Budget Cuts Begin At Melbourne Storm

Melbourne - Mark EvansBy STEVE MASCORD

AS they prepare for a season-defining game, the Melbourne Storm have been hit by their first round of budget cuts by their new owners, with some senior management positions evaporating.

New Storm chief executive Mark Evans told Fairfax Media “a few” of senior management figures had been told there would be no job for them in 2014 but did not want to go into any detail.

During their run of five grand final appearances over the past seven years, Melbourne has had one of the largest football-related staffs in the NRL. It would appear that is about to change.

While there will be no appreciable staffing cut, highly paid staff are being replaced by those on more modest wages.

“The total head count of employees won’t change much – it might be one down,” Evans told Fairfax Media.

“There are some minor changes at the top level and some additions below that. The senior team has been made a bit smaller.

“There’s been a restructure with the forming of five directorates which report to me. There’ll be some natural wastage and one or two people departing but that’s all.”

Evans said senior employees had been asked to apply for positions within the new structure. He did not want to name those who had missed out.

The clubs’ coffers should be significantly boosted on Friday night with a 20,000-plus crowd against an injury hit South Sydney, who appear to have hit a few hurdles after spending much of the season as premiership front runners.

Australia star Greg Inglis was not named by South Sydney on Thursday and would-be opposite number Billy Slater does not expect him to be a late inclusion.

“He ruled that out last night (on television),” Slater said at a South Bank promotion. “He’s pretty honest.”

Luke Keary was named at five-eighth in place of John Sutton (ankle) for the Rabbitohs, with Queensland back rower Chris McQueen holding his place in the starting side despite poor stats in Saturday night’s loss to North Queensland.

The big shock in the Storm side was centre Maurice Blair being named despite him being almost folded in two during Sunday’s 68-4 win over Canberra, and spending the night in hospital wearing a neck brace.

“It’s probably one of the worst tackles I’ve ever seen but seeing Bobby late (Monday) night after he left Canberra, it’s amazing,” Storm head trainer Tony Ayoub said,

“He’s very stiff, after being flexed into a position you’re not used to but … he’s been cleared of all structural damage and at the moment it’s looking very positive for him.

phonto (1)“Again, a frightening injury. Once you saw it on the big screen and again replayed, God, I thought he was in trouble.

“He’s a chance … it’s just a case of whether he comes up. His neck is the least of our worries, it’s his thoracic spine, the middle of his back.

“If we can settle him down in the next couple of days, I’ll give him every chance – absolutely.

Teams for the match, which kicks off at AAMI Park at 7.40pm, are:

MELBOURNE: Billy Slater; Sisa Waqa, Will Chambers, Maurice Blair, Mahe Fonua; Brett Finch, Cooper Cronk; Ryan Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hoffman, Kevin Proctor, Bryan Norrie, Cameron Smith, Jesse Bromwich. Res: Jason Ryles, Tohu Harris, Jordan McClean, Kenny Bromwich, Slade Griffin (one to be omitted).

SOUTHS: Nathan Merritt; Dylan Farrell, Bryson Goodwin, Dylan Walker, Matt King; Luke Keary, Adam Reynolds; Ben Lowe, Ben Teo, Chris McQueen, George Burgess, Issac Luke, Sam Burgess. Res:  Ben Lowe, Nathan Peats, Roy Asotasi, Tom Burgess.

Referees: Ben Cummins/Matt Cecchin.

Filed for: THE AGE

Why Is Melbourne Storm Successful But London Broncos Aren’t?

Melbourne - Gauci Bellamy EvansBy STEVE MASCORD

OF all the Brits who might one day end up running an NRL club, it’s fair to say Mark Evans would have been a long way down the list just 12 months ago.

Best known for his work with Saracens and Harlequins in the other code, Evans had played a role in London Broncos’ tenancy at The Stoop as well as helping market this year’s World Cup semi-final double-header at Wembley.

But the Welshman’s roots were deeply in the other code, where he had been involved in the Bloodgate scandal of 2009, when Harlequins were found to have been using capsules to cheat the blood bin system.

All that changed when Evans was approached early this year by New Zealander Bart Campbell regarding the Melbourne Storm. The NRL champion was up for sale and Campbell, a sports manager and marketer, was thinking of forming a syndicate to buy it from News International.

As cursory as Evans’ knowledge of rugby league was, he knew even less about Australia when he first touched down in May to conduct a due diligence investigation of the Storm.

Now a month into the job, he is uniquely placed to compare the game in Australia and the UK as a business – and also to offer an opinion on why the fortunes of Melbourne and London, who operate in apparently similar environments, have varied so dramatically.

His both an outsider and someone who has had an insider’s perspective on the running of the sport in two hemispheres.

Chatting from his AAMI Park office on a weekday afternoon, he stats with what he sees at the major difference between the two sports markets. “The Australian market is not dominated by one sport, whereas in the UK, soccer is so much bigger than everything else.

“The sports market is terrifically competitive between the four football codes (in Australia), although soccer is played in the summer so it is slightly removed in the sense that for spectators and television, it’s really competing with cricket. It competes with the other football codes for participation and does so very successfully.”

But in Australia, as opposed to the UK, “rugby league has managed to position itself, over time, as one of the two critical television sports on the Australian roster.”

We’ll dip in and out of the Broncos v Storm comparison during this story but Evans starts by pointing out the Melbourne have Broncos in the shade “partly because rugby league here is a national television product.

“You get half a million people in Melbourne watch State of Origin. That’s massively increased from where it was but you have got big events in rugby league in Australia that almost transcend the sport. The grand final and State of Origin really do … they’re sort of must-watch events.

“So there is an awareness in Melbourne that rugby league is a big sport in Australia. In the same way that people in Sydney have to accept that AFL is a big sport in Australia, you can’t avoid that, you can’t ignore that.

“So it’s a lot higher up the sports agenda, I suppose, than rugby league is in the UK.

“Even the AFL, which is financially the strongest of the codes, is having to pump huge amounts of money, amounts you couldn’t possibly spend on the development of a sport in the UK, into Western Sydney as a classic example.

“Melbourne and London? Melbourne is four million people. How do you define London? M25 London has got about nine million and, I mean, everything in Melbourne is played in the middle. They only play out of three stadia – all the rugby, all the soccer, all the Aussie Rules – all in the middle of town.

“In terms of getting to a game, it’s a lot easier than it is in London. Most of the grounds in London tend to be in the suburbs. If you’re living in Barking and you want to go to Twickenham and watch Super League, it’s not an easy trip.”

The AFL signs players from other sports and gives them to clubs, gives expansion teams preferential draft picks and decides what positions need to be filled in each club, paying the wages of those employees the club can’t afford.

“That brings us to another difference – the power at the centre,” says Evans. “Although the differences aren’t as stark in rugby league, the whole power of the league and the power at the centre, are much more along the lines of the American model.

“So, the AFL are a very powerful organisation. They run the league, they run the sport, they run everything. The NRL, not so much but still more than Premier Rugby or the Premier League. They’re a much more centralised business model, which has some advantages.

“You can be more strategic, you can try and promote the benefits across the league rather than everything accumulating to a small number of clubs within the league.”

While elsewhere in this month’s Forty20, Steve McNamara reckons the NRL isn’t as unpredictable as it’s made out to be, Evans says it’s “probably the most competitive of the football codes in Australia.

“Melbourne Storm, running second, can go to Wests Tigers last week and lose and no-one really falls over in shock. Was it a surprise? Yeah, probably. Most people would have said the Storm would win. Was it a shock? Not really. They’ve got Benji Marshall, they’ve got Robbie Farah, they’re not a bad side – and they’re running 15th.

“I suppose Premier Rugby is the closest the UK has got. That probably goes down to eight or nine (teams) – possibly. In the NRL, it really does go down 14 or 15 in the way the AFL used to but now doesn’t because of those expansion policies.

“So that’s another big difference – not just because rugby league is a bigger sport but because of the way it’s structured and organised.”

You can understand from talking to Evans the way he thinks. He’s creating a list in his head, is if for a presentation, the way journalists rank things in terms of newsworthiness even when they’re talking to their friends in the pub.

Evans reckons rugby league, administratively, is still ahead of the pack in the UK and more like its Australia equivalents than other sports.

“They’ve got a licence system, they’ve got a reasonably equal divide of central money. It’s just that they don’t have as much to play with,” he observes.

“Greater Western Sydney really aren’t competitive yet.”

Marketing is also very, very different. “ The control you have over information flow is very different, it’s probably more highly developed in the UK.

“Because the media is much more regionalised here, all the radio is local … Melbourne people listen to Melbourne radio, Sydney people listen to Sydney radio. There are no national newspapers aside from The Australian. If you live in Melbourne and you are going to watch rugby league, you’re either going to watch the Storm or you’re going to watch it on TV. You’re not going to travel to Canberra or where-ever. The same for the Warriors, the Broncos, the Knights, the Cowboys.

“There are a lot of things that the sport itself can’t control. They either come to pass over long periods of time or they accidents of geography.”

Australians, historically, have appointed commissions whenever they were in trouble. They do it for corruption and politics and business and now they have one for rugby league.

“I think it’s a very good model,actually,” Evans says. “I think that the independence aspect, while by no-means perfect and I don’t think anyone at this very early stage is saying it is, is a good model.

“This isn’t just a rugby league thing, it’s all of sport but I think trying to get good governance and good strategy from Leeds where it’s all the teams sitting around the table is very difficult.

“It’s culturally … in the UK we’ve no history of it, in hardly any sport at all. It’s not just us, it’s Europe. The closest thing we’ve got, it might be the Irish rugby union.”

Evans says scarcity of international distractions is actually a strength for the NRL as it provides “focus”.

And so back to our central question: why have the Melbourne Storm excelled and fellow exiles London Broncos floundered?

“I have a fantastic admiration for David Hughes and there are many people at that organisation trying to do the right thing and doing the right thing,” he says. “I do think that growing a spectator based sport in an area with very little tradition of that sport withoutt the sport having massive television coverage is incredibly hard.

“Look at basketball in the UK. Thousands of boys play it. We tried to get a really big basketball league going in the UK , I don’t know how many times. We failed because of lack of arenas and lack of visibility through the media.

“I don’t think it’s any co-incidence that if you look at the NFL, what did they do before bringing games to Wembley? They saturated Sky on Sunday night for five years. They created a market where people understood the product before they even tried to get people to come along and watch it live.

“There are a number of things you have to have, there is no magic formula, but a number of things we’ve talked about today, London Broncos just don’t have. It’s not a huge television sport – there are some (viewers) – the grounds are all spread out and travel’s difficult, they have a dominant code and it’s a real tough thing to do anyway, even when all those things are going in your favour.

“The simplistic saying, ‘oh, it must work because there’s so many people’ – that’s just silly. It flies in the face of all the evidence all around the world.

“There’s got to be a significant proportion of people in that population base who are aware of and understand and have some enjoyment/interest in it. That can come from playing it, it can come from watching it on television. ..

“If you haven’t got that, it’s really difficult.”

Filed for: FORTY20 MAGAZINE

BONDI BEAT: July 2013

RLW July 2013By STEVE MASCORD
NEXT year’s World Club Challenge in Perth? Someone should hurry up and tell Perth about it.
Normally reliable Bondi Beat sources have informed us the most isolated city in the world outside of Siberia is just about nailed on for the first WCC in Australia since 1994.
But John Sackson, the CEO of the WARL, tells us: “If an event of that magnitude was going to take place in Perth next year, I would say negotiations would be well under way.
“And aside from Gary Hetherington throwing up Perth at some stage, I haven’t heard a whisper.
“They’d need to be talking the West Australian Events Corporation, they’d need to be talking to nib Stadium and maybe other venues and I hope they’d be talking to us.
“I haven’t heard a whisper. WCC in Perth? Very doubtful if you ask me.”
All of which suggests two possibilities. One, we’re going to have a one off in the north of England for the fifteenth consecutive year or two, we’re doing things by the seat of our pants as usual.
.
“I’M Welsh. Does that make me a pom?”
With that, former Harlequins and Saracens chief executive Mark Evans introduced himself to the Melbourne media as the new boss of the world champion Storm – and the World Cup lost a consultant.
Evans has been appointed by Bart Campbell, a London-based New Zealander who will be the new majority shareholder of our greatest club side.
But amid all the business related questions at the media conference on May 21, there were others like “do you feel the Purple Pride?” – a good sign I guess from reporters who usually cover religion (ie: AFL).
Are you just bringing outsiders, they wanted to know – conveniently overlooking the fact that only one Victorian has ever played for the Storm.
Hence Evans’ question back to a reporter. “Well, it makes you British,” she responded.
“Right, I’m British. I’m the only Brit. Everybody else is Australasian including Melbournians. Is that how you say it?”
Having watched a live feed of the press conference on my Ustream channel (sorry about the plug!), one fan commented that Evans needed to learn how to say Melbourne.
It’s not “Mell born”, it’s “Melbin”
.
IT was gratifying to see the Rugby Football League’s Blake Solly reveal that what we suggested in last week’s column – a marquee player system for Super League – is under consideration.
The question now is: who would these marquee players be and which clubs would sign them?
I am sure Salford, whose owner has already vowed to cheat the cap, would be one. Although perhaps he means a “marquee player” in the Melbourne Storm sense, where funds for the hire of a tent are funnelled into players’ bank accounts.
Wigan could afford one, Leeds could afford one, Warrington, maybe Saints … who else?
Personally, I hope the system is introduced in time for North Queensland’s mercurial Matt Bowen to be a beneficiary. Why Warrington went cold on him, I’m not too sure.
But I reckon he’d be a hit in a town famous for outstanding Australian imports.
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OK, I have a little bit of info about some warm up games that are due to be held the week before the World Cup kicks off in October.
Expect France to host the United States, England to take on Italy, Wales to tussle with Tonga and Fiji to clash with one of rugby league’s top countries, Rochdale.
Australia don’t believe they need a warm up. The Kiwis do, but there’s still no news on an opponent.
The World Cup remains a niche event among rugby league fans but I know plenty who are going or are trying to arrange the journey.
Aaron Wallace, the stats man who so superbly briefs the Fox Spots commentators, has never been the UK and is hiring a campervan to ferry himself and his girlfriend from match to match.
He might have a passenger at times….
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BENJI Marshall is such a big name in Sydney that his wife has a Sunday newspaper column.
So you can imagine the uproar back in round 10 when he was dropped to the bench for the match against South Sydney.
Add that to the fact he has a column in the Sydney broadsheet the Herald and doesn’t say much to the tabloid Telegraph and you have an idea of the level of interest in his dramatic fall from grace
But the whole thing could be played out again come October and November.
Marshall was relieved of the Kiwis captaincy during the pre-season and it’s not impossible to imagine Kieran Foran and Shaun Johnson keeping him out of the New Zealand side at some stage of the tournament.
Such a scenario would put Bondi Beat in mind of the 199five World Cup, when Gary Freeman was dropped and sulked on a bus at training.
One of Sydney’s favourite soap operas, coming to a field near you.
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THIS is not a joke, people have suggested it as a serious promotion.
There are those who want the Burgess brothers – Sam, Tom, Luke and George, to engage in what is known colloquially as a game of “backyard footy” with the Sims boys – Ashton, Tariq and Corbin.
In fact, it was North Queensland back rower Tariq who came up with the idea.
“Dead-set, if we can get that to happen, I would love it. We could do it for charity – it would be awesome,” Tariq said in the lead-up to the City-Country game.
Of course, the Englishmen would have a numerical advantage – something that could be remedied by adding Ruan Sims, who plays for the Australian womens’ team.
She recalled on a recent television appearance that one night a week, the four of them were allowed to wrestle in the loungeroom.
It was no holds barred but once someone cried, the bell rang.
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MORE and more NRL types are seeing the error of their ways when it comes to golden point time.
Another chip in the foundations of the controversial rule came in round 10, when Manly played a 10-10 draw with Melbourne in Melbourne. That was the score in regulation time and it was also the score after overtime but only following seven unsuccessful drop goal attempts.
According Sea Eagles coach Geoff Toovey, it’s all gone too far.
After 80 minutes, if it’s a draw, it’s only my personal opinion but it should be a draw,” he said. “When we’re having field goal shootouts, it’s just crazy.
“There’re 26 rounds in the competition. There’s enough football played. You want to see the guys busted and bleeding. It’s a gladiatorial sport, I know, but we’ve got to look after our players as well.”
Commentator Phill Gould agreed, writing the next day: “I was always a fan of the golden point and believed it added to the excitement of the close finish.
“However, when you witness a gladiatorial classic from two teams such as Melbourne and Manly this week, a draw and a competition point each is a fair result.”
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A FUNNY moment from the same game.
Storm winger Sisa Waqa (you’ll see him in action for Fiji in a few short months” was called inside the 10 chasing a kick and started walking off the pitch, asking a touch judge why he had been sent to the sin bin!

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD

Ryan Undecided On Joining Storm Consortium

Melbourne Gerry RyanBy STEVE MASCORD

GREENedge Cycling boss and Melbourne businessman Gerry Ryan says he will decide early next month whether to join the new consortium that has taken control of the Melbourne Storm.

European based New Zealanders Bart Campbell and Michael Watt and Melbourne millionaire Matthew Tripp have been identified as members of Holding MS, the company that assumed control of the world champions from News Limited on Tuesday.

Ryan has also been mentioned in dispatches but told Fairfax Media he was yet to commit to the group.

“I think we’re all going to meet on the four or the third of June, when we’re going to discuss the final rollout of the new structure,” Ryan said.

“We’ll have some dialogue then and I’ll decide what I’m going to do.

“I don’t have time to be the owner or major shareholder. But I have said before I think the club can work.”

Ryan said it was his understanding that three individuals were already committed to the project and five more had been asked to take part.

Asked if he was being asked to make a big financial commitment to the Storm, Ryan said: “No.

“I think there are some board positions, that they’re looking for some share holders.

“But it’s more giving them some time, networking and introducing people.”

Ryan said he had met London based Campbell once, six months ago through a mutual friend, and had spent some time with Watt at a creative workshop associated with his Creative Technology Company operation, which made the props of the King Kong stage show.

Watt, who is based in Ireland and sells sports TV rights, also produces Broadway musicals.

Ryan said he was impressed with new CEO Mark Evans and that the new owners would “bring value to the club” but believed it would “take a few years to turn the club around”.

In onfield news, coach Craig Bellamy said he always believed James Maloney who lines up for Sydney Roosters against him on Saturday would be a first grader and added the ex Stormer would not be out of place in the NSW Origin side.

Maloney left the Storm for the Warriors in 2009 after playing four first grade games.

“I used to play against his old man, I played in a rep side with him once,” said Bellamy. “He was a tough unit, his old man.

“James is of the same ilk. He’s a tough, gritty player , he’s probably made for Origin.

“I don’t really think about, when they leave here, what level they’re going to get to.

“I knew he was a first grade player, without a doubt. He’s done tremendously well. He’s had a real good career over there at the Warriors.

“If he does get that (blue) jumper, it’s going to be an enormous credit to him. He hasn’t had the easiest start to his career. He played lots of reserve grade at Parramatta and had a year with us here.

“But he’s worked really hard and it will be a reall pride thing for him and his family, if he gets that blue jumper.”

Bellamy said a “sloppy start” in the Monday Night Football draw with Manly was “a worry”.

Filed for: THE AGE

THE WRAP: NRL Round 10

NRL logoBy STEVE MASCORD

MELBOURNE Storm will break even with no outside assistance in “four or five years”, the club’s new chief executive said at today’s handover by News Limited.

After months of negotiations, former New Zealand barrister Bart Campbell was confirmed as the new chairman of the world and NRL champions with ex Harlequins and Saracens rugby union boss Mark Evans as CEO.

But other members of the Holding MS Australia consortium, believed to include businessmen Gerry Ryan and Matthew Tripp, remain unconfirmed

“Over a five year period, we’d like to get this organisation to be self funding and viable financially without seeing any deterioration of its playing performance on the field,” said Evans, who added he would “imagine” resigning Cameron Smith would be a priority for the football department.

“That’s the aim. It’s not complicated. It’s not easy but we think it’s doable.

“There are still opportunities going forward. Hopefully, without being arrogant or shouting it from the rooftops because that’s not the style we’re looking for, we’d like to think that over a period of time, we can take it up another level.”

Asked if the consortium was looking to make a profit and onsell the Storm, Evans said: “Well, any sports club, you’re only a custodian, aren’t you?

“It’s not like a lot of other business acquisitions where you’re looking for an exit the minute you take it over. That’s not the case.

“If you’re fortunate enough to be the custodian of a sports club for a particular length of time, that’s what it is.

“It will remain privately owned for the foreseeable future. Who knows what might happen down the line. We’re not really thinking about that.”

Existing chairman Stephen Rue hands his role to Campbell while Evans takes over from Ron Gauci.

“The only reason we’re not naming the whole consortium is that most of them are overseas at the moment,” said Evans.

“Rather than go off half baked … they’d like to be here to meet people. We thought it best to announce Bart as the primary shareholder and Bart as the CEO.

“The other shareholders, who are all from this part of the world, will be formally announced and introduced at a function in Melbourne in a fortnight’s time.”

read on

Ribot Says New Owners Will Bring ‘Vision’ Back To Rugby League

Melbourne  John RibotBy STEVE MASCORD

HE was criticised a decade and a half ago for believing rugby league could be globalised but John Ribot is convinced the new owners of the Melbourne Storm will do just that for the club he founded.

The former CEO of Super League told Fairfax Media he had met members of the consortium about to take control of the NRL and world champions and was satisfied the Storm would be in good hands after the change of ownership from News Limited.

Ribot said the group included the highest calibre of expertise in marketing and sponsorship and Melbourne sports fans would see the rugby league club breaking new ground in those areas over the next few years.

“I’ve been criticised, many years ago, over the globalisation of things. Well, you are clearly seeing that now, our game is being globalised,” Ribot said at Brisbane Airport, where he was in transit to Sydney on a business trip.

“That’s a great thing for the game and these guys can certainly take it into that arena.

“If the speculation is right, if it’s the people who could potentially be involved in this, I think the future for Melbourne Storm is really exciting.

“From a sports marketing point of view, we’re going to very fortunate.

“They’ll certainly have the potential to become real leaders in our game

“It’s going to be a win-win for everybody. News, what they’ve done to date has been great but now it’s time to hand the baton over

“It will go to another level but bring them (News) along for the ride too.”

It is expected ownership of the Storm will be transferred this week, with the consortium of English, New Zealand and Australian businessmen having access to more than $20 million in NRL funding which was guaranteed as part of News’ exit.

New CEO Mark Evans, formerly with Harlequins and Saracens rugby union clubs, is expected back in Australia to finalise the deal.

New initiatives are expected to include tying home matches in with movie premiers, travel packages and public holidays as well as taking games to exotic venues.

On the field, the Storm are expecting some team changes ahead of Monday Night Football at AAMI Park against Manly, with centre Justin O’Neill and interchange player Slade Griffin carrying niggling injuries.

Such is the feeling between the sides that two senior referees, Matt Cecchin and Shayne Hayne, have been appointed to the match – unusual this season.

“Manly are a very aggressive team but all the good teams are aggressive – some in different ways than others,” said coach Craig Bellamy.

“That’s their style of game. We’re aware of that. We’ve played them plenty of times.

“It’s about finding a bit more passion for our footy. We’ve been a bit unexcited about the start of our games.”

For Manly, James Hasson is reportedly on stand-by for Tom Symonds who has a quad muscle injury.

Filed for: SUNDAY AGE

New Storm CEO Says AFL Isn’t The Enemy

Melbourne - Mark EvansBy STEVE MASCORD

MELBOURNE Storm’s CEO-in-waiting Mark Evans says rugby league does not have to fight tooth and nail with the AFL in Victoria and instead all sport should be trying to attract people away from other leisure pursuits.

In his first interview since being tapped by the club’s potential new owners to take over from chief executive Ron Gauci, the high profile English rugby union administrator has outlined how he became involved, what stage takeover talks had reached and his initial impressions of the Australian sports scene.

Asked if was ready to roll up his sleeves and battle AFL, Evans said: “No, I don’t think so.

“I think it’s about doing a good job yourself as a sport and competition. If do that, nine times out of 10 people will come and watch.

“When I was in Australia recently, I noticed some cultural differences. In the UK, sport sees itself as a competitor with other leisure activities, like going to the cinema or whatever.

“You rarely have sports saying ‘we have to keep ahead of …’ and name another sport.

“In most markets, rugby league and rugby union are not really competitors. Australia might be a bit different in that regard.

“Melbourne is different in that there are nine AFL clubs, rugby league, rugby union and two soccer clubs. But you just have to do your own job well and if you do that hopefully enough people will do what you want them to.”

Evans declined to comment on the identity of the London-based consortium which approached him to run the Storm but said he had initially conducted an informal, in-person assessment of the NRL and world premiers for the group before agreeing to be CEO.

He added the sale of the club remained imminent – although his return to London last week was a sign that it would not be a matter of days away.

“It’s close but not done,” he said. “You can never say it’s guaranteed until it’s done.”

The former CEO of Harlequins and Saracens and a consultant this year’s Rugby League World Cup, Evans said Melbourne was a “wonderful place” but he would not leave his London-based consultancy without regrets

“It’s not Somalia, is it?” he said when asked about the lifestyle change. “I like what I am doing here in London but at the same time, this is an opportunity … it came out of the blue.”

On the field, coach Craig Bellamy is convinced defensive frailties exposed by Canberra last week have been resolved for Sunday’s trip to Penrith.

“We have to make sure we make teams work hard to score tries and not give them a saloon passage through,” Bellamy told reporters at training.

“We individualised what we thought we needed to individualise. Some of that came from the rest of the team, some of it came one-on-one.

“Hopefully we’ve covered those areas and those guys can be sharper this week.

“We’re certainly not going to over-react and start jumping at shadows.”

Last Saturday’s loss ended a 15-game winning streak for the Storm but Bellamy contended “losses don’t seem to affect younger players as much as they used to.”

New signing Dayne Weston was not named in the side to play his former club Penrith at Centrebet Stadium on Sunday.

Filed for: THE AGE

New Storm CEO Completes Due Diligence Trip To Oz

Melbourne - Mark EvansBy STEVE MASCORD

MELBOURNE Storm’s new chief executive has completed a due diligence trip to the Victorian capital and flew back to London via Abu Dhabi on the eve of the home match against Canberra

Fairfax Media spoke very briefly with Mark Evans, the former chief executive of rugby union clubs Harlequins and Saracens who is now running the sports promotions company helping sell the Rugby League World Cup semi-final double-header at Wembley on November 23.

“Can I ring you when I get to London?” Evans said when contacted. “We’re just about to take off and I’ve got to turn my phone off in about two minutes.”

Although until recently the boss of rugby union’s most tradition clubs, Evans has always professed a taste for the other code and was responsible for London Broncos changing their name to Harlequins RL from 2006 and 2011.

The Broncos and Harlequins share Twickenham’s Stoop stadium and some facilities. Evans is the preferred CEO of a UK-based consortium seeking to buy the NRL and world champions from News Limited.

He’s acting as a consultant for the semi-final double-header dubbed The Big Hit, which recently conducted a high profile launch featuring London mayor Boris Johnson.

In other news, the Storm have dismissed reports late yesterday that they may make a play for off-contract Cronulla, NSW and Australia star Todd Carney.

“We’d love to have him but there is no way in the world we can afford to have him on our list next year,” said football manager Frank Ponissi.

“I’ve not spoken to Todd or his manager.”

Raiders halfback Josh McCrone had been troubled by a groin injury but trained strongly yesterday and will play.

Jarrad Kennedy and Shaun Berrigan did not travel, with Glenn Buttriss coming into the side as 18th man.

Ponissi said he expected Kenny Bromwich to drop off a five-man reserves list. Canberra won the corresponding game last year, 40-12

“They obviously enjoy playing us,” halfback Cooper Cronk told reporters yesterday. Discussing the nine-day break since the Storm’s previous game, he said: “History shows we’re not very good off long breaks.”

Cronks said he welcomed the return of captain Terry Campese to the Raiders’ starting side.

“He’s obviously had a very hard time of it and I wish him all the best,” Cronk said in relation to former Australia five-eighth Campese’s run of serious injury over the past three seasons.

“Hopefully he plays injury free, plays consistently well for Canberra – but not tomorrow night.

“He’s the captain of their football team and the heart of what they do.”

A win would make Melbourne only the fifth club in the history of the premiership, dating back to 1908, to win 16 consecutive games.

Earlier, coach Craig Bellamy said of the club’s recent record against his former team: “We certainly did get towelled up.

“We played really poorly but having said that, the Raiders played well and they beat us down here the year before as well.

“That hasn’t happened to us very often, I must say: sides beating us down here two years in a row. They’re a good side, they’re a big physical side.

“They probably didn’t play the way they’d like to (against North Queensland) but I think – quite eerily – last year they played the Cowboys in Townsville the week before they came down here.

“They got a touch-up then and they came down here and touched us up. Hopefully we can change history this year.”

Teams for the match, which kicks off at 5.35pm at AAMI Park, are:

MELBOURNE: Billy Slater; Sisa Waqa, Will Chambers, Justin O’Neill, Mahe Fonua; Gareth Widdop, Cooper Cronk; Tohu Harris, Ryan Hoffman, Kevin Proctor, Bryan Norrie, Cameron Smith (c), Jesse Bromwich. Res: Jason Ryles, Junior Moors, Slade Griffin, Lagi Setu, Kenny Bromwich (one to be omitted)

CANBERRA: Reece Robinson; Sandor Earl, Jack Wighton, Blake Ferguson, Edrick Lee; Terry Campese (c), Josh McCrone; Shaun Fensom, Jake Foster, Joel Edwards, Brett White, Matt Mcillwrick, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs. Res: Anthony Milford, Joe Picker, Dane Tilse, Paul Vaughan, Glen Buttriss (one to be omitted)

Referees: Ashley Klein/Phil Haines.

Filed for: THE AGE

HEAVEN: Not Waiting (2012)

Heaven in 2012

By STEVE MASCORD

WHEN your band is called Heaven, it stands to reason that death is going to play a big role in how your career unfolds.

For the Australian 80s hard rock heroes of that name, it was not one death but two that led to their reformation, which is now in overdrive after a run of shows in the past month.

Drummer and band spokesman Joe Turtur’s day job these days is catering for rock concerts. In 2009, he found himself delivering grub for the Mick Cocks benefit show at Enmore Theatre. Former Rose Tattoo – and Heaven – guitarist Cocks was battling cancer at the time.

“We didn’t know what was going to happen with Mick,” said the talkative Turtur. “At the time, at Mick’s benefit, he seemed pretty good, it was pretty promising but six months later, he died.

“We were all at the funeral. That was a pretty touching moment for us. John Haese, who was the guitar player before Mick … John and Mick were very good friends (despite) the fact Mick had replaced John.

“We were all there and also our manager was there, Michael Browning, and a whole bunch of people – Jon Stevens, a whole bunch of people who were associated with the Michael Browning camp at the time. And lots of media, industry folk. Of course, all of Rose Tattoo. We get on well with all those guys, we’d done plenty of gigs with Angry and stuff. It was just a big day for us, you know? It was a realisation that we are still around, we’re still healthy, let’s do it again.”

The ephemeral nature of life was also re-enforced when Mark Evans, formerly of Heaven and a little band called AC/DC, went to Canberra for a gig around the same time. He ran into the brother of ex-Heaven guitarist, Bradford Kelly.

“He said ‘how’s Kelly’ and he said ‘you don’t know?” Mark said ‘know what?’ and he said ‘Kelly died … about a year ago’.

“As it turns out, he basically went to Canberra because that’s where his family was from. He was a bit of a loner … and died of AIDS. Prior to us, when he was with Swanee, he used to shoot up quite a bit and he contracted AIDS from sharing needles. None of us knew. I don’t think he even knew when he was in Heaven that he had AIDS. I suppose we’re probably all lucky that none of us contracted it – not that there were sexual connotations in any way.”

It’s the era of reunions in Australian rock – Nick Barker and the Reptiles did the circuit a couple of weeks ago and the Baby Animals are around next week. But Turtur and his men are half a generation older than those types – and twice as determined.

Former guitarist Mitch Perry had been lined up to be part of the reformation but was recruited by Lita Ford. So Rowan Robertson of LA big rockers the DC4 has filled the breach.

“Mitch (still) very much wants to be a part of Heaven,” says Turtur. “Whether that happens later on, we just don’t know. There is some talk of us going overseas later in the year. There’s also some possibility of some more work here in December and January …”

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