Pre-season: WIGAN 46 WARRIORS 22 at Waikato Stadium, Hamilton

By STEVE MASCORD

FOUR try winger Joe Burgess has forced his way into Wigan’s World Club Challenge team – and fellow greehorn Sam Powell will almost certainly join him in coach Shaun Wane’s 17.
Wigan did their best to sell the few remaining tickets for the title bout with Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium on Saturday week by scoring 30 unanswered second half points in a 46-22 belting of a badly understrength New Zealand Warriors at Hamilton’s Waikato Stadium.
Burgess – no relation to the South Sydney foursome – only got a start in the season opener against Huddersfield because of an injury to Josh Charnley but held his spot alongside the England star last night because of an eye-catching display.
Coach Shaun Wane said the 19-year-old had now virtually assured himself of taking on the Roosters. Powell, 21, was included last night mainly for experience but finished with 10 points in an assured display.
“He’ll probably be in the 17,” Wane added. “He went well today, I like him, he’s a good chance.”
Of local junior Burgess, he said: “It doesn’t matter to me how old he is. If he can do a job and handle a big game and I’m confident in him, I’ll play him. I’m pretty ruthless, I’m not worried who’s done well in the past.
“I’m really pleased Joe Burgess put his hand up. All the senior players are raving about him and I won’t have any qualms about puting him in.”
Wigan led 12-0 early, fell behind 22-16 by halftime in front of a modest midweek crowd – and then exploded in the second half with six tries. Burgess, a local Wigan junior who saw Pat Richards’ departure as an opportunity this season, completed his haul with a couple of minutes left.
But Warriors coach Matthew Elliott suggested the performance of the Super League and Challenge Cup holders did not indicate to him that they could rattle the club where he was formerly an assistant.
“That’s a hard one for me to comment on,” he said.
“If we had the 16 – actually there’s 18 guys who are fulltime players who aren’t playing – I would have been reasonably confident that the result would have been dramatically different.
“We knew when this match was scheduled … you’ve got to push your ego aside a little bit. We had to make a decision whether our focus was winning or giving everyone an opportunity.”
Feleti Mateo and Nathan Friend were late inclusions for a Warriors side including semi-professionals from local competitions. For Wigan, Matt Bowen was rested after halftime. O’Loughlin and Green would definitely play in Sydney, Wane said.

WIGAN 46 (J Burgess 4 J Hughes D Goulding G Dudson D Manfredi S Powell tries S Powell 3 M Smith 2 goals) beat WARRIORS 22 (C Townsend A Tuimavave-Gerrard N Peteru N Friend tries C Townsend 3 goals) at Waikato Stadium, Hamilton. Referees: B Cummins/G Sutton. Crowd: about 6000.
Final team lists:


Final team lists:WARRIORS: Jerome Ropati; Malo Solomona, Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard, Agnatius Paasi, Jarrod Wilson; Chad Townsend, Steve Waetford; John Palavi, Feleti Mateo, Ben Matulino, Sam Rapira (c), Nathan Friend, Jacob Lillyman. Res: Sam Lisone, Albert Vete, Jordan Baldwinson, Nathan Peteru, Paulos Latu, Jarrod Tua, Josh Tamaseu-Russell, Mason Tonks, David Bhana, Patrick Sipley, CSilva Havili, Jono Carl, Michael Sio, Mason Lino.
WIGAN: Matt Bowen; Joe Burgess, Darrell Goulding, Dan Sarginson, Josh Charnley; Sam Powell, Matty Smith; Tony Clubb, Liam Farrell, Jack Hughes, Gil Dudson, Michael McIlormum, Scott Taylor. Res: Dom Manfredi, Anthony Gelling, George Williams, Greg Burke, Eddy Pettybourne, Logan Tomkins, Dom Crosby, John Bateman, Ben Flower, Ryan Hampshire.
Referees: Ben Cummins/Geraerd Sutton

DISCORD 2013: Edition 39

DiscordBy STEVE MASCORD

THE Cronulla-to-Queensland story raises a couple of pressing questions for the NRL.

One: is relocation a viable model to satisfy expansion ambitions? Two: is it morally defensible to take with one hand, in the form of drugs sanctions, and then give back with the other, in the form of relocation allowances, if a club does what it’s told?

Let’s start with number one. Our game has never done relocation in a fully fledged American way, adopted here in Australian football with the Sydney Swans and Brisbane Lions (although still not quite as cleanly).

North Sydney were going to move to Gosford, but then got duck-shoved into a merger with Manly. We’ll never know how that would have gone.

So while most fans reject the idea of relocation out-of-hand, who are we to say it won’t work? It’s hard to see the people of Brisbane embracing a relocated Cronulla but in Central Queensland, where they appear behind the eight ball despite impressive infrastructure and support, it might work.

Similarly, while the WARL have done a lot of work marketing the West Coast Pirates, the Wests Coast Sharks would only grate during the summer months when those words appear all too regularly in local headlines.

Please note Discord is restricting its comments here to the two questions in the second paragraph. Plenty of other people are talking about whether it SHOULD happen.

The second issue is somewhat more vexed.

Personally, I don’t think people would swallow the administration knocking out the Sharks with one fist, and then using the other hand to pick them up, dust them off and send them wherever.

If the two processes could be separated – if ASADA could somehow be blamed for rendering Cronulla bankrupt and the NRL could portray itself as the saviour – then some fans might buy it.

But drugs penalties have to be handed down by the governing body and the NRL exploiting a terrible situation to its own ends would not play well to anyone. I don’t think this administration is that gung ho.

I have no doubt Wednesday’s story is based on some solid information. The NRL may well be tossing it around – but I can’t see it happening.

.

IS Sam Tomkins signing for New Zealand Warriors the beginning of the end for Super League?

There are plenty of people in England who think so. He’s without doubt the biggest star in that competition and featured in the memorable advert with Bradley Wiggins at the start of the season.

But the NRL has been losing players to rugby union – and AFL – for years and has survived just fine. Wendell Sailor, Israel Folau, Sonny Bill Williams, Willie Mason … the list goes on.

The exchange rate is improving, Marwan Koukash at Salford seems to have a wad of cash and this new competition structure might even work.

And Matt Bowen is a sensational player.

.

IN that column on Saturday, it said I didn’t want to become a “bitter, angry, aging crusader”.

read on

THE BIG ISSUE: #59

The Big IssueBy STEVE MASCORD

HOW quickly they forget.

By the time you read this, the campaigns of eight NRL teams is are already fading memories. It’s worth pondering how arbitrary and brutal an industry rugby league, and professional sport in general, is.

You train like a dog all summer, you get locked into a weekly grind which is painful, repetitive and unforgiving. And just like that, sometimes at the whim of a match official, injury or suspension, it ends with a shrill siren in round 26.

Bang, you’re not competing anymore. It doesn’t happen so suddenly in too many other areas of human endeavour, except perhaps life itself.

The play-offs are, objectively, even weirder. You train and play for 10 months just to get into one of these things. If it’s a sudden death game, you have effectively put four days into each minute of that contest.

And if you lose – just one game off football – the entire 10 months is gone. The who 10 months is wasted for 575 out of 600 footballers, who have to start again or will never get another chance. Brutal odds.

GOLD COAST: An admirable rear guard action, desperately short on troops. If the comp was a month longer, they may have made the grand final.

PENRITH: Over-achieved due to own hard work. Ivan Cleary has some claim to coach-of-the-year voting, so impressive were the Panthers at times. Luke Walsh, in particular, will be missed.

WARRIORS: Same number of competition points as Penrith but a completely different performance in relation to expectations. Finding the ark of the covenant or King Solomon’s mines easy compared to making themconsistent.

BRISBANE: No-one seems to think they should be subject to the same cycles as other clubs, chiefly because they’re in the capital of the rugby league world. They still have to comply with the salary cap.

CANBERRA: If you can do a “drama and atrocity” graph and overlay it with a “Raiders results” graph, the lines would track each other pretty closely. Dugan, Ferguson, Furner, Earl just does not happen to the same club in the same year.

ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA: Still in the midst of a massive downswing post-2010 premiership. The system is designed to inflict such misfortune – but it shouldn’t last this long.

WESTS TIGERS: A woeful years which you could charitably put down to a new coach who had little influence over the shortcomings of the roster he inherited. Must improve.

PARRAMATTA: Not only is there no light at the end of the playing roster tunnel but the coaching and political tunnels each look pitch black as well.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

Elijah Taylor On What’s Wrong With The Warriors

Elijah Taylor at training on Wednesday

By STEVE MASCORD

THEY racked up 50 points including two hat-tricks to bring down the house on Saturday but departing back-rower Elijah Taylor says the Warriors still aren’t playing the sort of football that will finals matches.

The Aucklanders travel to WIN Stadium on Saturday for a clash with St George Illawarra that could secure them a finals spot.

But according to Taylor, who joins Penrith next season, the big 50-16 margin against Canberra masks some nagging deficiencies in the Warriors’ game.

“Defensively, it wasn’t our best night – Canberra exposed us a lot,” the 23-year-old said.

“Everybody knows we’re capable of that (attacking) footy but it’s a double-edged sword. Sometimes it doesn’t come off and we pay the price.

“Sometimes we paid the price (against the Raiders). We’ve got to learn to turn that off and on, we’ve got to play boring, play effective, and then throw the ball around.

“We can’t expect to throw it around and shoot ourselves in the foot all the time. We’ve got a long way to go, building pressure –wise, as a team.

“Giving away a silly penalty when we’ve got them coming off their line – we did that three times in the first half. You can’t do that against a good team like the Roosters and Melbourne – or any of the top eight teams.

“But if we play an 80 minute game, we’ll be hard to stop.”

Taylor was presented with a framed jersey by inaugural Warriors captain Dean Bell at fulltime on Saturday, to commemorate his service to the club.

“This will always be home, the Warriors will always be home,” he said. “It’s more about the win. I’m more happy about the win and the way we won.”

NB: Since this story appeared, the Warriors failed to make the 2013 finals.

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

Finch Not Storm Will Determine Veteran’s Future

Melbourne - Brett Finch picBy STEVE MASCORD

A TEAM-MATE’S misfortune has given him the glimpse of a fairytale send-off and Melbourne Storm favourite Brett Finch is not guaranteed to play on next year even if the club asks him to.

Finch, 31, lines up against the Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium on Sunday with Melbourne’s big three – Cooper Cronk, Billy Slater and Cameron Smith – back from Origin duty and looks set to wear the no.6 jersey for the rest of the season.

After spending most of the season in the lower grades, Finch’s opportunity came with regular five-eighth Gareth Widdop’s dislocated hip suffered on June 24. He is yet to be offered a contact for next year.

“In the end, it will be Finchy’s decision rather than the club’s,” said the former NSW half’s agent, Steve Gillis.

“We’ve had some dialogue with the club but there has been no decision from them. We might know more in the next two three weeks.

“I spoke to Brett this week and he is comfortable to take his time over it. They might ask him to play on and he agrees. They might ask him to and he might decide against it.

“I guess it’s something like 50-50.”

The former Canberra halfback won a grand final with Melbourne in 2009, before joining Wigan where he pocketed a Challenge Cup winners medal in 2011.

The Storm held a match-eve training session in Auckland yesterday and reported no changes. The Warriors have the second best record, after Canterbury, in the NRL against the World Champions.

While this is often put down to their unpredictability, Warriors prop Sam Rapira insists the opposite is the case.

“(It’s) just applying pressure,” Rapira told NewsTalk ZB on Saturday. “When we have beaten them, we haven’t tried to score.

“It’s just come off our structure and when we’ve pushed that extra pass or that miracle ball, we end up losing.

“I think, as long as we stick to a plan and just keep in it for the full 80, we’ve got every chance of winning.

In form Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson has been identified as the danger man by Storm coach Craig Bellamy.

“If we get some number around him and put some pressure on him, hopefully he stuffs up,” Back rower Kevin Proctor said on the Storm’s website.

Teams for the match, which kicks off at Mt Smart Stadium at 12.05pm (Victorian time), are:

WARRIORS: Kevin Locke; Ngani Laumape, Dane Neilsen, Konrad Hurrell, Manu Vatuvei; Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson; Elijah Taylor, Simon Mannering (c), Feleti Mateo, Ben Matulino, Nathan Friend, Sam Rapira. Res: Suaia Matagi, Jacob Lillyman, Todd Lowrie, Dominique Peyroux.

MELBOURNE: Billy Slater; Sisa Waqa, Will Chambers, Maurice Blair, Justin O’Neill; Brett Finch, Cooper Cronk; Ryan Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hoffman, Kevin Proctor, Bryan Norrie, Cameron Smith (c), Jesse Bromwich. Res: Jordan McLean, Tohu Harris, Siosaia Vave, Slade Griffin, Tim Glasby, Ben Hampton (two to be omitted).

Referees: Ben Cummins/Henry Perenara

 

Hurrell Says He Wanted ‘A Piece’ Of Inglis

Konrad Hurrell
Konrad Hurrell

By STEVE MASCORD

RAMPAGING Warrior Konrad “Hurricane” Hurrell says he wanted “a piece” of Greg Inglis when he powered past the world’s best player on his way to one of the individual tries of the season last Sunday.

Hurrell swatted South Sydney opposite Bryson Goodwin and then prompted a headclash between fullback Inglis and second rower Chris McQueen on an devastating passage to the line in the 37th minute of the clash at Perth’s nib Stadium.

And while the Aucklanders eventually went down 30-13, Hurrell’s moment of mayhem won’t seen be forgotten.

On beating Inglis, Hurrell tells RLW: “As a superstar of the game, you always want a piece of him. When I saw him, I thought ‘Now’s my chance to go one-on-one with him’.

“I put on the step and got away from him. Yeah, I was happy with that.”

Reliving the touchdown, the man who has committed to Tonga above New Zealand for the World Cup said: “I didn’t get a try just before that and I was pretty angry and frustrated … when I caught that ball, I aimed for the line.

“There were blokes in front of me … I just aimed for the line.

“I’d lost the ball (over the line) and I was like ‘I’ve got to make up for it’ so as soon as Shaun (Johnson) caught the ball, I called for it, he gave it and I was happy. I scored the try.

“It’s going to be on replay for the whole week, so….

“The boys gave it their all and didn’t get the result. They scored a few tries from kicks and things like that. It’s a good thing …. we can go and work on the last play.

“Hopefully we’ll see them (Souths) again in the top eight, the finals.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK