BONDI BEAT: April 2016


THE clubs may not like it but do we now have enough English players in the NRL to revive a mid-season Test?

There is absolutely no reason why the Kiwis should not play while Origin is on, aside from the fact clubs would declare war if they had to stand down their New Zealanders along with their Maroons and Blues.

Even without the stand-down, though, the Test could be played on a Friday in the May split round.

The problem in the past has been opposition. But there is now enough Englishmen to need only a handful of others to take the long flight Down Under.

Of course, there is ideological issue of handing out England shirts to people who may not have earned it yet.

But as colleague Brad Walter pointed out to me after we watched Sam Burgess’ competitive return in round one, you could have a Great Britain selection that includes Ireland’s Tyrone McCarthy and any number of Scotland ‘heritage players’ such as Kane Linnett and Lachlan Coote.

What do you think?

WHAT about ‘The Bunker’, then?

Firstly, it looks like nothing so much as Mission Control at Cape Canaveral. It’s a real shame Chris Houston has left for Super League as I’d love to hear them say “we have a problem, Houston”.

I am someone who is extremely cynical about adding more apparatuses to officiating when you are always going to get human error.

But having said all that, I like what I’ve seen so far. It’s an improvement. And it puts the NRL even further ahead of Super League.


MANY readers will be of the opinion that sport’s borders are set in stone and expansionary efforts by rugby league are bound to fail.

Upon my return to Oz, I saw a convincing rebuttal of that argument in the UFC. Walking to Allianz Stadum for South Sydney-Sydney Roosters, I overheard a lad being told he was looking forward to having a few friends around for a fight from Las Vegas.

No mention of the 108-year-old derby taking place up the road.

In the UK, darts provide us with an example of a sport that can grow its market share and cultural relevance.

Sadly we don’t seem to have a united strategy at all – or if we do, we don’t have the resources to even consider putting it into practice.

advertise here

IN Australia there is a thing in television sports coverage called “fair use provisions”.

This means that any website or television station can post highlights from any sporting event, whether on not they have the rights.

So while the BBC, for instance, will have still photos of soccer matches they do not have rights to, in Oz they would be allowed by law to show video from those games.

That’s why Australian newspapers declined accreditation for the last rugby union World Cup – because the IRB wanted them to sign away those rights. So the reporters just bought tickets and interviewed players at their hotels.

World Cup ebay
What it means in a practical sense for rugby league is that when Chris Sandow kicked that amazing drop goal against Salford, the footage was all over Aussie sites within hours.

One suspects Super League would prefer the fair use provisions were introduced in the UK – the one-pointer on the hooter was a great advert for our game.


It’s probably the best rugby league story in the world and it’s going unwritten.

Belgian officials brought some Brussels City Council officials to the World Club Challenge on February 21 and they were so impressed with the sport that are going to sink further resources into promoting it.


In Molenbeek, a hive of extremist activity and a place where police centred their manhunt after the Paris attacks.

Rugby league has a wonderful record in underprivileged areas of channelling aggression more positively.

I’m hoping to visit Brussels this year to chase up this story.


THE round one NRL clash between Wests Tigers and the Warriors was dubbed the Ivan Cleary Cup by one cynic – because he’d be coaching whoever lost.

True to their form in recent seasons, it was the Aucklanders who fell a long way behind. Fought back, but still lost.

Cleary may not have a steady coaching income at the moment but he’s holding the whip hand when it comes to his future employment prospects.

It wouldn’t surprise if Hull KR sounded him out after sacking Chris Chester; even if Cleary went back to the NRL next year he could probably do some good things in East Hull in 2016.


WHILE Super League continues with one referee, Down Under we have two in a competition which is planned to be scrapped!

Two referees are in use for televised Under 20s matches and all finals. In round one, because there was only one of these, they threw two whistlers at the Sydney Roosters-South Sydney Holden Cup match, just for practice.

amazonYet this is the last year of the National Youth Competition, which revert to state-based league next year. The NRL still has enough referees to field two in the matches.

Now when we compare this to England … well, lets start with televised under 20s matches and work backwards from there.

And the editor had the hide to ask for 500 words on the biggest differences between rugby league in Australia and in the UK. I could have written 50,000.


GREG Inglis walked out of the dressing room at Allianz Stadium in round one with his eye on the prize – the fading sunlight at the end of the tunnel.

