The NRL’s 12 Best Characters

Kevin Gordon instagram
Kevin Gordon instagram

By STEVE MASCORD
THERE are times these days when it seems “characters in rugby league” is a non sequitur.
We remember Allan Langer checking out the race results on the big screen at the SFS, Dallas Donnelly eating a goldfish and Kerry Hemsley dressing up as a bushranger.
Today? Meh.
But for all the suggestions that it’s the media’s fault no-one is willing to break the mould in 2015, isn’t LIFE just more serious now? Aren’t lunch breaks and holidays getting shorter, visits to the pub more infrequent, diets healthier and more boring?
When our players’ poll hit up 100 NRL stars about who they thought was the competition’s
“funniest player”, the answers would have surprised many readers.
San Thaiday and Konrad Hurrell are know as being “smiley” but their senses of humour aren’t really laid bare in in public. James Maloney and Willie Mason, yes. Michael Ennis?
The fact is, not everyone is Beau Ryan – and some jokes aren’t for public consumption. Shaun Berrigan has a reputation as being a laugh-a-minute among players, and as little more than taciturn among everyone else.
The opposite is also true. Some players – like, say, Richard Villasanti and Martin Bella – were so different that they’d not win too many popularity contests among their peers. But for that reason alone, they were none-the-less “characters”.
All of which is saying you’ve got to dig a bit deeper these days to find the game’s engaging hombres – but they’re there.
Maybe we’re about to get a resurgence; our players are looking to American athletes who set themselves up for live by stepping outside the norm.
“We need those characters,” St George Illawarra’s Joel Thompson said on Denan Kemp’s refreshing new video podcast, The Locker Room.
“Gal (Paul Gallen) speaks his mind., we need more players to speak their mind. I’ve done it before. I’ve said something in the paper and it’s used as Ammo for another team.
“We might see a change. The Queenslanders weren’t happy but I think the media guys got a lot out of Gal’s honest interview (before OriginI II).
“It’s a bit of pressure on him, too, to stand up.”
Here they, are then: the 12 players keeping the flame of individuality burning in the NRL
12. KEVIN GORDON
Gordon, Kevin 2RUMOUR has it that when Titans trainer Trevor Gilmeister first saw the winger’s sumo haircut, his ears began emitting steam. But the Filipino international and part-time DJ is unbowed, posing on his own Instagram account in all sorts of whacky scenarios, from Lord Of The Rings scenes to pensive portraits with the Gold Coast in the background. Often, he has no shirt on. These sorts of expressions would have put a target on his head in any previous era but rivals seem to except Kev as being a little eccentric and treat him like everyone else. Culturally, that’s a big step forward for the game.
11. SAM THAIDAY
Brisbane - Sam ThaidayREADERS of this esteemed organ know columnist Sam Thiaday’s always got something to say. When cockroaches call you “Third Man In Thaiday” for six weeks a year, it can go one of two ways. Thankfully, Sam takes it all in his stride and has earned respect even from those who like to boo him. He’s also turned his career around after losing the Broncos captaincy and – subsequenty – losing quite a few kilos. A few years earlier, Sam lost a habit that certainly made him stand out from the crowd – he stopped smoking! “I wasn’t that bad but I’m actually glad I gave that up – it’s probably one of the silliest choices I’ve made in my life,” he says. But what is this list about, if not silly choices?
10. DAVID KLEMMER
Klemmer, David3IT’S not your imagination. David Klemmer really does pick “victims” in advance. When he takes the ball from the kick-off, the 200 cm Canterbury prop says, “”Whoever I see, I try to spot someone and run as hard as I can at them. I’ve probably got someone lined up to run at before the kick-off. As soon as I get it, I’m going straight for him.” Like fellow NSW prop David Woods, Klemmer loves old school rock and old school football. That got under the skin of Corey Parker in State of Origin, where he accused Klemmer of lacking respect. You’ll be reading about this fellow for years to come. He is said to have earned the respect of fellow NSW forwards by wrestling Paul Gallen in camp.
9. PAUL GALLEN
Paul Gallen
RUGBY league’’s Twitter king, Gal showed an aptitude for biting honesty up to a decade ago but media outlets took their time spotting his potential. The NSW captain’s public utterances often cause drama – like his rumination on the position of “any c—- at the NRL’ and the position of former Sharks coach Peter Sharp. Whi;e Gallen no doubt fancies a media career upon retirement, it’s not like he’s playing up to the microphone – more like pretending it’s not there. “’m still the same bloke off the field,” he said when we featured him in our A-List section a few years back. “It’s just I probably get along with media a bit more these days. I’m always nice to everyone and most people are nice to me. That’s just part of the job. To be a captain, I’ve to got to do all those things right. If I wasn’t doing those things right, I wouldn’t be a good captain and people would find me out.”

8. JAMES MALONEY

James Maloney/wikipedia

FRANKLY, we were disappointed in Country Origin coach Trent Barrett when he said Jimmy would have to change is persona to be considered a leader. Well, he didn’t actually say that – but it’s how some people interpreted it when the new Manly box told Nick Walshaw, formerly of this parish, ““Jimmy likes to be the joker but if that’s all you ever expect of someone, that’s all they’ll ever give you.” We like jokers and Maloney has always been one, to the extent that some of his old team-mates at Melbourne didn’t know how to take him. ““It was all just … I walk in, I am who I am and that’s the way it was,” says Maloney, who has taken his irascibility to a wider audience, via Channel Nine, recently. Don’t change, Jimmy.
7. GEORGE ROSE
George Rose/wikipedia
IT’S easy to dismiss George Rose’s position as a rugby league cult figure as a function of his rolly-polly physique. But Rose is as popular for the smile on his face as the paunch in his jersey. Sadly, not only does the game quietly discourage outspoken players – it is also legislating against men of Rose’s grith. The decrease in the number of permitted interchange players will likely lead to their extinction. “I think they mustn’t be enjoying the way we play,” Georgey told Fairfax. “I’m going to watch some old Nathan Blacklock highlight reels and try to be a bit more entertaining so they keep us in the game.”
6. JAMIE SOWARD
Criticised ... Jamie Soward
Leave it to Jamie when you want someone to say what everyone else is thinking. Last week he explained – on national television – the conspiracy theory surrounding using the video referee as much as possible for the sake of sponsors KFC. “Bryce Cartwright scored right in front of the ref and he went up to see if he grounded it. I said ‘oh, mate, you were a metre away, you’re just going up to see if it’s chicken time’, A stint with London Broncos has made Soward a more measured character. He told A-List: “I guess the easiest way to sum it up is you either love or hate Jamie Soward. There’s no in between.”
5. JOSH REYNOLDS
Canterbury - Josh ReynoldsHERE’S the definition of being a footy hero, a “character’ in professional sports: you are sitting on the bench. You have not played a second of the match. Ten metres behind you, thousands of gans are chanting your name … over and over again. That’s what Canterbury five-eighth Josh Reynolds experienced on June 29 at Belmore Sports Ground, during the game against Melbourne. His nickname is grub and Bulldogs fans love him for it. Jim Dymock gave him the nickname, after “Grub” Henderson, Matt Nable’s character in the 2007 film, the Final Winter. “When I was, 16 or 17, I just sort of said to myself ‘I’m going to have to probably train a bit harder than everybody else because I haven’t got the natural talent, natural strength, natural build of a footy player’,” he recalls. And the fans probably love him for that as much as anything.
4. ISSAC LUKE
South Sydney - Issac LukeTHESE days, it’s mainly the cheeky grin that provides a glimpse of what Issac “Bully” Luke is all about. He used to be one of the NRL’s most quotable players but certainly isn’t trying to be the next Fletch or Hindy. But Issac is a one-off – who can ever forget his admission that he tried to break cousin Rangi Chase’s leg in 2011? Before the series, he told A-List: ““Rangi’s a bit suspect but I guess he likes white people!” One can only wonder about what would have happened to this lad who used to beat bullies up in front of their parents to teach them a lesson if rugby league hadn’t come along.
3. AARON WOODS
Aaron Woods/weststigers.com.auWESTS Tigers coach Jason Taylor thought he’d heard it all until a couple of Fridays ago. That’s when his prop, Aaron Woods, approached him on the occasion of his 100th first grade game, against Melbourne at Leichhardt Oval. He wanted to know if he could bring his dog into the dressingroom. And so the modern day Geoff Robinson did, after also taking said canine on his lap of honour at fulltime. Then there was the commemorative banner which he failed to successful crash through at the start of the night. Like front row partner David Klemmer, he geed himself up for Origin II by listening to old school rock like The Screaming Jets. “I’m not sure he would have been born when our first record came out,” says Jets singer Dave Gleeson.
2. WILLIE MASON
Newcastle - Willie MasonSPEND any time on the sideline at a game win which Willie Mason is involved and you’ll realise he needs the jokes, sledging and wise-cracking to focus on the contest. Contrary to popular belief the sledging is only a small part of the repertoire. Mason cajoles team-mates, chats with sideline eyes and photographers and takes the Mick out of opponents in equal measure. “When you have a look at my scrapbook and rapsheet, I haven’t done a thing wrong,” he told A-List in 2010. “I can walk around at the end of the day with my head held high. I’ve made a few mistakes. I’ve urinated in public twice. I don’t think I’m the only bloke in the world to do that.”
1. NATE MYLES
Nate Myles/wikipedia
UNFORTUNATELY for Nate, some people remember him for one Central Coast misadventure and have forever left him in the “serious” basket. The man is a comic genius – he has the timing and subtlety that other league funnymen lack. This is the fellow, during the superheroes round, who after clashing with Ashton Sims, told referee Gavin Badger “he’s Thor, he’s scary, he’s got a hammer”. After a Canberra try last year, he approached the referee and said “put one of our centres in the bin, he can’t tackle.” Myles is smart, funny, and knows how to put drama behind him. His support of his wife Tessa’s battle with cancer has won him plenty of new admirers.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

