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

JOY OF SIX: round one 2015

The Joy Of SixBy STEVE MASCORD

SEEING RED OVER MOSES
WHAT if Dallas Donnelly pulled up outside an NRL ground in his time travelling Delorian and went inside for a gander? What would he make of a competition where you are sent to the sin bin for punching someone but stay on the field for a deadset coat-hanger? How can we be SOFTER on an offence now than we were in the seventies? It defies logic. The ban on referee comments stifled the debate on Saturday night surrounding Mitchell Moses’ shot on William Zillman. Set of Six will debate it; Moses should have been sent off. Flailing fists deter parents from letting their kids play rugby league – do we think mum wants little Johnny to do his best rag doll impersonation every weekend?
BATTLE AHEAD
WELL may Phil Gould and Penrith oppose an external draft – they have more juniors than most other clubs. But one donatechange in the game that has gone un-noticed over the summer has been the rebranding of the state leagues, aside from NSW and Queensland. The South Australian Rugby League is now NRL South Australia – and so on. They are wholly owned subsidiaries of the Moore Park HQ. No doubt, the aim is to do the same with the NSWRL, the QRL and the CRL. The NRL wants to be to rugby league what the NBA is to basketball – that is, just about everything. It will take care of all development and clubs will be shells focused only on winning first grade matches and attracting fans. Set of Six likes the idea.
COCKY FOWLS NOT SCARED OF FOULS
LOTS of things have changed this season by according to Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan, one thing hasn’t. “It’s a little bit faster, sides are trying to find their feet. Sides don’t want to give away too many penalties away – bar the Roosters. They were quite happy to give penalties away and then defend ‘em.” The Roosters do not like accusations they deliberately give away penalties. Flanagan nominated Trent Robinson’s team, South Sydney and Parramatta as sides who had “put their hand up” over the weekend. The Sharks boss wasn’t sure how he’d feel going to Remondis Stadium last night for his first game back from suspension. “Surprisingly, I’m pretty calm about the whole thing,” he said. “It’s not about me. I’ve got a job here to do and I’ve just got to get on with it.”
HELLO 2015
SOME random observations about our first taste of premiership football for the year. One, the game IS faster and there IS amazonless wrestling, and the crowds like it. Friday night at Pirtek Stadium, particularly in the first half, was a revelation; the word “fickle” just isn’t in the dictionaries of western Sydney. Your correspondent was at Headingley, where they sing all night, eight days previously and the local Blue and Gold Army outdid their British cousins easily. A bulked-up Anthony Milford in the halves is a gamble. We won’t get reliable forward pass rulings until there are chips in the balls. Dane Gagai and Joey Leilua could be the centre pairing of the year. Pat Richards could easily realise his ambition of playing in the 2017 World Cup. Live free-to-air TV coverage on a Sunday should have happened years ago.
THE SHAFT FOR SHILLO AND SHANNON
TRENT Merrin was only “dropped” for Monday Night Football if you don’t count the game against Warrington, which he also started from the bench. He was in the starting side for round 26 last year, though – we checked. Two men who WERE dropped, by any definition, are big Canberra forwards David Shillington and Shannon Boyd. They were named in Canberra’s first grade side on Sunday – Shillington in the starting front row – but played NSW Cup. Coach Ricky Stuart admitted the hot conditions were in his mind but “there’s a few other reasons – nothing untoward in regards to the two boys. We made the decision earlier in the week.” Stuart reckons the quicker rucks this year mean “dropped balls and penalties are making a big difference between winning and losing.’
CARNAGE IN FRANCE
Dwrq4E1421835700EVEN a broken rib for Todd Carney took a back seat to the scoreline in the Catalans-Salford Super League game over the weekend. The match finished in a 40-40 draw – which in the Australian premiership would make it the highest scoring drawn game ever, beat three matches which finished 34-34.. In England, there’ve been higher scores in draws – and there almost certainly have been in France, too. After a tackle by Lama Tasi, Carney – who missed the opening two rounds through injury – tweeted: “Just got home from the hospital, Broken Ribs Fingers crossed I won’t be out for long.” Dragons coach Laurent Frayssinous said the tackle was illegal. “It is not acceptable that there is a late tackle on Todd Carney that has left him in the hospital with a broken rib,” he told reporters. Oh, and the penalty which gave Salford a late draw was a tad controversial, too.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

THE JOY OF SIX: NRL Nines

The Joy Of SixNO HARD FEELINGS
LACHLAN Coote hasn’t given up on playing again this year despite suffering the fourth serious injury of a comparatively short career. Coote was a casualty of the Nines, ruled out for six months with an anterior cruciate ligament injury. ”I definitely want to get back and play with this bunch of boys,” he said. ”It will be a goal for myself to try and get back.” Coote wasn’t taking out his frustration on the new Nines concept. ”We’ve still got another trial next week and it could have happened then. Footy is a cruel game.” Zac Santo is the early favourite to replace Coote at fullback.

INJURY TOLL PAYED WITHOUT COMPLAINT
INJURIES led to the demise of the World Sevens in 2004, along with poor crowds and declining TV interest. With the return of truncated rugby league to the NRL, casualties made a return as well. Lachlan Coote, Paul Gallen, Todd Carney, Curtis Sironen, Jarrod Mullen, Luke Keary, David Stagg, Michael Chee-Kam, David Williams, Ben Barba, George Jennings and others all return to Australia sicker and sorrier. So why is no-one calling for the Nines to be cancelled? Because the clubs are being so handsomely compensated? Because the organisers have spent money courting the media? Because, as Eric Watson says, the clubs no longer dislike each other? Or is it because the often-maligned rugby league media is actually less negative than it was a decade ago? “Everyone here has had a good experience – I think that’s the main reason,” said victorious Cowboys coach Paul Green

SLIPPERY SLOPE
THE decision suspend Melbourne’s Richie Kennar for one nines match in 2015 for his grade four careless high tackle against St George Illawarra is, on the surface, eminently sensible. The game in which he committed an offence was not rugby league as we know it and if he had committed a serious offence, it would have been referred to the judiciary and his ban would have included 13-a-side games. But the precedent is dangerous. The lobby for suspensions meted out in trials and Origin games to only cover those arenas will be emboldened. And what if his hit determined the rest of the final? Would we have been as comfortable seeing him play next weekend?

FREDDIE’S NIGHTMARE
“They were terrible, the refs in our game,” Brad Fittler told an NRL video crew after his comeback on Saturday (the first game, not the one with the intercept). Then there was a grin. The match officials were walking behind Fittler in the the tunnel’s ‘Mixed Zone’. “Can I bag refs? Can I get fined? I’m retiring at the end of the day!” Fittler didn’t play yesterday due to a hamstring injury. Andrew Johns’ comeback in the media match was less successful; he hooked himself for a horrible pass at one stage and the NZ team beat the Aussies 3-2.

FOURTH ESTATE EVICTION
MEDIA types were happy enough Warriors owner Eric Watson took the time to visit the Eden Park media box and dispense some useful quotes. Aside from the comments which appear on page ??, Watson also said the Nines should stay in Auckland forever and reckoned England signing Sam Tomkins was valuable because he would remedy a communication problem at the Warriors. But when the media opp was over, Watson remarked that the view from the press box was so good it should be sold as a corporate suite and the hacks kicked out. Journos might be left wishing he had not paid them a visit. These are hard times for non-rights holding hacks, with social media and leveraged content swamping them.

PUTRID ONE DAY, BEAUTIFUL THE NEXT
BRISBANE endured their worst-ever season last year and North Queensland were dudded by a refereeing error. So while the 45,403 fans at Eden Park yesterday were disappointed at the Warriors missing the final, it was still a feelgood story. Things could have been different, however. South Sydney’s Dylan Walker grouned the ball just outside an upright in the dying moments of the quarter-final against the home side. Had he picked up the lolling ball and put it down inside the woodwork, meaning a five-point try, the game would have been tied and bunnies may have progressed. But the scoring system confused everyone – including scoreboard attendants and journalists.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

THE JOY OF SIX: Finals Week Three

The Joy Of SixRUFFLED FEATHERS

SYDNEY Roosters coach Trent Robinson accepts blood test results which are not under investigation will still be remembered by some fans long after Sunday’s grand final. “How do you take that back?” he said on ABC yesterday. “The way the media works now, the way all those things are kept on the internet, it’s hard to take it back. I was amazed at how those guys played under that pressure. You can see their conscience isn’t weighing them down, they played freely. They knew they were in right.” Robinson has been pretty straight-up with the media and fans for most of the season but when it comes to grand final team selections and the comeback of Boyd Cordner, “that’s something I haven’t really talked about all year, whether I’m going to play someone or not, before we get to the game. He’ll be in the selection. We’ve probably got about 21 guys who we’ll select from. Every grand final team has a motto, for the Roosters it seems to be this quote from the coach: “It’s not about being in one, it’s about winning one – we were really clear about that”

SPIRIT OF ‘78

IF THAT’S the Roosters’ call to arms, what’s Manly/’s? Knowing them, they won’t tell us. But plenty of people are comparing the current side to the storied 1978 premiers, who had to play six games in 21 days – two replays including the grand final – to lift the trophy. Not only that, they repeatedly came from behind. After losing their first finals series match, the Sea Eagles snatched a 13-13 draw with Parramatta, forcing a midweek replay. When the grand final was drawn 11-11, there was another replay ending in a 16-0 win over Cronulla.  Warwick Bulmer, a staffer at Manly who has been involved since the 60s, said there were “more needles than players” in the dressingroom back then and rated Friday’s win over South Sydney as the best since. Interviewed on radio on Sunday, he said Geoff Toovey’s side couldn’t eclipse that team but they had matched their toughness.

 DEMERITUS MINOR      

YOUR correspondent has been covering rugby league for almost three decades and the idea that grand finals and major games should somehow be worth more before the judiciary than other matches has been around almost as long. It popped up again when Glenn Stewart was booked; no-one has ever been able to come up with a workable formula. Players would stretch the envelope in a preliminary final knowing they could get away with more. Every member of a senior squad would have to get, say, two games sliced off an existing suspension if their team made the grand final, to avoid exploitation of the rule through team selections. And finally, victims of foul play would still be sidelined for the same time while the assailant gets a discount because he committed the offence at the ‘right’ time of year. Great idea; doesn’t work.

THUNDER, LIGHTNING, NRL BID IS FRIGHTENING

AUSTRALIAN players were stunned that a game which kicked off in bright sunshine was suddenly hit with thunder and lightning when the Prime Minister’s XIII beat Papua New Guinea 50-10 at Kopoko’s Kalabond Oval yesterday. Of particular concern was the young children perched on electricity pylons at the packed venue. The fact that two tweeters, listening on the radio in Port Moresby, were the only links between the 50-10 win and the outside world is evidence there won’t be a PNG side in the NRL in our lifetimes. Do  Peuto Rico or Haiti have Major League Baseball teams? The only hope would be to base the team in Darwin and fly in for ‘home’ games. PNG’s James Segeyaro (shoulder) was forced off at halftime and is in a little bit of World Cup doubt. It was the first big game in the Rabaul area since the volcano eruption of 1994.

FESTIVAL OF THE BOOT

ACCORDING to the NRL’s Paul Kind, people who seek to resell their grand final tickets at face value are not in any real danger of having them cancelled by the League or Ticketek. Some 14,000 more seats are to be released on Monday morning and with all the South Sydney fans trying to off-load theirs’, plenty of scalpers seem certain to do their dough. But why do rugby league care so much more about who is in the GF, when deciding whether to go, than their AFL counterparts? Do you really think  of this Sunday’s match as a celebration of rugby league, or just a game to decide who wins the comp? And if it’s the latter, why? Does this go to the heart of the cultural differences between Sydney and Melbourne, right back to convicts v free settlers?

ANORAKS ARE US

THIS one’s for the trainspotters, geeks and anoraks. And if you’ve read this far, that’s most of you. Manly, it has been argued on Facebook (where else?), did not score 30 unanswered points on Friday night. Yes, they were down 14-0 and the scoreline turned into 30-14 in their favour, But, their 30 point – at the very least – was ‘answered’ by a late South Sydney try. So ‘unanswered’ is often misused when ‘uninterrupted’ or ‘consecutive’ is more accurate. We deal with the game’s biggest issues here. Next week: what time each weekend does the the team with the bye actually get those two competition points? Should you count them when you go through the competition table before kick-off on Friday? Are they sent out registered post? Should they be?

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

DISCORD 2013: Edition 27

DiscordBy STEVE MASCORD

THE return of Saturday afternoon football will be confirmed on Wednesday with five games kicking off at 3pm (NSW) time to finish the regular season.
Discord has been told Melbourne will get their wish of a blockbuster game against South Sydney on Friday, August 9, at AAMI Park. The five Saturday afternoon games will include two at Mt Smart Stadium – which is really a 5pm kick-off, isn’t it?

Saturday afternoon has been vacant – handed over to the AFL – for years and Discord reckons it’s a great move to take them on again.
The draw for the final five rounds will be announced in the morning.

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THIS week, Discord would like to point out what could best be described as a “logic gap” in our policing of very different forms of misconduct in rugby league.
On one hand we have Billy Slater, who reportedly said “that’s one-all, c___” after an elbow to the face of Mitchell Pearce in Origin II – an act which was later determined by the match review committee to have been accidental.
Given the chance at a media call on Monday to deny his action had been intentional, Slater stopped short of doing so.
We would not dream of reopening a footy-oriented judicial case in our game due to something someone said, or didn’t say, at a later date.
Yet on the other hand, with have the ASADA investigation into drug use in rugby league which is based almost ENTIRELY on what people have allegedly said, or refuse to say. There is no video evidence or positive test results, just what people have said.
I have no ulterior motive in raising this, no overarching point to make. It just seems a big discrepancy that’s worth highlighting. And it shows how much more forgiving our little “Monopoly Board” justice system is in the NRL compared to the one out there in the big, bad world.
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FOR those of you who think rugby league fans should stop banging on about the French rugby union’s collusion with the Vichy government in World War II because we live in a much more enlightened world, there are constant reminders that in some parts of the world things haven’t improved much.
First there is the South African Olympic Committee’s continuing refusal to recognise rugby league as a separate sport to rugby union, and threats against local sports councils who do help the thirteen-man game.
Now there is even more shocking news from Morocco, where a British students team known as the “GB Pioneers” – the players pay their own way to development areas to promote the code – was prevented from playing by an embargo enforced by the local rugby union authorities.
Rugby League Express reported this week that the Royal Moroccan Rugby Federation stopped local firms from transporting the tourists and that police removed two journalists from a match against Casablanca XIII.
The following game was cancelled after an email from rugby union authorities threatened venues, referees and players.
Management told League Express that they were told police would stop the game going ahead if necessary, by physically removing the English players from the field.
As is South Africa, rugby league is not recognised as a separate sport to rugby union in Morocco. The aim of the tour was to help in the campaign to change that – and rugby union seems to have done all it could to prevent any progress.
This is why we need a more active RLIF.
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A READER had an interesting point about Sonny Bill Williams playing against Canterbury and Set Of Six’s call for mandatory reporting of all injuries, as happens in the NFL.
He said to me that no matter how much transparency was legislated by the NRL, cynics would still have questioned SBW’s injury and it would have made no difference.
Tell me what you think.
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COMMENTS time and if you’ll remember, there were a ton of them two weeks ago and last week’s column kind of got lost in the Origin rush.

read on

DISCORD 2013: Edition 20

DiscordBy STEVE MASCORD

ON Saturday afternoon in sunny Huddersfield, the locals’ Joe Wardle put one or two on the chin of Leeds’ Carl Ablett and was sent off.

Wardle was subsequently banned for two matches after entering an early guilty plea. It was the first dismissal of his career. A few hours earlier at Parramatta Stadium, Brisbane’s Josh McGuire put a couple on the chin of Eel Mitchell Allgood and was given a spell in the sin bin.

McGuire also entered an early guilty plea and escaped suspension.

On Monday, Sydney Roosters’ Jared Waerea-Hargreaves tackled Manly’s George Rose high and was sent off. Jared also entered an early guilty plea – and was suspended for five matches.

The purpose of this is not to provide another tiresome comparison between the way the rules are enforced in Super League and the NRL – although my contention on the BackChat show back in February about the disciplinary system in Australia being tougher is certainly looking very misguided now.

My point here is about sendings-off.

We seem to have completely separated the link that has always existed between dismissals and suspensions.

In the old days, when Jim Comans reigned, if you got sent off on a Sunday and then escaped a ban on a Monday night, you were lucky. If you didn’t get sent off but copped a long suspension, it was accepted that the referee stuffed up.

Today, we have the crazy situation of a player being suspended for five weeks and people still arguing he should not have been sent off! HELLO?

If you commit an act of foul play that results in you missing next week’s game, I would submit you deserve to miss the rest of this week’s too. The only exception to that rule of thumb would be if it is carryover points from a bad record that gets you suspended – referees can’t and shouldn’t take into account whether you’re a bad boy or a cleanskin.

Video reviews, reporting and citing have clouded the use of the simple logic that guided refereeing since 1895. Dirty play – off!

We have to go back to the notion that if a bloke coat-hangers, spears, elbows or punches someone severely enough to get a suspension of two or more weeks, then he should be sent off. And if he isn’t, the match officials stuffed up.

Forget all this malarkey about the “huge disadvantage of playing one man short in the modern game”. Do you think it was ever easy?

If I was a parent watching both competitions at the weekend, I would not be as worried about my kid playing in England as I would be in Australia.

To suggest someone deserves a marathon suspension after the event but did not deserve to be dismissed is complete and utter nonsense.

PS: Peter Sterling and Bill Harrigan had an interesting debate on Triple M last Monday about whether referees should do “homework” on teams and players.

Sterlo said this was prejudging – the sort of thing you get fined $10,000 for if you allege referees do. Harrigan argued it was just being thorough and professional.

I certainly hope referees’ “homework” didn’t contribute to Mitchell Allgood being sent to the sin bin for headbutting McGuire in the fist. Just sayin’….

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COMMENTS time and they come from a variety of sources.

From last week’s column on the leaguehq.com.au site, Trent suggested that if players don’t make the Australian team and have heritage associated with another World Cup nation, they should be able to represent that nation. That’s pretty much how it works Trent, though with a few technical caveats.

Iambunny called for NRL and Super League players to be paid the same for Test appearances, regardless of the nation. That’s something this column has called for in the past. But the NRL has to foot the bill. Check out this story for an example of what can happen if things aren’t thought through properly: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/sport/news/article.cfm?c_id=4&objectid=10883837

read on

TRAVELS: VII

TravelsSTEVE MASCORD

THE AUSTRALIAN game is in uproar as the NRL season prepares to kick off today with the noose of the Federal Government investigation into drug use tightening at Cronulla.

The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that up to 14 players have been offered six-month bans for using the peptides Thymosin Beta 4 and CJC-1295 in 2011.

That’s despite the fact they weren’t banned at the time and they were given to them by their club. The players may sue and on the surface seem somewhat hard-done-by.

The controversy has completely overshadowed the build-up to the Sydney Roosters v South Sydney derby, which is close to being a 42,000 sellout at Allianz Stadium. The game will feature the return to rugby league of Sonny Bill Williams.

But the Cronulla controversy was so dire on Wednesday that sections of the media asked the NRL if the Sharks’ game against Gold Coast on Sunday night would even go ahead.

Apparently, it will.

DURING an appearance on Sky’s Backchat a couple of weeks ago, I contended that Catalan forward Julian Bousquet should have been banned for longer than four weeks over his hit on Salford’s Theo Fages.

I also argued that he would have got a much stiffer ban in the NRL.

Now, some have taken issue with me over this claim, pointing to the tackle by St George Illawarra’s Matt Prior on North Queensland’s Johnathan Thurston in 2012 was about the same.

So I’ve had a look at both tackles back-to-back on YouTube and here’s what I think: yes, they are similar.

BUT Prior was suspended a week longer, Thurston complained the sentence was light, most people agreed with him and Prior also pleaded guilty and had 50 demerit points carry over.

NRL prosecutors called for a seven-match ban at the Prior hearing.

Taking all those factors into account, I stand by my contention that the NRL disciplinary system is tougher on foul play than Super League.

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STILL on TV, and a new show – NRL 360 – debuted on Fox Sports on Wednesday night.

Hosts Ben Ikin and Paul Kent had coaches Tim Sheens and Craig Bellamy – who have each just returned from England – as guests in the second half of the programme.

Former international Ikin asked them about the current state of the game in England.

Sheens said “the country seems to have money problems – they lost their triple A rating” but that rugby league still seems quite strong.

Bellamy reckoned “the top four or five teams would compete in the NRL but after that it falls away. They don’t have the depth”.

Just thought you’d like to know.

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FINALLY got around to reading Phil Wilkinson’s excellent interview with Bobbie Goulding in a recent Rugby League Week.

Read on