GI had already done a media conference and studiously avoided meeting the eyes of any of the waiting media.

Then a young Channel Nine reporter stopped him and directly requested a chat. He stopped, considered the request and eventually agreed.

donate2During those moments when he was giving serious thought to denying the cub reporter, I’d like to think he was considering his Queensland and Australian team-mate Jonathan Thurston.

Thurston has set such a high standard of accessibility over the past 12 months that he has almost shamed his colleagues into arresting the sad decline in co-operation with the media throughout the NRL.

He’s even allowed himself to be photographed at home and while in the UK recently did everything of which he was asked – and more.

JT knows that being in Townsville doesn’t help him when it comes to maintaining his profile and that he needs to go an extra yard to ensure his maximises his post-career employment prospects.

Throw in his game-day interaction with kids and he’s setting a high standard for everyone else.




IF you go to Origin III tonight or to one of the big end-of-season games, chances are you’ll notice something as soon as you walk through the gates.

You’ll be bombarded with advertising. The big video screen will be spruiking something, at halftime they’ll shoot a commercial on the field or try to get you to sing “C’mon Aussie, C’Mon” and the pre-match entertainment won’t be there to entertain you, it will be there to sell you a CD.

Somewhere on your ticket, in tiny print, it must say that by purchasing it, you agree to be part of some grotesque marketing experiment. But it doesn’t say that anywhere.

In the past, when I have raised the issue of ambush marketing at big events, I have been told that State Of Origin is a commercial product and therefore can’t be over-commercialised. Here at the Big Issue, we think that’s rubbish.

If State of Origin is just a giant billboard, why do players have numbers on their jerseys signifying how many others have represented their respective states? Why are the old state coats of arms making a comeback? Why are former players coming into camp to tell the current stars about their experiences?

Origin may be only 32 years old but it has tradition, it has dignity, it is more than just a vehicle for contra deals and flogging telephones, movies, TV shows and fast food.

I don’t think anyone minds seeing the logos of the sponsors on the field or on the big screen, as you would see at club games. But by some twisted logic, it seems that the more you pay for your ticket, the more you get crass advertising and cross promotion shoved down your throat. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

The sight of the national anthem being used to flog a musical in Melbourne was truly the bottom of the barrel.

We all know the NRL hasn’t been flushed with funds since the Super League War. The League probably should be congratulated for the first few deals it did to get entertainment for free and “leverage” events to make a bit of cash. The alternative to these deals may have been no entertainment, just the match.

But it’s gone overboard now. Way overboard. Surely we can have pre-match entertainment based on merit rather than whether their record company happens to be a sponsor.

Pretty soon, we keep hearing, rugby league won’t be broke anymore. Every day someone comes up with a new idea on how to spend the TV riches.

How about this one, ARL Commission? Let’s give the match day experience its integrity back.


I WOULD like to think this week’s A-List interview with the normally reticent Anthony Watmough is symptomatic of a long-overdue thawing in relation between NRL players and the media.

The rise of gossip columns and the like caught most of our stars off guard and there has been an atmosphere of distrust for about half a decade now.

But Big Issue has noticed many of the young players coming through now do not seem to share this mistrust and even appear proactive in moulding their own public personas. Matt Gillett, Martin Kennedy, Josh Hoffman and Omar Slaimankhel are four names that come to mind.

With new media guidelines just around the corner and a fair bit of goodwill about, there are reasons for optimism.


I HOPE living in Australia does not disqualify Sam Burgess from the race to replace Jamie Peacock as England captain.

Peacock has stepped down in middle of the series against the Exiles. He may have been disappointed in his performance in the first match but Peacock was a great skipper – tireless on the field and thoughtfuland accessible off it.

Gareth Ellis, who joins Hull next year from Wests Tigers, has been mentioned as a possible successor. I’ve got no problem with that but at 23, Burgess could lead his country for a decade.

He ticks every single box except living in the UK.

The second Exiles game is played tonight and it is to be hoped it is an improvement on the first match, which was a somewhat disappointing spectacle.

I’ll repeat what I’ve said before: one of the matches must be played in London, on ANZAC Day. It could become one of the great expat traditions to go to the dawn service, play some two-up and go see a team of Kiwis and Aussies take on the old enemy.

It might even initiate a few Aussies and Kiwis in the capital who have so far resisted the attraction of the London Broncos.