THE JOY OF SIX: Round 25

The Joy Of SixBy STEVE MASCORD
BARBA QUESTIONS
QUESTIONS prompted by the emergence of a photo of a woman who claimed to have been punched by Ben Barba: How was this not a cover-up, given that the highest profile NRL player at the time was suspended by his club and we weren’t told why? If this allegation was related to domestic violence, was the alleged victim protecting her own income by not reporting it to police? If Barba’s own mental state was the reason for keeping it quiet, and if he did not complete his counselling, why was he allowed to return to the field? How can the NRL employ in a senior position an official who presided over such a cover-up? How can a club which suspended its star player over an alleged assault on a woman promote the Women In League Round? Next time a player is stood down for “personal issues”, should we just assume that they are lying when they say there was no underlying incident?

CARETAKER OR UNDERTAKER?
IS there a worse gig in rugby league than that of caretaker coach? You can be rated as the next big thing but if your boss happens to get sacked and you have to fill in for him for a few weeks, chances are your career will be set back half a decade. Think Steve Georgallis, Brad Arthur, Ian Millward … and Andrew Dunemann. Dunemann’s added headache is that his a contender for the North Queensland job. The Raiders being beaten on his watch won’t help – but he could hardly say no, could he? “We’re happy with Duners,” said hat-trick centre Jarrod Croker. “We want to play for Duners. I know it didn’t look like it but we are busting our backsides for him and we wanted to come out and prove a point.” The Raiders learned of team-mate Sandor Earl’s drugs infraction notice when they touched down in Auckland on Thursday.

GREEN WITH EMPATHY
MATTHEW Elliott says it took him a long while to get over his departure from the Canberra Raiders and has sympathy for their current plight. On the same weekend when Wayne Bennett saw fit to discuss Brisbane’s proud finals record after they missed out on the play-offs for the second time in 21 years, Elliott said: “I’ve really got massive fondness for the Raiders. They gave me my first opportunity and I love the club. I’m very confident that they’ll get back on track. I didn’t always see eye-to-eye with the administrators but I know how much they care and I know how keen they are to help that team do well. Man, they’ve got some real talent. I know we’re talking about players who are leaving but I watched their under 20s game and they’ve got some good players coming through.”

