dues to rugby league karma. Good, emerging teams, always hit a “luck wall”. If they stick at what they’re doing, they burst through the other side.

With Josh Hodgson in mind, maybe we should call it a “luck door”.

I’ve thought long and hard about Steve McNamara’s claims to keep his post. I’ve come to this conclusion: they had want to have someone very good lined up as a replacement if they are going to punt him.

I didn’t agree with much of what he did from a PR point of view at the World Cup but there is ample evidence his team is building up to something very worthwhile on the pitch.

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SO just who is Mike Miller, the American rugby union official who turned down our top job – the CEO of the Rugby League International Federation?

Before he was at the IRB, Miller was head of sport at the BBC. That did not go well – complaints against him from his own staff were leaked to the Mirror.

In rugby union he seemed to do well. He got the sport back into the Olympics, expanded the Sevens, boosted the women’s game and introduced a strategic investments programme.

The World Olympians Association, where he is now CEO, seems a rather cushy job. The man who had the casting vote in offering the job to him was an outside consultant, with Australia’s David Smith and the RFL’s Nigel Wood deadlocked on the issue.

To say it was a blow to Wood that Miller took his time responding, and then declined, is a gross understatement.

Members of the appointments committee were so busy with their own backyards during the interview process that they repeatedly broke appointments.

So when they finally got around to offering Miller the job, he took his time in responding. And presumably, he was not overly impressed with what he was being asked to get involved in.

But the committee doesn’t seem to have its act together since, either. You would have thought they would have gone to the second best candidate, offered it to him, and got on with things. If that did happen, then things have since ground to a halt again.

Rugby league is not a member of Sports Accord and it does not have tax exempt status. Given that it doesn’t even have a CEO, you could argue it doesn’t deserve either.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD

THE JOY OF SIX: International season week two 2014

The Joy Of SixBy STEVE MASCORD

PLAY LEAGUE, SEE THE WORLD

TOP players would be hired as ambassadors and sent to promote the game around the world as part of one proposal if the new Rugby League International Federation office is based in Sydney. In a move which could address the loss of stars to rival codes, the scheme would provide legitimate additional earnings for elite players and also match the opportunities for travel offered by other sports, Set Of Six has learned. The scheme would be financed by assembling a portfolio of current NRL sponsors who are headquartered overseas and interested in broadening their involvement in the code. But at the moment it seems likely the RLIF will be based on the northern hemisphere and minimise its engagement with the NRL and NRL players, with its first fulltime CEO to have had no history in the game. In that case, the ambassador scheme would not get past first base.

HAKA HULLABALOO

THANKS to the Junior Kangaroos and Junior Kiwis for reminding us all about one of the perennial yarns of the Four Nations and Tri-Nations – the haka. Remember Willie Mason and David Kidwell? The young Aussies linked arms and advanced on the haka at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday before the junior international, actually touching heads in some cases – pretty remarkable scenes. Some of the forehead-lunges may have brought a penalty or worse after kick-off and the match officials got between the players as things got testy. Could we see Tim Sheens’ men do something similar at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday? And we are already salivating at the prospect of pre-match formalities when the Kiwis take on the Samoans at Whangerei.

NO MORE AWARD DRAMA

donate2ORGANISERS of the RLIF player of the year award have sidestepped the controversy surrounding Ben Hunt and Daly Cherry Evans at the Dally Ms by doing away with positional award voting. Manly’s Cherry-Evans made the Dally M NRL team of the year at halfback even though Brisbane’s Hunt polled more votes. The RLIF Award will be presented at a Brisbane luncheon on Thursday. Instead of judges being asked to vote for players in each position, they were simply given a shortlist and asked to provide a three-two-one on their top three candidates. Sonny Bill Williams got the gong in 2013; there must be a fair chance it will go to another departing star in 2014 with Sam Burgess and Jarryd Hayne among a group of nominees that also include Greg Inglis, James Graham and Johnathan Thurston. Teams for the double-header on Saturday will be named on Tuesday – tournament rules stipulate starting sides must be announced, not just squads as at the World Cup.

PHANTOM SIREN GOES GLOBAL

JARRYD Hayne isn’t the only NRL institution thinking global at the weekend. The Phantom Siren made his international debut when Fiji played Lebanon at Remondis Stadium on Sunday, doing his thing as Fiji made a break while ahead 22-12 a few seconds from halftime. “It’s one of the drummers,” radio sideline eye Daniel Pettigrew reported, in reference to the musicians on the Lebanon bench. Fiji didn’t flinch but also didn’t score before the proper bell rang out. By fulltime, they had run out 40-28 victors in the Hayne-Mannah Cup. “On behalf of all the Fijian-Australian boys, we wish Jarryd luck overseas,” Bati captain Wes Naiqama told a crowd of around 1000 as he accepted the trophy, the name of which seems unlikely to be affected by the Parramatta star’s flirtations with the NFL.

FARAH EYES CEDARS SEND-OFF

ROBBIE Farah is eying a 2017 World Cup send-off – by representing Lebanon alongside new Australia team-mate Josh Mansour. Under new World Cup qualification rules, Africa and the Middle East are guaranteed one spot in the tournament, to be held in Australia, New Zealand and possibly Papua New Guinea. That makes the Cedars odds-on to qualify after missing the last two tournaments by the barest of margins. “Hopefully one day I can get back there and help them out,” Farah told Set Of Six. “The World Cup in 2017 … I’ll be 33 so I’m not sure if I’ll still be picked by Australia or not. The Commission would be very happy if Lebanon qualifies, in terms of the crowd they will generate. I think they’ll get there this time and if we do, we’ll have a pretty good side – myself, Tim Mannah, the Robinson brothers (Reece and Travis), Mitchell Moses and Josh Mansour who is here with me.”

INTERNATIONAL MEN OF HISTORY

amazonONCE upon a time, you could comfortably make it to every rugby league international played in a given year. Now, it’s difficult to even keep up with the scores. Aside from events at Remondis Stadium on Sunday, Latin America beat Portugal 40-6 at Woolhara and in Lae, PNG beat Tonga 32-18/ Earlier in the weekend, the Junior Kiwis edged out the Junior Kangaroos 15-14 in Auckland, Ireland upset France 22-12 in Dublin, Greece beat Bosnia-Herzigovina 58-4 and Serbia flogged Hungary 50-0, both in Belgrade, while Scotland returned to happy hunting grounds in Workington to outclass Wales 44-18. The games in Serbia were part of a new competition, the Balkans Cup.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

The A-List: JARRYD HAYNE (Parramatta, NSW, NRL All Stars & Australia)

Jarryd HayneBy STEVE MASCORD

IN the middle of this interview, Jarryd Hayne’s answers get shorter. It seems like he’s had enough.

Your correspondent has to spell it out: ‘this story has to run to about 1500 words, that’s why I’m asking lots of questions’. There’s a brief nod, and the answers get longer again.

It’s a neat encapsulation of what some people say makes the 21-year-old Parramatta flier tick. There’s a story they tell around South Sydney, about how Hayne’s father Manoa Thompson was worried he would sleep through his alarm and miss a early training session at Redfern.

So he drove to the oval the night before, pulled up in the carpark – and went to sleep there, knowing someone would wake him up as they walked past his car. An apocryphal story, perhaps, but like father, like son. Jarryd Hayne marches to the beat of his own drum and the route he takes to success on the football field is rarely the conventional one.

But he doesn’t leave success waiting. The two of them, Hayne and success, almost always meet at the appointed place and time and get on famously. In fact, Hayne’s best friend in most teams is success.

A-List won’t bore you with stories of pet dogs, banter with team-mates, shopping malls and nearby AFL stars this week. We got Hayne at a NSW media opportunity – a bit before most of the fourth estate descended – and the details make for tedious reading.

The Fiji fullback is sat in one of those cubbyholes they have in the home dressingrooms at Sydney Football Stadium, wearing regulation NSW training gear, and talked into a digital voice recorder.

So after experimenting with Rolling Stone-style profiles and sub-headings, this week we’ll utilise another old journalistic favourite – the Q&A:

A-List: You’ve come into Origin camp on the back of Parramatta’s 23-6 loss to Wests Tigers. How do you reflect on that game?

Hayne: “We were a bit rusty, I was a bit rusty myself. It was probably our worst performance all year so I was a bit disappointed but I had a bit of a virus, a stomach bug at the end of the week and that didn’t help. I got it on Friday. We trained pretty late and then we had a sauna session after. We were out in the cold, when I was pretty sweaty. Then Saturday, Sunday I was a bit rusty and I wasn’t sure if I was going to play or not.’’

A-List: How would you sum up the year at Parra? And also your own year?

Hayne: “It’s been tough. It wouldn’t help any club to go through what we’ve been through. To not be coming last is a pretty good effort. To lose our halfback, to lose Feleti (Mateo). To lose one halfback, get a good combination going, and the lose another from the halves combination … it was very tough, it’s really taken it’s toll on the team. The state we’re in now, we’ve pretty much got to play our best every week to be competitive.’’

A-List: You’ve had a new coach coming in and changing things over the summer, there’s blokes off contract who do don’t know what they’re doing next year. Does that have an impact out on the field?

Hayne: “Yeah, it’s tough – especially when you’ve got guys who have been here for a while and they’re not sure if they’re going to be there next year or not. That’s what the coach is there to do. He wants players that he wants there. At the end of the day, it is what it is. There’s always fors and against. Obviously I’m going to lose some mates over the summer because they’re going to move on. I think he’s bought really well with (Shane) Shackleton and (Justin) Poore. I don’t know if he’s looking for anyone else….’’

A-List: You’re probably playing the best footy of your career right now. Is that how you thought 2009 would pan out? How would you describe the year for you personally and what’s changed?

Hayne: “I don’t know, just attitude. I’ve taken it upon myself to do a bit more and I’m a bit more confident in the team and I’m sort of take a bit more control of the team.’’

A-List: And being fullback must be a big boost to you as well…

Hayne: “Yeah, I’m rapt, I’m loving it. I hope to stay there, yeah.’’

A-List: For people why have never done it, tell us what it’s like to run out in an Origin game. What was it like running down that tunnel for the first time? Did anything surprise you?

Hayne: “Yeah, (it’s great) just being able to do it. You know it’s going to be fast, you know it’s going to be intense. Just being out there and in the moment, it’s good, it’s an awesome buzz. It’s one of the best feelings you can get, running out in the Blues jersey. You’re playing against the best players. The main thing is that everyone’s on the same level. From the intensity in training to just the little things, you don’t see the same things at club level you see at Origin level.’’

A-List: Are you more worried about making a mistake in Origin than you are in club football?

Hayne: “Oh, 100 per cent. It’s Origin footy. You can’t make mistakes, pretty much. A mistake, it takes something little to change a game.’’

A-List: But you are a creative player, you take risks. Does that affect your mindset going into an Origin game, if you are more worried about making a mistake?

Hayne: “No, not really.”

A-List: But in your first year of Origin, you tapped the ball infield and Queensland scored. How hard is it not to dwell on things like that?

Hayne: “Not that pass. I thought I was doing good for the team. I thought it was a 40-20, they’d scored two tries, we were on the back foot and I knew when it went out it really would have rattled us. It wasn’t like I was trying to do a magic play or I was trying to do something arsey or silly. That’s not why I did it.‘’

A-List: Everyone else is talking about four series in a row for Queensland. Are you fellas thinking about it a lot?

Hayne: “Yeah, of course. We don’t want want to play in the team that has been beaten four series in a row so it’s a major factor. I think the team we have now should be up for the task.’’

A-List: Tell us about how the side lifted in Melbourne after a poor period in the first half?

Hayne: “I think we were playing like that the whole game but sort of just weren’t getting the lucky chances we were getting in the second half. ‘’

A-List: Have you watched your no-try back on many occasions since then?

Hayne: “Yes’’.

A-List: And what are your thoughts when you watch it back?

Hayne: “What everyone else says. It’s a try.’’

A-List: What can we do to prevent those sort of mistakes happening again.

Hayne: “If there’s a touch judge there, what’s the point of going to the video ref? He didn’t put his flag up. So if he doesn’t put his flag up, why are we going to the video ref, you know what I mean?’’

A-List: So they should show more faith in the officials on the field?

Hayne: “Yeah’’.

A-List: You’ve played just one Test for Australia. At the end of the year there’s a Four Nations and a Pacific Cup? Would you like to play for Fiji again?

Hayne: “No, I think I’ll just stay with Australia this year. The World Cup was something special but I think you can only change a certain number of times in a certain amount of years. I’ll probably stick with Australia and if I don’t get selected I’ll go on a bit of a holiday.’’

A-List: When you say your attitude is different this year, what do you mean?

Hayne: “Before, I used to eat rubbish the day before the game. Now I’m eating right seven days a week and looking after my body a bit more, not going out as much. Just a bit more focus on footy. When I first came into first grade I was a bit young and got a bit sidetracked with the partying.’’

A-List: Was there a single thing that changed your outlook?

Hayne: “Just the World Cup. I really appreciate what I have and how many people wish they were in my shoes so that’s something that really drove me. Seeing the Fijian boys, how proud they were just to play for Fiji. To see them, puting the effort in and the enthusiasm they had really made me feel I should be doing more for myself.’’

A-List: And I suppose you were thrust into a leadership role there whether you wanted one or not.

Hayne: “I think that really helped me because I brought it back to Parra. The thinks I was doing in the Fijian team I was puting it upon myself to do with Parra. It’s obviously affected me in Parra as well.’’

A-List: And before that, you just considered yourself another footy player?

Hayne: “Oh, being young you don’t really want to be really stepping up and taking charge of a team. You had a whole lot of people there who had been around for a while and you just sit back and let them do their thing and you just finish it off at the end of it – which in ’06 I did. We had good halves and a good centre in Luke o’Dwyer who just looked after me. They all sort of left so I had to step up.

A-List: You will forever be known as the man who was shot at in Kings Cross. Is it still fun being a footy player or has scrutiny made it just a business?

Hayne: “Of course. I wouldn’t swap it for the world. It’s just a bit different now compared with back in the day, what the older players used to get away with. It’s a bit hard when you hear all these stories about what they used to get up to. Now, it’s like if you do anything near that you pretty much wouldn’t have a contract. It’s tough. It’s a new generation, a time when things are changing. We’ve just got to get used to it.’’

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THE JOY OF SIX: Round 13

The Joy Of SixBy STEVE MASCORD
1. NO VIOLINS OVER VIOLENCE
THERE are enough debates about violence and Origin to fill up this column at least twice over. But it was instructive that there was a mini-brawl in Parramatta-Sydney Roosters game just two days after Origin I and it went almost completely un-noticed – because only rugby league fans were watching. It’s important to separate the arguments about whether Origin should be played under more laissez faire rule interpretations from the one about whether rugby league itself is too tolerant of violence. It’s ridiculous to suggest State of Origin should go straight from being dirtier that club football to CLEANER just because more people are watching. First, bring club and Origin football into line, then examine what we’re left with and determine whether it’s worth sacrificing some aggression to keep attracting junior players.
2. UNCHAIN DUGAN FOR ORIGIN
JOSH Dugan’s two-try performance for St George Illawarra against Newcastle puts NSW coach Laurie Daley in a bind. Does he pick Jarryd Hayne despite his hamstring injury and nurse him through five or seven days, or does he cut his losses and select Dugan from the get-go? Hayne is a star in any company and player strongly in Origin I. Shadow players are not supposed to come into camp until after the previous weekend’s club round but the Dragons have a bye in round 15. That being the case, Dugan probably should be there from day one of camp and only allowed to go home once Hayne has run at pace and proven he can change direction at his normal level. Conventional wisdom says you don’t know if a hamstring injury has healed until it goes on you – or doesn’t – under duress.
3. DRIVELLIN’ GALLEN
IT’S taken a while but the tossing of brickbats across the NSW-Queensland border has begun in earnest. After Origin I, Queensland coach Mal Meninga thought Paul Gallen’s attack on Nate Myles would perhaps have deserved a sin binning in a club game. By the next morning at the airport, he had decided it was unjustifiable. By yesterday, Gallen’s excuses for the attack were “drivel”. That’s what Meninga wrote in his Sunday Mail column, the home of his infamous “rats and filth” attack in 2011. Meninga said of Gallen: “It would seem by his very comments a pre-meditated attack to settle old scores and, worryingly, the game’s officials seem happy to let it slide”. Meninga said the apparent pre-meditation had gone completely unpunished – and he has a point. Was attacking Myles part of a pre-match strategy, not a result of over-heated encounters on the field in one game?

4. WELCOME TO THE WORLD, ‘KIRSTEN THURSTON’
WHEN did the birth of a footballer’s baby become hard, earth-shattering news, and why wasn’t I told? The intrigue surrounding the birth of Johnathan Thurston’s first baby was completely baffling. On Saturday, the North Queensland club wouldn’t confirm whether or not the birth had taken place – which is fine, it’s a private matter – but also made it clear to reporters it was upset at reports which were clearly true. Huh? These days athletes sell their weddings and family additions to magazines. There is no indication of Johnathan and his fiancé Samantha doing this but it is certainly not the job of the day-to-day news media to help them keep secrets. Someone had a kid. He’s a footballer. Put it in the paper and be done with it. Why all the bloody fuss? PS: Apparently if you get the name of the kid, it’s the biggest yarn since Watergate.
5. OLD TRICKS
CANTERBURY didn’t make the grand final last year by playing well, they did it by winning close games. And now it’s happening again. That’s the view of prop Aiden Tolman after Saturday night’s 36-26 win over North Queensland. “We’ve won five out of our last six … we’ve got a bit of momentum,” said Tolman. “We’re not playing our best footy but we’re winning games. We probably weren’t playing our best last year either but we had that knack of winning games – and that’s all it can take. Especially towards the end of last year, we were just getting wins. That’s what we’re doing this year as well. We’re just getting over the line, last week by two points and this week against a committed Cowboys side who was up against the wall.”

6. PROOF YOU CAN GET LOWER WITH NO GOWER
LONDON Broncos last week questioned Newcastle’s decision to sign Craig Gower, on the basis that their club had won three from 17 with the the dual international as captain. For the same reason, they weren’t too worried about losing him. How worse could things get? On Saturday, the Broncos were beaten – at home – by Warrington 82-10. Gower is a fierce competitor whose contribution may only be seen in his absence. He attended Melbourne training at Harrow in February, not to catch up with old friends but to grill Craig Bellamy on how change a losing culture. This from a fellow could have just collected a fat pay cheque going around in front of 1800 people every second week. Gower will be aware of the Matt Orford comparisons – and be highly motivated to disprove them.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

How This Motley Crew Plans To Kickstart Parra’s Heart

Parramatta - Reni MaituaBy STEVE MASCORD
IT’S like the plot for a thriller: to get off the bottom of the NRL table, Parramatta need to crack a code, blow a safe – or they need someone to give them the combination.
New to the club, coach Ricky Stuart, CEO Ken Edwards and psychologist Jonah Oliver believe they have handed the Eels the combination – of a man hellbent on repairing his legacy and someone seeking to do more for a club that’s done so much for him.
And it’s a combination that’s come from a mixture of another sort – of a scientific test so new and secret its creator won’t talk about it and ‘old school footy values’ that are dying out in most clubs’ interactions with their stars.
Most NRL fans know the bare bones of why Reni Maitua, not so long ago banned for two years over a recreational drugs positive, and Jarryd Hayne – famous for being shot at in Kings Cross – have been named co-captains of incumbent wooden spooners Parramattta.
Tim Mannah is club captain, as outlined in RLW’s Eels season preview a fortnight ago.
But despite the assurances that Maitua, 30, had turned his life around and that Hayne, 25, was ready to have more of an input into Parramatta’s fortunes away from the field, there will be those who will always see one of them as too wild and the other too aloof to ever have the © next to their names.
So Rugby League Week has sought to get to the bottom of exactly how this decision was made and give the club the chance to refute even the most cynical of their supporters.
To that end, we tracked down the agents of both men, plus Edwards and Oliver who devised the leadership test used to identify qualities in Maitua and Hayne which may not have hitherto been apparent.
“To think that Ricky appointed a captain based on a questionnaire is wrong and to even put that out there would probably annoy me,” says the otherwise quite friendly and helpful Oliver, who describes himself as a “performance psychologist”.
“I’ve got a list of about 10 attributes that I think make a good leader. I look at the profile of the group as a whole. Then Ricky looked at the group for a few months. There’s a difference between wanting to be a leader and being a leader.
Let’s start at the beginning.
Former Australia coach Stuart at first wanted one skipper to replace the retired Nathan Hindmarsh in 2013. He then appointed a leadership posse called the Cumberland Group. And the appointment of three leaders with distinct responsibilities came sprung from there.
The journeys Maitua and Hayne have taken to this point could be optioned for movie scripts. For Hayne, being shot at in Kings Cross in 2008 is a cross of a different sort he has borne ever since.
“I don’t think he’s ever been aloof,” his agent, Wayne Beavis, argues (Beavis says contract talks regarding Hayne are progressing well).
“Even way back in 2009, people seemed to follow him.
“He’s like most young blokes – although with him it all came so quick and that was off the back of his raw talent. He’s grown into himself, he’s a better person.
“He’s going to develop further as a player, he’s going to be one of the all-time greats.”
According to Edwards, Hayne “genuinely wants to go to the next step, genuinely wants a role in the leadership of this football club.
“But he’s someone who accepts he still has things to learn and that he needs help in realising his full potential. He pretty much used those words in his discussions with us.”
Maitua’s narrative is even more melodramatic and rocky. Since making his first grade debut with Canterbury in 2004, he’s been an Australian international, a bra boy, a party boy and – from mid 2009 to mid 2011 – an outcast after testing positive to Clenbuterol.
He prepared for his NRL return in a Thai jungle. Maitua’s manager, Sam Ayoub, says captaining Parramatta “wasn’t an aim of his but once it was brought up, it became an ambition.
“He was young and a bit reckless and all that sort of thing … everybody looked up to him for one reason or another, whether it was footy or not.
“I can’t speak highly enough of him (now). He’s an outstanding human being who stuffed up, put his hand up. He didn’t want to be labelled a cheat because it was a social drug, not a performance-enhancer.
“The young players gravitate to him and want to talk to him and he gives every one of them the time of day – he’s not like some of those senior players who fob off the younger players. There’s 100 of them I could rattle off to you.
“He takes an interest in being a genuine role model. The term “role model” is bandied around far too often, for people who 1) don’t deserve it or 2) is only associated with them because of their ability.”
Maitua’s hasn’t just impressed Eels officials. He’s staggered them.
Edwards: “He’s coming into the last few years of his career and I think he has said that some of the things he’s done in the past and the perceptions people have of him, that’s not who his parents wanted him to be and that’s not who he wants to be.
“(He said) ‘what I’m now doing is who I am’. It’s pretty powerful stuff – especially knowing he’s backed it up with actions.”
OK, so we’re up to the decision itself to appoint this odd couple as onfield leaders, with Mannah the off-field man. Oliver is deliberately vague about the details of the increasingly famous test.
“It’s a profile on personality and leadership that’s psychometrically valid and reliable test – it’s been scientifically verified and then customised for use in the sporting population,” he insists.
Key areas are decisiveness, ability to handle pressure, stress tolerance and perseverance. But results have to be balanced against the ability of the subjects to … play rugby league.
“The captain has to be a good player – men follow others who are good at what they do,” says Oliver.
“We want someone who is a game changer. Who are going to be the instigators of change, when we’re fatigued, when we’re under pressure?
“Most athletes are at capacity just taking care of their own performance in front of a big crowd, in a tight game. Very few have the capacity to play well themselves and still help those around them.
“That’s what separates a great player from a great leader.”
A test on a computer playing any role in selecting a captain would be an anathema only a few years ago . But Ayoub says something as old as the game itself – rewarding hard work – is largely responsible for the rebirth of his client.
And in these days of tight salary caps and players sometimes being paid by many clubs at once as they move around the comp, offering players more money because they deserve it is going the way of the dinosaurs. Eels football manager Pete Nolan is still an adherent, though.
“When he first went out there, we did a reasonably small contract,” Ayoub says of Maitua.
“When the club came to us when he still had a year to run and said ‘look, we’d like to talk about upgrading and extending Reni’s contract, it really struck home with him and I could tell that he was genuinely appreciative.
“The fact they would come to him and do that … and when the level of dollars was bigger than he’d ever got before, even in his heyday….
“They were amazed at his leadership qualities and his mentoring qualities and the person he’d become.”
Ayoub observes: “A lot of clubs, if they see a player going well and they want to extend him, the sort of talk him down.
“You get clubs who don’t give a player any more for going good, they think ‘we’ve pinched him, we got him cheap’. Next year he’s going to tell them to (we can’t repeat this in a family magazine).
“There’s only a few clubs left that have that old school mentality. Pete Nolan’s old school from the Broncos; the Broncos still do that.
“It was someone showing faith in him after a really poor period in his life, the previous two or three years, and to me, that was the making of Reni Maitua.”
A quiet superstar, a reborn ruffian and a christian soldier – the perfect cast for a flick that could tunr out to be be the smash hit of the winter.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK