THE JOY OF SIX: Round 24

The Joy Of SixBy STEVE MASCORD

TOMKINS GOING NOWHERE

WE long ago just started assuming that Sam Tomkins is joining the New Zealand Warriors next year. But at one point, his coach at Wigan Shaun Wane was supposed to be going as well. Wane has now extended his tenure at DW Stadium – and had it extended by another year as a result of Sunday morning’s Challenge Cup final victory. And according to Wane, his fullback is going nowhere. “He’s a contracted player with us,” Wane told Joy Of Six. “I’m hoping he’s going to be here next year and I don’t see that changing”. Team-mate Blake Green said he had a gut feeling on Tomkins’ intentions but didn’t say what it was while Parramatta-bound Lee Mossop reckoned Tomkins was “a closed book”. What did the man himself say? Nothing. Media were kicked out of Wembley before he emerged from the dressingrooms.

SOME THINGS DON’T CHANGE

MELBOURNE’S 60-point mauling of Parramatta only fuels the perception that we have a lopsided competition. This has led to a number of proposals for change, including the Eels coach Ricky Stuart calling for the return of reserve grade. But stats guru David Middleton recently conducted a study of average margins in premiership games going back to 1908. He also tried to assess the evenness of competitions in the salary cap era by looking at the number of teams who won 50 per cent or more of their games. The results, published in the current edition of Rugby League Week, show very little change over the years. The average margin in 1908 was 14 points, this season it’s 15.4. In 1925., the average margin was 6.7 points but Souths won the minor premiership by such a stretch, mandatory finals were introduced the following year!

SHOULDERING RESPONSIBILITY

THE North Queensland-Newcastle game was a microcosm for the debate over the shoulder charge rule and allegations of diving. Referees say the deterrent to players staying on the ground is that the video referee can only intervene if the offending player deserves being reported. The tackle on Brent Tate, which stunned the Cowboys centre, was worthy of a penalty only. Tate didn’t take a dive but the way in which it was dealt should have discouraged others from doing so, even though the lack of a penalty was somewhat unjust. On the other hand, Kade Snowden’s challenge on Ray Thompson would have brought stern action in any era, regardless of whether shoulder charges were banned. He clearly made contact with the head – Thompson suffered a broken jaw.

ON REFEREEING

IF THERE is one inequality in the way we use the video referee in rugby league, it was summed up when Gold Coast’s Albert Kelly took an intercept defending his own line – something that is generally physically impossible – and streaked away from the Warriors defence. Nearing the tryline, it was as if he was looking for someone to tackle him. Why? Because if he had been pulled up short and the Titans scored on the next tackle, the video referee would not have the power to go back and check if he was onside. The old cliché, ‘what if this decides a grand final’, comes to mind. Video referees should be able to tip to referees in this circumstance. On the BBC on Sunday morning, we had the video referee mic-ed up and his discussions with the on-field officials broadcast. What do you think?

PRESSURE DOWN

COLLEAGUE Peter Fitzsimons touched a raw nerve by going over the records of South Sydney coach Michael Maguire and prop Jeff Lima with wrestling and extreme tactics. Some would say if you go into a game with an injury, you have to expect it to be targeted. But most would argue that targeting a specific injury with an illegal tactic or manoeuvre is different than just running at someone and is beyond the pale. That being the case, should we take intent into account in handing down charges and suspensions? Is illegally attacking someone with a known injury a case of bringing the game into disrepute? We will only find out the level of premeditation years after players retire, when they start spilling the beans. If there are beans, media men and judiciary members will look back with a good deal of regret at have gone easy on the nastiness.

JA, THE WORLD CUP

IT may seem like the longest shot in sport but South Africa are serious about staging the 2017 World Cup. Your correspondent witnessed a detailed presentation from the SARL in London Friday night, to countries attending the European Federation AGM. I’m not sure how much I can repeat but suffice to say the Africans are bullish and intend to use major stadia, 13 of which hold more than 40,000 people. Even with 60 per cent ticket sales, they are confident of turning a massive profit. And each country would get a fairly significant grant from the organising committee, which includes key members of the syndicate that attracted the FIFA World Cup. But in a country where the Olympic Committee still refuses to recognise that there is more than one rugby code, would anything like 60 per cent of tickets be sold? We can’t keep holding World Cups in England and Australia but 2017 is probably too soon to take a leap of faith like this.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

 

The A-List: JEFF LIMA (South Sydney, New Zealand, Exiles & Samoa)

South Sydney - Jeff LimaBy STEVE MASCORD

“We are never coached to do that stuff. It’s just awkward on the field, to be honest. Just trying to get someone on his back is hard. You always end up on the wrong side of it. We don’t work on those things, we don’t teach those things, in our training.”

If you’ve ever seen Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, you’ll know that look he gives people if he is trying to figure out if they’re lying. It’s an intense stare, waiting for the other person to flinch.

That must be the way I’m looking at Jeff Lima now, at the Park Cafe On Chalmers in Redern. You can guess what the preceding question was about:  Wresting. Grapple tackles. Chicken wings.

I think I see a tell-tale blink. Hang on, didn’t Melbourne wrestling coach John Donahue  put forward Brett O’Farrell in lala land at training with a sleeper hold in 2004? “I wasn’t there,” says Lima.

We here to chart the rise of Lima from schoolboy rugby union player in Auckland to NRL first grader, to French footballer, Storm grand final win, pantomime Super League villain and finally South Sydney funnyman.

Every club has a wrestling coach. Souths’ is a jujitsu champion. Jeff Lima claims he doesn’t exist. The denial is so ridiculous, it’s funny.

Lima, now 30, has for most of his rugby league career said very little and done much. We always had a vague idea that he had a sense of humour, but it was ‘for the boys’ only.

Now, the former Wests Tigers, St Gaudens, Melbourne and Wigan hard man – with the encouragement of his new club – is “going public” with a video series called Hey Cuzzie! on the Souths website.

But Jeff has rarely been interviewed in any depth. And when you consider he got suspended from the World Club Challenge in 2011 for a chicken wing in his very first Super League game for Wigan, you don’t have to dig too far to find a question on the subject.

Let’s leave that one for a while. If A-List truly is practise for a biography, then the first chapter or two would see Lima playing rugby union at school – before he joined his mother on a trip to visit some relatives in western Sydney.

“I stayed for a year,” he recalls. “I played under 14s at Penrith.” Current Penrith assistant coach Matt Cameron is the man who “discovered” the chunk, powerful forward, offering him a scholarship at Patrician Brothers Blacktown.

But Lima went home when the year was up, switching from union to league. “When I came back with the Junior Kiwis inn 2000, I ended up staying here,” he says.

It was then that Lima attracted the attention of Wests Tigers. “I went and trialled for Balmain, reserve grade,” he recounts.

“I was eligible to play 20s at the time. I was in reserve grade for two years and they offered me a contract there, at Wests Tigers.

“I enjoyed it as a young fella coming through. Obviously, I didn’t make the most of my opportunities. I was just happy to be in the top squad.

“I didn’t work hard enough to stay there.”

From there, came a rather obtuse move to St Gaudens in France, at the end of 2005. Lima had a knee reconstruction that year but the exact circumstances of his departure – after making his first grade debut in ’04 – are a little mysterious.

“David Kelly, our welfare officer (at Wests Tigers), his brother-in-law is the coach at St Gaudens,” he now explains.

“I wanted to travel, you know? Have fun. I was still young at the time. I just felt hungrier and hungrier to play footy again, when I got there

“I didn’t really have it in my mind when I went that I’d be back in the NRL

“I played one or two good games against the big sides and I thought ‘I should go back and have another crack at the NRL’.”

Everyone has stories about playing rugby league in France. “They drink red wine and smoke cigarettes,” Lima laughs.

“We played at Carpentras and most of their team were, like, gypsies. The refs, they’re scared of the whole town. We just had to get in there, do the job and get out. ‘

The Melbourne signing was handled almost completely by Lima’s agent, Sam Ayoub. Dennis Scott had been forced to retire and Ian Donnelly was injured – the Storm needed some back up.

“I was originally going to come back and play for Balmain premier league,” Lima recalls. “The day I got back, my manager said ‘pack your bags, you’re going to Melbourne.

“I wasn’t familiar with Melbourne at the time. All I knew was that they were top of the table.

“I spoke to (Craig) Bellamy. I thought someone was taking the piss out of me.

“In France, it was (train) Tuesday and Thursday, the rest of the week was get out on the drink with the Frenchies. I came back 20 kilos heavier.

“(Melbourne) was a shock for my body but as the weeks went by, I put in the hard work and towards the end of the year, he gave me a shot in first grade.

“At the time I went, it was just what I needed.”

Two grand finals victories followed – and both titles were subsequently stripped. “It’s disappointing but inside of me, I know we won those games.

“We worked hard for each other and most of us in that 2007, 2009 (teams), we were journeymen. We signed for nothing. Where we are now, that’s down to the coach.

“It’s the culture they had down there that turned us around and gave us more opportunity to play NRL.

“It’s lucky my wages weren’t in the paper – I was on matchies!”

Joining Wigan after playing most of 2010 for no competition points finally gave Lima the chance to earn some serious money. But, as we said, it didn’t start well. “I got suspended for two matches in my first game,”  he says.

Wigan coach Michael Maguire, by introducing wrestling tactics to Super League, was seen as something of a Dr Frankenstein among the supporters of rival teams.

And Lima was portrayed as his monster. “It didn’t bother me, to be honest,” Lima reckones. “As long as I’m there doing my job as best I can, that’s all they can expect from me.

“With the crowd, they’re pretty rough over there. With your own crowd, if you win games they’re being behind you and if you lose games they’re against you.

“You don’t let it bother you, you get on with games as best you can.”

In 2011, Lima won the Lance Todd trophy as man of the match at Wembley – and admitted at the post match media conference he didn’t know who Lance Todd was. (He’s a Kiwi who played for Wigan and Dewsbury after touring with the 1907 All Golds).

He says now he meant no disrespect. “Those things, you never hear of them when you’re in the NRL,” he explains. “It’s surreal, to be honest. It’s up there with the grand finals. At the time, I didn’t know how I was feeling about it.

“But looking back, it was enormous. It’s one of the best feelings I’ve had.”

In any case, the partnership with Maguure was such that Lima wanted it to continue. “I thought working under Madge had been worthwhile for me, for the last couple of years,” says the Samoan star, who reckons he’s only now discovering the truth in the maxim that props mature later than everyone else.

“I saw (Souths) as a club that was going places. When Michael left England, I sent (Michael) Crocker a text, saying that ‘you boys are lucky that yous are getting Madge’.

“I send (Maguire) a text asking if he needed any front rowers. ”

And here he is. Time, then, to back to Jeff’s first comment. As we did last we with Bryce Gibbs, we go back and ask him if he wants to add anything.

Given that every club has a wrestling coach, his comment is going to look pretty disingenuous in print.

There is just a moment’s hesitation, and then Jeff Lima says: “We just get taught to tackle around the legs. That’s all I want to say.”

This time, he’s not even pretending to tell the truth.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

Lima Says He’s Never Been Coached To Grapple

South Sydney - Jeff LimaBy STEVE MASCORD
FORMER Melbourne Storm hard man Jeff Lima has made the bizarre claim that he has never been coached to wrestle or execute controversial manoeuvres like the grapple tackle and chicken wing.
Lima, who played in grand final-winning Storm teams in 2007 and 2009 and will face up to his former club for South Sydney this Saturday, made the assertion despite every NRL club currently employing a wrestling coach.
“We are never coached to do that stuff,” Lima says in Wednesday’s edition of Rugby League Week.
“It’s just awkward on the field, to be honest. Just trying to get someone on his back is hard. You always end up on the wrong side of it.
“We don’t work on those things, we don’t teach those things, in our training.”
Lima’s own tendency towards using such holds resulted in him copping a two-match ban – ruling him out of the World Club Challenge – in his very first Super League game for Wigan in 2011.
He was also fined Stg300 and given a warning letter from the Rugby Football League. In 2008, Storm forward Brett O’Farrell said players were drilled “over and over” in grapple tackles.
Pressed on his seemingly incongruous statement, the 30-year-old New Zealand international said: “We just get taught to tackle around the legs. That’s all I want to say.”
As both undefeated teams named their line-ups for the ANZ Stadium clash on Saturday, NRL referees boss Daniel Anderson has cleared the world champions of suggestions their senior players influence referees with their comments during matches.
Wests Tigers coach Michael Potter strongly hinted at the practice after his side’s 26-12 loss at AAMI Park in Monday Night Football.
“Every single team attempts to influence referees in their own ways,” said Anderson. “Some talk louder than others or use a different manner and it’s usually the more experienced players who do it.
“But I don’t think it influences decision-making on the field. What effects the decision-making of match officials is the actions and behaviours of the players in relation to the rules and interpretations of the game.
“I don’ think there is any influence.”
Storm second rower Ryan Hoffman admitted he spoke to referee Adam Gee shortly before the decision was taken to disallow a try to Wests Tigers’ Eddy Pettybourne in the 46th minute on Monday.
“You can’t come in and start pushing defensive players out of the way,” said Hoffman. “I was quite close to that … I went straight to the referee and asked him politely to check it.
“(I said) ‘I think there’s a driver in there’. He checked it. I think it was the right decision.
“I’m sure he was going to check it. I just wanted to politely make sure that he was going to check it.”
The Storm have received a blow with New Zealand Test winger Matt Duffie – dropped for the Wests Tigers game – ruled out until round 13 with a shoulder injury suffered in the NSW Cup.
“If we do the surgery now, we’ll lose him for the year,” said trainer Tony Ayoub. “So we’ll rehab him and make a decision.”
Anderson also found against Storm coach Craig Bellamy’s claim that Wests Tigers got away with too many delaying tactics on Monday. “They were penalised 14 times, which has to be close to the most of any team this year,” said Anderson.
“I don’t think you could say there was lenience there.”
Bellamy named a seven man bench last night, adding Lagi Setu, Slade Griffin and Brett Finch to the MNF side.
Although Souths coach, and former Storm assistant, Michael Maguire picked an un-named side, he has shown a willingness in recent weeks to change a winning side.
The likes of Jason Clark and Dylan Walker performed strongly in NSW Cup on Sunday and could press for inclusion.
Rabbitohs CEO Shane Richardson said a crowd of around 20,000 was anticipated.
Teams for the match, which kicks off at AAMI Park at 7.35pm Saturday, are:
SOUTHS: Greg Inglis; Nathan Merrit, Dylan Farrell, Bryson Goodwin, Andrew Everingham; John Sutton, Adam Reynolds; Sam Burgess, Ben Teo, Chris McQueen, Roy Asotasi, Issac Luke, David Tyrell. Res: Nathan Peats, Jeff Lima, Ben Lowe, George Burgess, Michael Crocker, Justin Hunt, Jason Clark (three to be omitted).
MELBOURNE: Billy Slater; Sisa Waqa, Will Chambers, Junior Sau, Mahe Fonua; Gareth Widdop, Cooper Cronk; Ryan Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hoffman, Tohu Harris, Bryan Norrie, Cameron Smith (c), Jesse Bromwich. Res: Jason Ryles, Lagi Setu, Siosaia vave, Kevin Proctor, Kenny Bromwich, Brett Finch, Slade Griffin (three to be omitted).
Referees: Shayne Hayne/Alan Shortall.

Filed for: THE AGE