X-FACTOR MEETS FLASH GORDON
‘X-FACTOR’ has become one of rugby league’s abiding clichés and while it annoys many, Gold Coast winger-cum-fullback Kevin Gordon has embraced it. Using Instagram’s new video feature, he recently mocked up a “segment” in which he was a contestant on the TV show of that name. “I’m into X-Factor this year, I’ve been watching it,’ said the Filipino international. “So I put myself in it, singing my song “get it to Gordon”. I filmed the judges (from the TV) and filmed myself, then filmed the judges and edited it together so it looked like I’m talking to the judges and the judges are talking to me.” Gordon did a variation on Michael Jackson’s one-glove routine when he played in yesterday’s win over Sydney Roosters with one shoe, because James Maloney threw one of his boots into the bay at the southern end of the ground. “Lucky I had it back. I don’t know how I would have gone off my right foot,” he said.

COUPE DE SBW?
NEW Zealand coach Stephen Kearney, speaking on Triple M on Friday night, said he still didn’t know whether Sonny Bill Williams was available for the World Cup but may have given a hint of the Sydney Rooster’s intentions by saying SBW “has a title to defend”. That’s a reference to the New Zealand heavyweight boxing title. Those who expect Williams to box instead of going to RLWC2013 expect him to aim higher than that. At the very least, it indicates the NZ title has been raised as an issue with Kearney. The Kiwis have an extended 38-man squad with which they communicate over training camps and travel arrangements. SBW and Benji Marshall remain part of that group.  Kearney admits he is willing to give Williams as long as it takes to make a call.

USING YOUR HEAD
A SHOULDER charge is not a shoulder charge if you wrap your arms around your opponent – and the same seems to go for aggressive use of the head. Queensland and Gold Coast forward Nate Myles said nothing when he was criticised by NSW players for leading with his head in Origin but had plenty to say when he was struck Sunday in the melon by Sydney Rooster Sam Moa. He suffered a suspected syndesmosis of the ankle as he fell, likely ending his season. Before Moa was placed on report for a shoulder charge (the head seemed to be the initial of contact), Myles used so many expletives as he stumbled around that referee Dave Munro advised colleague Matt Cecchin to caution him. Taking pity on the badly-injured international, Cecchin let it slide.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

Origin I: Rude Awakening

p1a_coverBy STEVE MASCORD

IT’S 8.30, the morning after New South Wales beat Queensland 14-6 in the opening State of Origin match, and the phone rings.

Your correspondent is not in the best of moods after a stuff-up on radio the previous night (more of that later) and has little patience for the ABC Canberra producer who is doing that thing producers’ do – “auditioning” talent.

“There has been a lot of outcry over Paul Gallen punching someone in the head and getting away with it,” he says. “There has been a bit of a moral shift and self-examination in sport recently with the banning of live odds in telecasts.

“You would go to jail if you did that in the street. What do you think?”

I am not being paid for this radio appearance he about to request I do, so I am not going to audition for it. “Look,” I say wearily, “if you want me to talk about it on air, I will. What time?”

Twenty minutes later, I am on air with Genevieve Jacobs, who explains that she doesn’t watch rugby league but it was on the previous night at home because there were “young blokes” around.

She’s not as bolshy as you might imagine by that but says she found it unbelievable Gallen was not sent off and thought it had undone the good work of Canterbury appointing a female chief executive and Tom Waterhouse’s omnipresence being limited by federal government legislation.

As someone introduced as a rugby league writer, no doubt my friend the producer hoped I would pig-headedly defend Gallen, who just before halftime used a swinging arm on Queensland’s Nate Myles before repeatedly striking him in the head.

“He’s been twisting my knee all night,” Gallen told referee Ashley Klein after being placed on report. “He’s been doing it series after series, head-butting…..”

Later, Gallen said the Blues were “sick of being bullied” in the previous seven series defeats. Clearly, this had been a rallying call under new coach Laurie Daley, who described the stoush as “a great Origin moment”.

But I am not about to read my lines as knuckle-dragging mungo hack. In fact, I agree with Genevieve. The idea, expounded for the nine millionth time the night before – this time by Daley – that Origin “is different” is illogical and ridiculous. How can a multi-million dollar competition like Origin be run according “implied” rules that no-one has ever written down?

How can referees feel too intimidated to send off a player or give penalties because of “the occasion” when it’s the same sport they referee each weekend? Is Origin sport’s biggest see-no-evil, speak-no-evil conspiracy? But each year, an incident brings us closer to sanity, transparency and consistency. This year, it was Gallen and Myles.

One thing though, about the old ‘you’d go to jail if you did that in the street’ line. You’d go to jail if you crash tackled someone, too. They have fights in ice hockey and, well, boxing. So the rugby league field is not quite the cave of Neanderthals some of Genevieves listeners would have us believe.

But I found my conversation with my friends in the capital interesting on another level.

As big as rugby league is in New South Wales and Queensland, there are swathes of the population that ignore it completely. Yet even these people can’t escape Origin.

When they watch it, they judge it by society’s values, not rugby league’s. And there is almost always a disconnect.

As journalists, we are kind of conditioned to believe we are the guardians of community standards, pulling the rude, the corrupt and the anti-social into line at ever turn. But that’s bollocks.

Two nights before Origin, Warriors Russell Packer had relieved himself on the field, in full view of television cameras (although without exposing himself) in Monday Night Football. Personally, I had found the incident funny and was far more concerned with a fan sign that read “Let’s Gone Warriors”.

But the Warriors were fined $15,000 over the, ahem, indiscretion. Similarly, the outcry over Gallen surprised me.

As it transpires, I am a terrible barometer of community standards. You might be too. But who is a barometer? The Canberra radio announcer who never watches rugby league? The gay couple down the street? The immigrants next door?

Certainly, those of us without kids seem to be behind the eight ball. We have no idea what is acceptable or offensive and are frequently surprised, as detailed above.

One thing’s for sure, the most conservative elements of society do seem to win in the end, particularly now. Rugby league can refuse to make a punch to the head an automatic send-off but rest assured, it will happen eventually.

So, what was my stuff up? I was told Nate Myles, not Gallen had been charged and reported same on the radio.

Suspended for head butting someone in the first immediately? Hey, don’t be so sure it won’t happen one day….

Filed for: FORTY-20 MAGAZINE

THE BIG ISSUE: #47

The Big IssueBy STEVE MASCORD

STATE Of Origin is a con. Our greatest contest is built on a giant hypocrisy whose time is just about up.

This column is not chiefly about whether its author was offended by Paul Gallen stiff-arming, then repeatedly punching, Nate Myles last Wednesday or about whether the incident was bad for the kiddies.

We’ll get to those things in due course anyway.

It’s about the inherent dishonesty of selling tickets, advertising and television rights on the promise of violence and then punishing those tho deliver it.

You talk about the leadership displayed by Paul Gallen last week and I’ll agree – he displayed plenty of it …. on Thursday night when he said if he was going to be suspended for fighting in an Origin, the NRL shouldn’t use footage of it to promote game two.

Last year I asked referees boss Bill Harrigan – on the record – whether Origin was played under a different set of rules. He wouldn’t give me a straight answer.

In these pages, rival captains Gallen and Cameron Smith contended you could get away with more in Origin. No-one in officialdom contradicted them.

Why? Because the cash registers were already ringing. The silence of officials on these issues plays to the bloodlust of fans happy to hand over their cash in the hope of a brawl, a stiff arm or a head butt.

At least in boxing and UFC, you get what you pay for.  They’re not going to suspend someone for hitting someone else. If the rules are different in Origin, spell it out – you can stay on the field after throwing a punch, you can hold down in the tackles longer, you can commit some professional fouls, you can niggle.

Tell us.

What other business would try to sell you something without describing its product? What other multi-million dollar industry is run on a set of rules and regulations that are never written down?  There were some in the past but they didn’t survive.

Fellow columnist Mark Geyer is the personification of this duplicity. He was told to do as he pleased in an Origin in 1991 and was then banned for five weeks, costing him a Test jumper. He was conned. Now we are all being conned.

“Why can’t we just accept a set nudge-nudge, wink-wink rules like we always have?”, I hear you ask. Because it doesn’t stand up to the scrutiny of anyone but us. We used to have Kingswood Country and Love Thy Neighbour on TV too. Times have changed.

People who don’t understand rugby league didn’t comprehend  why some things last week were allowed to happen. And all we could say in response was “it’s Origin”.

Now, how DUMB did we all sound saying that? Turns out, we didn’t really understand it ourselves, because no-one even told US!  How primitive and unprofessional is it that referees run out under implied pressure not to give penalties “because it’s Origin”?

Like I said, it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. And as a spectator sport – leaving aside participants – we are trying to attract new people and become a truly national game.

At best, as an activity without any sound logical or moral basis, Origin is a guilty pleasure – like a smoke behind the bike rack at school or an illicit affair. And guilty pleasures don’t last.

Secondly, Origin is played on Wednesday night specifically because families are watching – that’s why Nine pays the big bucks – so we can’t abrogate our responsibilities to families after copping the cash to keep it midweek.

The kids don’t go out to the park, while their mums work in canteens, to play UFC every Saturday morning.

Rugby league is in the (right now awkward) position of being both a community activity and a knock-em down, drag ‘em out professional sport played by super athletes. Kids can’t be formula one drivers on the weekend but they can imitate rugby league players.

I was not personally offended by what Gallen did. But I wasn’t offended by Russell Packer either. I don’t have kids, I am a crap barometer of community standards.

Here’s what should happen to satisfy community standards: David Smith should sit in front of a camera and tell the nation: “State Of Origin will never be played under a different set of rules again. There are no separate rules.

“If you are watching State of Origin hoping for violence, please switch the channel and watch something else. We don’t want you. Thank you.”

After that, we figure out if rugby league itself needs to sacrifice any more to keep attracting young players. Win back the mums, by all means.

But first, end the hypocrisy.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

Critics Of Origin I Stoush Missed The Point, Says Reynolds

Canterbury - Josh ReynoldsBy STEVE MASCORD
UNUSED NSW reserve Josh Reynolds says critics of last Wednesday’s Origin biffo are missing a big point – there are still plenty of punches in NRL games that go unpunished.
After sitting on the bench for the entire opening interstate encounter, the 24-year-old five-eighth returned to Canterbury on Saturday night and played a key role in the 36-26 win over North Queensland.
But he was a spectator like the rest of us when Paul Gallen took to Nate Myles and says the reaction across such a wide cross-section of the community has been an eye-opener.
“I don’t want to say too much on it but for me, what happens on the field stays on the field,” Reynolds tells RLW.
“There’ve been stinks every game, there’s a stink nearly every game in the NRL and people don’t talk about that.
“But obviously, just because it’s on the big stage, both sides have their opinions and everyone wants to get involved.”
Having been assured at fulltime by coach Laurie Daley that he would hold his spot for the return encounter on June 26, Reynolds says he would be happy to give hooker Robbie Farah – who suffered an eye injury during Origin I – a spell
“A hundred per cent – I think that’s why Laurie put me on the bench there, in case Robbie needed a breather,” he said.
“If Robbie’s not well or if he needs a bit of a rest during the game, I’ll be happy to go there and hopefully I can fill that role for the boys.”
Discussing the previous week, in which he beat South Sydney’s John Sutton the coveted NSW bench role, Reynold said: “It started off nerve-racking, obviously, going into camp not knowing if me or Sutto were going to get the gig.
“Then, it was awesome. The boys were really accepting of both of us. They welcomed us into the side and it felt like we had been there for a while.
“Then it turned into … I got the role and I was obviously over the moon and proud for me and my family and the obviously leading into the game, it was a great week, a week I’ll never forget. It was a great bunch of guys, Laurie was awesome.
“I’ve said it before, I didn’t get on the field but as long as we got the win, I was happy.”
Asked when it dawned on him he might not get on, Reynolds said: “Probably when they brought out the 10th (interchange) card and it wasn’t (me).
“I think if we had scored another try, he might have put me on. It was obviously a bit close and Queensland were on a bit of a roll and he wanted to keep the big guys in the middle to stop that.
“Laurie came up to me straight after the game and said to me I’ll be there, hopefully, game two. That was some reassurance.”
NB: Since this story appeared, the NRL has announced all punches will result in a sin bin dismissal.

DISCORD 2013: Edition 24

DiscordBy STEVE MASCORD

SHOULD pre-meditation be taken into account when punishing incidents of foul play in rugby league?

Last night on The Back Page and NRL 360, Jarryd Hayne and Robbie Farah each seemed to confirm Paul Gallen had mentioned Nate Myles in the lead-up to Origin I in relation to perceived sleights against the Blues in the previous seven years.

The big defence against criticism of rugby league from outsiders since last Wednesday has been that it’s a physical game and at times, tempers are going to get frayed. That it’s unrealistic to expect this not to happen.

But that defence goes out the window if Gallen had already identified Myles as a likely “target” before the teams had even warmed up.

The whole issue of pre-meditation has been underplayed in the view of this column.

If we are going to take it into account, how do we do so? Where there is evidence of pre-meditation, do we send it straight to the judiciary without a grading? Let us know what you think.

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STILL on the mid-week TV shows – and I throw in Sterlo, The Game Plan and The Footy Show here – there is “gold” just about every week on them.

In the old days, if there was something good on the evening news, we could just ring up a player and get their reaction. But clubs frown on that these days so having a bunch of stars sitting around digesting the news is priceless and gives these shows a big advantage over newspapers.

Yes, these shows pay appearance fees. But there is no point whinging about it. The fee is for taking the time to travel into the studio, at times from interstate.

The things is, with tighter deadlines in newsrooms as a result of cost-cutting, the TV shows are often on too late to make the next day’s paper anyway!

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THE news that a Major League Baseball game is coming the SCG next year should be a reminder to us all that the world is shrinking and if we don’t get on board the globalisation train, we’ll be left behind.

Ten years ago, could you imagine that the breakfast and drive radio programmes you listen to would be national, with traffic news from five cities relayed at once?

Television will go the same way. Already, language is becoming homogenised. When your correspondent first went to the US 23 years ago, there were a dozen expressions I used from home that had locals scratching their heads. Now there are none.

Quaint local sports will also get marginalised by global media. Russell Crowe aside, Letterman and Conan don’t talk about rugby league much. Sponsors will prefer to back sports with a presence in global media, leaving local sports with the scraps.

We have to embark on a program of exhibition games overseas, not in the cause of expansion but of survival.

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ANTHONY Minichiello last played for NSW in 2011. That year, he represented Italy in the World Cup qualifiers – without changing his country of election.

read on

THE BIG ISSUE: #46

The Big IssueBy STEVE MASCORD

IN last week’s Rugby League Week, Nate Myles raised the spectre of the “prowler” or “cannonball” tackle.

During the round 11 game between his Gold Coast Titans and Parramatta, he had appealed to the referees to do something about the practice. During a remarkably civil on-field debate with rival captain Tim Mannah, it was pointed out that Titans were doing it too.

Myles didn’t want us to make a big deal about the issue in last week’s mag.

Newcastle coach Wayne Bennett, on the other hand, clearly wanted to make an issue of the practice when his back rower Alex McKinnon suffered syndesmosis of the ankle, allegedly after a dangerous challenge by South Sydney’s Nathan Peats on Saturday.

It seems a straightforward process to stop a third defender diving at the knees when two others have an attacking player held.

But the bunnies point out that Peats was only tackling around the legs, as players are taught from the age of five. Of course, the legs used to be the first port of call for any tackler in rugby league.

Now, they’re the second or third priority and that’s why we have these injuries.

It’s unrealistic to expect professional players to go back to tackling around the legs but we can encourage referees to keep a look out for a “third man in” diving at the knees and start giving penalties, as happened in the second half of the Mudgee game.

Many readers no doubt oppose the recent mid-season rule changes in the NRL. But if they are concerned with player safety, like this one, are they OK?

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I’VE been quiet on media access for a while, now haven’t i?

But how is it that you can waltz into a State of Origin team hotel, have 19 minutes with a NSW forward (see Trent Merrin A-List page 12-13) – and a brief chat with another for a news story – and yet that is completely impossible at club level.

There are only 34 Origin players and roughly 450 in the NRL – yet it’s easier to crack it for a chat with an Origin player. Crazy.

The new NRL media guidelines were a step in the right direction but clubs are now just trying to meet quotas, in some extreme cases putting up fringe first graders on weekend mornings at the exact same time as other events in the same city.

The ALRLC desperately needs a co-ordinated media strategy in each city to effectively combat other sports, instead of allowing the current situation where NRL clubs are undercutting each other with chaotic media schedules.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK