TRAVELS: VI

TravelsBy STEVE MASCORD

AN interesting document fell off the back of a truck – sorry, lorry – the other day. It may or may not have been a Stobart truck/lorry.

A copy for the RFL’s pitch document to potential naming rights sponsors has fallen into my hands and it makes for intriguing reading. Here’s a few key points:

·        There is a three-year minimum on the title sponsorship;

·        The Sky TV deal is priced at Stg121 million. Total value to sponsors of 680 hours on TV plus print and radio exposure is estimated at Stg8,610,729 with 65 per cent more value when global reach is taken into account;

·        Total fan base is claimed at 6.9 million. The proportion of fans in the south of England is 34 per cent;

·        Fans are 68 per cent male and 32 per cent female and “early adopters of technology”;

·        A boast that live Super League games average 171,000 viewers on Sky weekly with the Autumn Internationals averaging 800,000 on BBC;

·        RFL websites had 2.1 million unique users over the last year and there are 500,000 social media interactions a day;

·        Thirty-four per cent of fans say they are more likely to buy a produce if the company sponsors rugby league;

·        Super League fans are more likely than the general populous to own enjoy luxury holidays, own a home, eat at a fancy restaurant, enjoy watching sports in the pub and attend a gym;

·        A new website – superleaguetv.co.uk – will be launched. There’s nothing there now.

Some of this stuff you might already know, some you might have had an inkling of and some of it will entirely surprise you. I hope you find it interesting how your tastes and habits are being used to attract sponsors. What do you think of it all? Comment below.

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IN the NRL, we’ve had some clubs over the years that have been regarded as half-way houses – joints that would take anyone, regardless of their disciplinary or behavioural record.

Kiwi Arana Taumata this week parted ways with his seventh club, a record that is unlikely to be equalled any time soon when you consider that five of them sacked him.

South Sydney come to mind as a place than had more than its fair share of “colourful rugby league identities” over the years, although those days are long gone.

On the first fortnight of the season, there were real concerns that Super League was becoming the halfway house of world rugby league. Some of the cheap shots and high tackles were terrible and the reactions of the disciplinary committee woefully and inappropriately lenient.

For mine, Julian Bousquet’s challenge on Theo Fages in round two was worthy of a 10 week ban, not four. I haven’t seen the point of contact of Rangi Chase on Zac Hardaker but if it was head high then how can two matches be a sufficient suspension?

My countryman Ben Cross badly mistimed a tackle and seems to have been a little fortunate in the length of his suspension as well.

Leon Pryce lashing out with his knee at Richie Myler last Friday made for terrible television and yet he escaped a ban, while Brent Webb and Ben Westwood were each outed for a week even though they were kept apart when they apparently wanted to brawl as they were sent to the sin bin.

And how Nick Scruton escaped even a penalty for his hit on Gareth O’Brien last Saturday has got me beat. It obviously has the disciplinary committee beat too because Scruton was charged.

In discussing the demise of the shoulder charge, Leeds coach Brian McDermott said he didn’t mind because the disciplinary committee was not up to policing the ones that went wrong and “could kill someone”.

But following this line of thinking, do we ban every offence that the judiciary under-punish? Charge-downs? Gone! Any forward motion involving the knee? Gone. Tackling! Gone!

It’s fine to have a system of early pleas and charge grading but in the end the penalties have to fit the offence. It’s something worth working on if we are serious about convincing parents to let their kids play our game.

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COMMENTS now and Todd Slater said Brad Takarangi may be heading to England after Luke O’Donnell received a release from Hudderfield. I’m hearing Adam Cuthbertson’s name.

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DISCORD 2012: Edition 33

By STEVE MASCORD

WHILE the NRL are at it, changing the judicial system to further marginalise the shoulder charge, they should get rid of the ridiculous situation where players can serve suspensions in trial matches.

The fans who point out the incongruity of Ben Pomeroy missing two finals games while Reni Maitua misses two friendlies are 100 per cent correct.

You can’t legislate for the importance of a match by making finals or Origins worth twice as much as regular season club games – no-one has ever come up with a workable formula for that. Some finals are worth more than others, some Origins are deciders, others are dead-rubbers.

But it’s not too hard to say: “if nothing at all is at stake, then it doesn’t count’ when it comes to suspensions.

We used to have a situation where suspended players could take part in the pre-season and resume their suspension when the comp started. That was dumb too – what happens if you coat-hanger someone in a trial when you’re actually supposed to be suspended? Is it like crashing an uninsured car?

Put simply, Reni Maitua should not be allowed to play rugby league anywhere until round three next year. Full stop.

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WITH all the fanfare surrounding Nathan Hindmarsh, Luke Burt, Dean Young and Ben Hornby on Sunday night, spare a thought for Luke Patten.

“The General” is supposed to be playing his final game in Salford’s home match against Wakefield at the City Of Salford Stadium on Friday.

But Sky want the game moved to Saturday because it clashes with a St Helens-Wigan derby. And Saracens are playing a rugby union match at the City Of Salford Stadium on Saturday.

So The General is making his last stand at a neutral ground, Leigh Sports Village. He’s not impressed, tweeting: “”Just when I thought I’d seen it all. Just gotta laugh.”

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COLLEAGUE Adrian Proszenko wrote at the weekend that the ARL Commission is preparing to launch its own awards night, which would presumably mean the Dally Ms would go back to being a Daily Telegraph function.

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BONDI BEAT: September 2012

STEVE MASCORD

SO who, exactly, is Sandor Earl – the latest “foreigner” to be contacted about playing for England?

Earl’s claims to have been approached by members of England management were considered such earth-shattering news in these parts that they were buried in a Friday gossip column in a Daily Telegraph liftout.

Bondi Beat tracked down the winger after a recent home game for Canberra, whom he joined mid-season from Penrith.

The 23-year-old is a thoroughly nice chap who, as you may or may not be aware, was born in New Zealand, has already played for the Maori – and whose ambition is to represent New South Wales!

And his junior club is listed as Paddington Tigers, home of another fellow whose eligibility is somewhat confused – James Tamou.

“It was kind of through my manager,” Earl tells Bondi Beat when asked about the contact with the RFL.

“It’s something to look at. I’ve definitely got the heritage there …. grandparents. It’s one of those things. I’d love to play Origin footy, that’s my dream.

“It’s an opportunity I need to look at, maybe.

“I don’t know if there’s much doing internationally (this year). I don’t know if, realistically, that would be (a possibility) but next year I’ll definitely look at it.

“I would definitely try and ask around, get a feel for it, see how it all works. If it’s best career-wise, I’d have to jump on it.”

Earl said his family and friends “obviously have got the same aspirations as me, that Origin … that’s childhood dreams, that. But they’re of the impression that if it’s going to help me, if it’s a decision that’s going to help my career, I’ve probably got to take those opportunities.”

Test football as a career opportunity? Over to you, dear reader….

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THIS month’s Bondi Beat comes to you from Townsville, where I recently had a somewhat un-nerving experience.

I was availing myself of a seafood lunch while reading this very journal, when I came across Dave Hadfield’s always-delightful ‘Last Tackle’ column.

And I was intrigued to read his team of Worst Ever Super League imports as the owner of the eatery I was in offered me a completely free tray of calamari.

Then I felt a chill down my spine. The hooker in the team was none other than George Gatis, ‘last seen frying fish in his Townsville chippy’.

The very ‘Townsville Chippy’ I was sitting in. And my host was none other than the self-same George Gatis. Did I tell him about this amazing co-incidence?

Not on your life. I wanted that calamari (George I think Dave was referring to your short time in the English game, rather than your ability).

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THE return of Sonny Bill Williams in 2013 is, predictably, proving a divisive issue.

As you are no doubt aware, Williams is expected to take up a one-year contract with Sydney Roosters after playing the off-season in Japanese rugby union.

The Roosters have bent over backwards (maybe even forwards) to accommodate $BW, allowing him to miss the pre-season and continue to pursue a boxing career.

But not even this has been enough to please his colourful agent, Khoder Nasser, apparently. Having got wind of a request by Williams’ former club, Canterbury, to host Sydney Roosters in round one, Nasser was outraged.

He and the Bulldogs’ CEO, Todd Greenberg, had apparently had a falling-out over one of the manager’s other clients, boxer Anthony Mundine.

Anyways, Nasser reportedly told the Roosters that Sonny Bill would refuse to play in that match if it was going to be a Bulldogs home game and therefore line the club’s coffers.

But the issue which concerns Bondi Beat is Williams signing 12-month contracts in league, allowing him to play every off-season in Japan. If he can do that, then others will attempt to do so.

Not only that, but choosing Japanese rugby union over our World Cup is something of a slight and an insult to all of us, doncha think?

Asked about this issue at a recent media conference to promote the October 13 Australia-New Zealand Test, Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney said: “Sonny’s Japanese rugby union contract this year does not start until October 20, so maybe we’ll run him out here!”

Kearney later conceded he was joking but would “check out” the possibility anyway.

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SOMETIMES typos sneak through into this column despite the best efforts of our diligent editors.

Last month I meant to say there were ‘new’ media guidelines based on the NFL, not ‘no’ media guidelines.

Here’s how it works. During the week, each club makes eight players available to the press in a “mixed zone” at training. You would have heard that expression a bit during the Olympics – it has nothing to do with the genders of those present. It means a mixture of important, famous athletes and unimportant, anonymous hacks.

These players kind of mill around and journos can approach them for interviews. If they are in demand, they might do an ‘all-in’ – that is, speak to a number of hacks and perhaps the odd camera all at once. Otherwise, they sit down with someone and answer questions.

On game day, reporters who are on deadline are allowed into the dressing sheds before everyone else to get quotes.

It’s been interesting to see the new system in action.

During the week, the problem has been that many of the Sydney (and Wollongong) clubs have called their media days at exactly the same time. This has led to the Spinal Tap Instore Effect – more stars than followers on occasions. But if the idea is to get more personality out there and a greater range of stories in the press, then it seems to still be effective.

Hopefully the clubs won’t complain that the new system isn’t working because no-one shows up. A little bit of co-ordination between them to avoid schedule clashes would solve that.

On game day, it’s been problematic. If a publication is only staffing a game with one reporter, it’s a big risk to miss the losing coach media conference and go into the rooms. It might be worth it if there is a specific incident that you want to ask a player about – but if the club PR is aware of the incident, he or she will stop the player talking.

So the take-up on the little wristbands has been slow, to say the least. Maybe if they threw in a free drink afterwards, it might be more popular.

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FOR years, clubs have used the excuse “it’s before the judiciary” as an excuse not to comment on spicy incidents.

If you thought your player was innocent, you would defend him to the hilt. I you thought your player had been the victim of an outrageous attack, you would says so.

But if you didn’t want to say anything, either because your man had committed an atrocity or because he had taken a dive to get a penalty, you would quote the NRL operational manual as a crutch.

South Sydney turned all that on its head the other day when Greg Inglis flattened Dean Young with a shoulder charge and St George Illawarra coach Steve Price compared it to an earlier challenge by his prop, Matt Prior, on Johnathan Thurston.

Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire – I’m sure you’ll agree, not known as a loose cannon – issued a media release attacking Price for “sensationalising” the incident and calling on the NRL to take action under a rule which was previously just there as an excuse for dodging questions.

Bondi Beat reckons the match review committee was more entitled to take umbrage than Price, since the implication was that they were influenced by the comments of the Dragons coach.

The finals must be around the corner, eh?

Bondi Beat is now on Twitter @bondibeat and we have a dedicated email address for your news tips and comments, bondibeat@hotmail.com.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD