DISCORD 2014: Edition Two

DiscordBy STEVE MASCORD
PEACE negotiations between rugby league’s warring bodies in the United States have collapsed, with one club posting a statement describing the AMNRL – which sent the popular USA Tomahawks to the World Cup – as “defunct”.
An AMNRL source denied this but Discord has been told that a peace deal was agreed upon, only for last minute complications to scupper the arrangement. It appears the USARL feels it is in a dominant position and has decided to finish off its rival.
The AMNRL has vowed to fight on, while the USARL promises major announcements in the coming weeks – even though it is not the officially recognised body for the sport in America.
NY Raiders posted the following statement on its site in the last day or so:
“We, The Raiders, an American Rugby League Football Club, based in New York, former member in good standing of the now defunct AMNRL, today declare our neutrality from any and all self appointed, unelected, officers, officials, negotiators, organizations, agents, governing bodies or their affiliates,” it said.
“This decision derives from continuing inter league politics detrimental to the sport and our team. Neutrality aside, we reserve our right play and remain committed to competing in the upcoming 2014 Rugby League season.
“We strive for a forward thinking, transparent, inclusive governing body manned by elected members willing to produce a structured, viable business model for our sport.”
Apparently the Raiders did not respect the independent commission set up under the peace deal – a peace deal which has fallen through anyway. The other new country in last year’s World Cup, Italy, also has a divided comp.
It’s a mess – and exactly the sort of behaviour that gave birth to rugby league in the first place.
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IT’S a relief that Newcastle have sacked Russell Packer.
But the way the Integrity Unit does its business these days, does the action (or inaction) of the club really matter? Is there any use “standing by” a player who is never allowed to play?
In the cases of several pre-season incidents, the Integrity Unit probably still has plans. What happens if there are several players and officials at the same club, even if it’s not the club’s fault? Can the club still be held accountable?
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SUPER League is reportedly close to announcing a naming rights sponsor.
But there is still uncertainty over the structure of the competition beyond this year. In the last month, Bradford’s entire board has quit before returning and London needed to be saved at the 11th hour. They are still trying to piece together a team for 2014.
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THANKS to those who commented regardling the first column of the year, which concerned itself with nines rugby league and whether former greats add or detract to the concept.

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DISCORD 2013: Edition 51

DiscordBy STEVE MASCORD

THE use of supplements in rugby league are a bit like that of mobile phones in the wider community – we think they’re safe but we can’t yet be completely sure.
News out of Auckland that the old ‘Stillnox’ controversy has made a comeback is obviously of concern. The former Sydney Roosters doctor, John Orchard, once said that people need ‘mental relaxation’ and that if doctors have a drink after work, they can hardly tell others not to.
The mixing of sleeping pills and energy drinks would appear to be a recreational pursuit which is undertaken as a substitute for something else.
It is all part of a bewildering cavalcade of health issues facing our players; issues which they, the game’s administration, fans or all three seem keen to overlook at times as the turnstile keeps turning and the cash register keeps tinkling.
Concussion seems to be something that is in the too-hard basket. No-one has been sanctioned for sending players back out after head-knocks, even though there is no disputing it’s happened.
Prescription drug abuse occurs in all levels of society, in a wide range of human endeavours. Congratulations to whoever it is in the Kiwis camp that raised the alarm. When you bring in experts and employ cutting edge science in a team environment, you also erode the boys club that once kept these things quiet.
Obviously the surfeit of shadowy characters hanging around the periphery of our clubs is the next health-related concern. It’s an issue that has caused us untold damage this year and, thankfully, one which the NRL has taken steps to correct.
Which brings us to supplements. The amount of money being spent on pills at some clubs in reputedly enormous and some players take more of the blighters than hypercondriac New York granny.
Obviously – hopefully – they are not illegal. But there have been few studies into their short-term effects and not enough time to assess long term impact. The concussion uproar now engulfing professional sport could well be mirrored in a decade by one regarding supplements.
Clubs would do well protect themselves legally now by making sure they are comfortable what they are giving their players will not result in a class action lawsuit down the track. WADA is one thing, long term health is another.
The New Zealand Rugby League wants to take a “leadership role” in the abuse of prescription drugs. It would be nice if the sport as a whole adopted a similar philosophy to the myriad other health issues affecting our players.

LEEDS and Wakefield played out an 18-18 draw on Boxing Day in a hangover from an era when rugby league was a winter sport in the UK.
But reading David Smith’s comments the other day about diversifying, and looking at the acquisition of Touch Football, will it be long before the NRL tries to make a move on the summer market?
The Nines are a perfect entry route. Teams of fringe first graders playing to marquees of beer-swillers around the country would seem a profitable concept. Perhaps the Auckland Nines will one day just be the ‘final’ of a tournament that runs from October.
The game’s elite stars need their rest but in rugby union, there are sevens specialists. The money being spent in Auckland suggests there’s an economy there that could support something similar.
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COMMENTS time and there were a lot last time around to go through.

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THE JOY OF SIX: Round 22

The Joy Of SixBy STEVE MASCORD

1. ‘FIXTURE’ IN NAME ONLY?

THE NRL is adamant it won’t be forced to back down over another potential fixture clash with the AFL a week after revising their draw because ANZ Stadium was double-booked. On September 6, South Sydney are due to host Sydney Roosters at Homebush in a game that could decide the minor premiership. But there is also some chance that Sydney Swans will have a home final assigned to the same weekend. “Our game is locked in to the Friday night and it won’t be moved,” and NRL spokesman said late Sunday. South Sydney chief executive Shane Richardson added: “When Allianz Stadium offered to host the game, ANZ said they definitely wanted it.” The Swans will just have to play on Saturday – at least that’s what the Mungos are saying. Set of Six was told P1 parking tickets were hard to come by, leading to suggestions the venue remained undecided on who it would favour if the clash occurred.

2. A PUNCH AND DUTY

WHILE this is one of the few rugby league columns you’ll read that’s in favour of the punching ban, predictions that it would be interpreted by some players as a licence to niggle were just about proven right at Suncorp Stadium. “I held him down in the tackle, fair enough,” St George Illawarra halfback Nathan Fien told referee Jason Robinson, in reference to Brisbane’s Corey Parker, “but that doesn’t give him the right to strike out at me. You referees have made a big deal about that.” In other words, the rules now make it acceptable to drop knees and elbows into attacking players and if they retaliate, it’s they who should be punished. If Fien’s interpretation was in vogue, the punching ban would be unworkable. There should never be an incentive to niggle. If Parker had thrown a punch, he should have been sent to the sin bin but the penalty should still have gone to the Broncos.

3. MISERABLE DECISIONS

EVEN the referees and touch judges didn’t think Joel Thompson knocked on when he tried to catch a line drop-out with Canberra coming to get the Sydney Roosters and a couple of minutes left at Allianz Stadium on Saturday. But when the Raiders second rower froze, they thought they must be mistaken, packed a scrum, and the tricolours hung on. The match officials’ boss, Daniel Anderson, however says their eventual decision was the right one. “I thought it was a knock-on, as a spectator,” Anderson said. Anderson added there was little alternative but to penalised Newcastle’s Jeremy Smith for kicking the ball loose in a tackle at Remondis Stadium, even though it appeared an accident. “The ball has to come out some way – it’s either dropped or a defender is responsible,” he said. “Under the rules, there is nowhere else for the referee to go. Sometimes they have to make miserable decisions.”

4. TIGERS CHANGE SPOTS – AND CHANGE THEM BACK AGAIN

ONLY at Wests Tigers could bad news become good news and then be bad again. When the club released a statement saying three staff members had been let go, it was reported these included assistants Royce Simmons and Steve Georgallis. Bad news – the experienced coaches said they had been used in a publicity stunt because they had each told the joint venture weeks before that they would be departing of their own accord. On Sunday, club chief executive Grant Mayer said they weren’t the men being referred to. Good news. But that mean there are still three officials who are sready for the high jump – and who may very well have some unkind things to say about the decision. Bad news again. Mayer’s comment on ABC that Wests Tigers seem behind Manly when it comes to “sports science”? Could have been better timed….

5. NINES LIVES

A couple more of points regarding the Auckland Nines. If clubs have to field one of their five highest-paid players, but all five go to the World Cup and are therefore exempt, what then? Also, club reportedly resent the NRL is “out-sourcing” the tournament but would you have our governing body steal the intellectual property of someone else who had done all the spade work? I’d suggest they would be in court quicker than you can say “chilly bin”. What the ARLC should have done is gone back to promoters with what they wanted out of the concept. It could have been the launching pad for a Nines circuit, it could have involved Pacific countries or the states or Super League clubs. Instead, all the ARLC and the clubs seem to want out of it is the moolah -– and admittedly some valuable promotion for the sport in New Zealand.

6. WORKING FOR THE ENEMY

COACH Stephen Kearney has received help from the unlikeliest of sources for New Zealand’s bid to retain the World Cup. The Auckland Blues and Waikato chief rugby union franchises have reportedly told Benji Marshall and Sonny Bill Williams respectively that they are happy for them to play in the tournament, to be played in England, Wales, Ireland and France from October 25 to November 30. Marshall wrote in his Sun-Herald column that although his is available for selection, he does not believe his form warrants selection ahead of Shaun Johnson and Kieran Foran. He’s right – but Marshall could be a game breaker off the bench. Australia’s stocks were severely dented on Sunday with the loss of Justin Hodges (Achilles), Boyd Cordner (ankle) and perhaps Trent Merrin (knee).

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

Match Officials Should Have Stopped Play For Injured Farrell, Says Maguire

By STEVE MASCORD
SOUTH Sydney coach Michael Maguire has hit out at officials for not stopping play when winger Dylan Farrell was knocked out during the loss to Melbourne.
Maguire, whose side regained some form despite being beaten 26-8 at AAMI Park, said officials had a “duty of care” to Farrell, who was carried off on a stretcher and in a neck brace in the 66th minute.
Play was eventually halted for Farrell, who was accidently kneed in the head by Andrew Everingham while both were in the air pursuing a kick, but only after it continued upfield for several minutes,
Maguire said Farrell was illegally pushed by a Melbourne defender into Everingham.
“When Dylan Farrell got taken out of play, knocked out, in goal … the game continued,’ said Maguire, who said Greg Inglis (knee) and John Sutton (ankle) could both be back for next Friday’s encounter with Manly.
“Usually you will get a penalty there. Instead, they play on and we end up at the other end of the field. I’ll have to have a chat about that.
“He (Farrell) was in a bad way to start with but he’s pulled up OK in the changeroom. The biggest concern there is the duty of care of one of our players.
“You’ve got to look after your players. He was knocked sideways and hit his head on one our players.”
Maguire – who contended his side lacked “polish” – had no complaints over a contentious try to Melbourne winger Sisa Waqa in the 53rd minute. There were doubts Waqa got to the line.
Storm skipper Cameron Smith had no doubt South Sydney would figure prominently in the finals.
“They’re a great footy side,” said hooker Smith. “I think they’ve been the most consistent footy team all year.
“Obviously over the past couple of weeks results haven’t gone their way but they’ve got a couple of injuries at the moment, in particular Greg inglis.
“You take him out of any footy team and he’s going to be a blow to your team. It looks like he’s going to be back next week. Talking to a couple of Souths players out there, he was pretty close tonight.
“All the players around him will be more confident when Greg Inglis is on the field, too. I think they’ll be in the finals and we’ll see plenty of them.”
Maguire said of Inglis and Sutton’s chances of playing at Brookvale Oval: “Both are a chance. We’re going to be doing everything we can to make the right decision.”
Bellamy also amended his comment from Thursday about not picking any of his World Cup players for the 2014 Auckland Nines. “I meant our Australian World Cup players – the big three,” he said.

Filed for: THE AGE

THE JOY OF SIX: Round 21

The Joy Of SixBy STEVE MASCORD

PILLAGED RAIDERS

DO the mechanisms which give us an even competition also give us even games, or are there completely different influences at work? Melbourne’s 68-4 win over Canberra was the eighth largest margin in premiership history. But the result was not the product of any obvious competitive disparity; Canberra had not lost a game at home all year and went into the match just three competition points behind their eventual pillagers. If you organised a soccer competition from scratch and made every team completely equal in strength, but then doubled the width of the goals, would margins still be bigger, or would we just have higher scores? Referees believe the crackdown on some slowing tactics in the ruck has saved many players from knee and ankle injuries. But it may have also made it easier to run up cricket scores with a smidgeon of momentum.

SENDING THE BILL

FORMER referee Bill Harrigan performed some consultancy work on live radio on Friday. After his side beat Penrith 42-6 at Centrebet Stadium, coach Trent Robinson said Sydney Roosters had been copping it in penalty counts for a best part of a decade. When Robinson was interviewed afterwards, Harrigan – a commentator on Triple M – told him: “I went with Ricky Stuart in 2004 when he was having problems and I identified, after looking at a few tapes, three players who we pulled aside and said ‘you three guys are giving away a certain amount of penalties per game … maybe you need to grab a referee” Robinson replied: “I was keen on asking you. Do you see trends there … or do you think it’s individuals?”. Harrigan said it was down to individuals. Robinson was then told by other commentators jokingly – that he if he wanted more from Harrigan “there will be a fee”.

DRESSED FOR THE NINES

phonto (1)Joy of Six hears that Warrington’s majority shareholder , ‘pop impresario” Simon Moran, wanted the Wolves to take part in the inaugural Auckland Nines but was turned down. Nines has major role to play in the expansion and promotion of rugby league but a tournament involving the 16 NRL clubs in Auckland in Februrary achieves only two things: promotes rugby league in New Zealand and earns the clubs a shedload of cash. Involving international sides, or dividing the teams into states plus the north and south islands on Origin grounds (Ben Barba for Northern Territory, Joel Reddy for SA etc), could have left a lasting legacy. A break for the All Star game won’t really do any harm and it is to be hoped a Polynesian side – perhaps in place of the NRL combination – can be incorporated when it returns in 2015.

TAKING A LEAK

IT’S been a big year for leaks. For a start, leaks have a new poster boy in Warriors front rower Russell Packer. Then there are those upset about the leaking of ASADA documents. North Queensland coach Neil Henry was dismayed members of the media knew about his fate before he did. Reporters know that most people who leak information aren’t like Edward Snowden; they are motivated by self-interest rather than altruism. If it’s someone in authority, that motivation is often that they wt to be seen to be doing something in the face of criticism. The reporter’s job is to sift through the spin and self-interest and draw out the raw information which is in the public interest – not to take sides with someone just because he or she has helped them. In the two examples listed above, the reporters have done their jobs and done them well.

HAILING A MEDICAB

IT can be an unsettling sight when a game is stopped for a long period while an apparently seriously injured player is carted from the field. There were three of them at the weekend. Cronulla centre Ben Pomeroy was knocked out as he hit the ground but not before setting up a try against the Warriors. Melbourne’s Maurice Blair was in a particularly bad way after his neck was hurt in Canberra and Gold Coast under 20s player Tom Rowles was also fitted with a neck brace and carried from Skilled Park on a medicbab on Sunday. Thankfully, Rowles was well enough to watch the rest of the game from the bench while Pomeroy was soon reasonably lucid although his memory of the incident was hazy. The Storm reportedly contacted Blair’s partner on Sunday night to assure her he was not seriously injured.

REPORTING THE REPORT

IS a referee required to tell a player why he has been placed on report? “What was it for?” Gold Coast’s Greg Bird asked Gavin Badger and Allan Shortall at Skilled Park after he was booked in the 56th minute of the 36-6 win over Wests Tigers. “Shoulder charge? High tackle? Late tackle.” “It’s been reviewed, it’s on report,” Badger replied. Despite the scoreline, Wests Tigers coach Michael Potter was also unhappy with the whistlers. “My concern was the actual penalties,” he said. “I looked at the replay and shrugged my shoulders. I didn’t know what they were for. You could certainly come up with some if you look close enough. A couple of the 50-50s … they weren’t penalties. That’s not the reason we lost but it contributed to the possession gain the other team had.”

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

TRAVELS: XIV

TravelsBy STEVE MASCORD

LAST Friday night at the Parramatta-Sydney Roosters game, I was off for something greasy and disgusting to eat when I saw a familiar face.

Not only did former Eels, Adelaide, Canterbury, South Sydney, St George Illawarra, Cronulla and Crusaders prop Adam Peek acknowledge me as he walked past but when he was finished a conversation, he intercepted me just short of the Parra Stadium kiosk.

It was just as well. The stuff they were selling in there was not appetising at all.

What Adam preceded to tell me was a story you are no doubt familiar with – about how Crusaders players are stilled owed truckloads of money and aren’t having much luck getting it.

Peek is now retired and is struggling to make ends meet as he chases the Stg50,000 he says he is still owed by the club. The GMB union is involved and he hasn’t given up.

“I went over to the UK one, for the experience, and two, to put some money aside,” Peek said. Under the image rights arrangement which has since been stopped, a portion of player’s contracts could be held for them and handed over, with tax relief, when they went home

“The first year, they club didn’t put it aside. We only found out near the end. The second year, the club got sold to North Wales. Those owners took the debt on – and they did the same thing.

“We went over there on the understanding we could do it (put away part of our income). The RFL said we could do it, they let the club continue playing.

“In 2009, April, they became aware of it. I want to know what’s going to happen. If the same thing happened in the NRL, I know for a fact the NRL would step in and say ‘we’re going to look after these players’.

“Last year there were money problems at the Gold Coast and the NRL stepped straight in. Over there, it was ‘let it go, let it go, let it go’.

“Over there, it’s all about the UK guys. The Aussies are coming in taking their jobs. There’s lots of animosity.

“I want to get my money. I have a young family. Fifty thousand pounds is a lot. “

Peek is hoping the latest overtures to the GMB will bear fruit. “We had a meeting in 2010 and I got the owner to admit … ‘there’s the deductions, Stg2900 per month, where did it go?’ and he said ‘we used it to fund the club’.

“He’s admitted it. I don’t understand how we can’t pursue the owners. And my argument is against the RFL not stepping in and going ‘hang on a second, pay the players this money, otherwise you’re out’.

“I could have gone to a different club. I want the RFL to pay the players.”

You may think the Crusaders saga is old news, as is the public donations that went to Bradford. But for men like Peek, who are struggling to support a family, it’s a very current issue indeed.

What if the NRL refused to grant clearances for British players in Australia until those burnt going in the other direction are given what they are owed?

Then we might see some movement…

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HERE’S a little whisper I’m hearing regarding the Auckland Nines which are due to kick off next season.

There has been serious discussion about Super League clubs being involved. In the past, Nines and Sevens rugby league has been used as a development tool as well as a money spinner but as it stands the Auckland tournament does nothing but rake in cash.

Some involvement from teams outside the NRL would be welcome.

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FOR the second year at Rugby League Week magazine, we’ve tried to come up with a top 20 for the most powerful people in our sport worldwide.

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THE BIG ISSUE: #33

The Big IssueBy STEVE MASCORD

IT’S all very well to write a column like this and outline what you think should happen, or should have happened, and why.

But with all the debate going on about the Auckland Nines, I found myself so fired up and passionate about a proposal that I wrote it down formally and started sending it to rugby league officials – something I’ve never done before.

I see the Nines as an opportunity to get something great done for our game – an opportunity which will only come once. There is a way to keep the promoters happy and dramatically reduce the demands on players, which is the main obstacle.

Here’s what I think should happen at the ‘Tasman Nines’

Instead of the 16 clubs going to Auckland, we satisfy the Kiwi hunger for Origin by sending NSW and Queensland. Surely Mal Meninga and Laurie Daley would welcome the opportunity to get their squads together pre-season, the buzz in Auckland would be massive and Sydney and Brisbane media would love it.

The Nines would also serve as a soft launch for the proposed New Zealand Origin, with Auckland and The Rest or North Island and South Island making their bows in the Nines. And they would get to take on the Maroons and Blues, something that has been proposed at 13-a-side level on and off for 15 years.

Where do the other teams come from? This is where you need to be patient with me.

The World Sevens helped our developing countries by allowing them to compete with the big boys in a truncated version of the game. The Auckland Nines can do the same for our developing states.

But under an invitational selection policy (birth, residency, parents or grandparents), Ben Barba and James McManus would play for Northern Territory, Timana Tahu would represent Victoria alongside some Storm players and the Goodwin boys would turn out for Western Australia.

It’s would be the greatest thing we have ever done for rugby league in Australia outside of NSW and Queensland.

This would give rugby league a pre-season focus in ‘hostile’ markets and marshall support for future expansion. Every Australian state would have a stake in the ‘Tasman Nines’ . We could eclipse the likes of the Rebels and Force in one weekend each year by  giving those states true superstars.

For one weekend every year, we would have a competition that encompasses the entire continent and both islands of New Zealand! We’d get the $2.2 million but we’d also do something great for rugby league.

Sure, there are questions about how some states would competed. But surely a bunch of amateurs from Tasmania taking on the might of Queensland for 20 minutes or half an hour is more in keeping with the spirit of nines and sevens than what’s on the drawing board now!

You might say these teams sound random and contrived. But so does a side of indigenous-heritage players taking on everyone else – and it works. This would work too.

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THE last player Australia picked from outside the NRL is no longer interested in playing representative football.

Jamie Lyon was chosen for the 2006 Tri-Nations from St Helens – although he was returning to Manly the following year. Lyon, of course, has had a troubled relationship with Country, NSW and Australia and has now officially retired from all rep football.

Before that, we have to go back to 2003 and Darren Smith being controversial selected from St Helens during the Kangaroo Tour.

The main reason Australia – unlike every other rugby league playing country – refuses to pick players from outside its domestic competition is that it wants to create a deterrent to players leaving.

And at many times since 1908, that’s been an eminently sensible strategy. The likes of Harry Bath and Brian Bevan never wore the green and gold even though they were among the greatest Australians ever to grace the rugby league field – because all the money was in England at the time and it was a sacrifice they knowingly made.

But the NRL is now awash with cash and there is no need for such a deterrent. English players will come to the Australasian competition at a younger and younger age and the traffic in the other direction will come to an almost complete standstill.

Where am I going with all this? Joel Monaghan should be considered for Australia’s World Cup side, that’s where.

I firmly believe Joel is the best Australian winger currently playing professional rugby league in the world. His two tries for Warrington in the 24-10 win over Hull on Saturday night brought his total to six in just four rounds – he seems to score them every time he walks onto the park.

Sure, in some cases the men inside him have done the lion’s share of the work but he’s also deadly in the air.

His absence from Origin will be a setback but when selectors sit down to pick a squad for England and Ireland, his name deserves a mention.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

THE BIG ISSUE: #32

The Big IssueBy STEVE MASCORD

IN 1996, before it was injuncted by the courts, Super League staged a World Nines in Fiji. Legend has it that the ARL’s Bob Abbott rode a bicycle around the country to inform players contracted to the establishment that they weren’t allowed to play.

The next year, when it was cleared to go ahead, Super League held another World Nines in Townsville. And later that year, the breakaway competition staged a 22-team World Club Challenge, which was so lopsided that St Helens made the play-offs without winning a game and Penrith missed out without losing one.

When the NRL was formed in 1998, every Super League innovation was instantly discredited. Rugby league was completely committed to winning back the fans it had lost during the war – the converts which Super League had coveted but failed to impress became an instant irrelevance.

Perth, Adelaide and – for a time – Gold Coast all disappeared within a season.

How look where we are, 15 years later.

Rugby league’s television deal is worth more than $1 billion, the new CEO – a Welsh banker – last week spoke at a Queensland Rugby League volunteers conference about his thirst for expansion and player wages are inching back up towards the stratospheric levels of 1995-97.

And what do we have back on the agenda? A Nines tournament and an expanded World Club Challenge!

The Auckland Nines proposal has been around for a year or more. Clubs apparently support it (they will meet today and hopefully make a decision) and some coaches – like Wayne Bennett – are opposed.

You might reasonably argue that we have taken this long to get over the Super League stigma and should press on with these innovations, learning from the lessons of the past.

But the great thing about the previous World Nines, and the World Sevens, was the “world” bit. A truncated version of our sport allowed developing countries to compete with fulltime professionals.

The World Sevens, effectively gave us Fiji and all the wonderful players we’ve had from that country since. It gave us Italy, who will make their World Cup bow later this year and Lebanon, and it gave us back the United States after a long period of inactivity

When we tango with Nines now, the aim should be to establish a viable circuit like rugby union has with its sevens so we can ‘soft launch’ new teams and territories into our sport. That would give us a sustainable new income stream, not just a quick buck.

Dean Lonergan’s Nines are about none of this – and that’s no indictment on him. They are about money – $2.2 million worth of the stuff. I have heard that teams will do camps around New Zealand including community work and that’s a good thing, but when you look at the altruistic aims and achievements of the All Stars concept, it seems this Nines idea is a little half-baked and expedient.

CEOs should today try to extract some lasting benefits from the Auckland Nines, not just more dollars.

The return of an expanded World Club Challenge is a different matter.

A working group comprising club bosses from Super League and the NRL has reached an agreement that next year’s WCC will be in Australia and the following season will involve six teams in the UK.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a middle eastern cities moves for next year’s game, actually.

Unlike the Auckland Nines, an expanded WCC has room to grow. It can showcase our game in new areas and instead of taking on international football, the clubs have worked out a schedule that will complement it.

If the major international tournament is one hemisphere in a given year, the WCC will be in the other.

There is enormous potential in the WCC, which has gone a little stale in the north of England in my opinion.

Many people don’t like the fact there’ll be nothing at stake when second plays second and third plays third but the idea is to make it like a “Test series” where the between the two competitions.

It’s hard to have a proper “champions league” when one year there are only two teams in it and the next year there are six, and then it goes back to two. That might come eventually.

All in all, it’s taken us a decade and a half to realise Super League actually had some good ideas – or rather that the people attracted by the breakaway had some good ones that News Limited brought to fruition.

But Super League also taught us that just doing something for money is a recipe for disaster and it’s a lesson we’d do well to bear in mind before repeating the mistakes of the past.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

DISCORD 2013: Edition Eight

BDiscordy STEVE MASCORD

THERE is a good argument that the Auckland Nines are a bad idea.

For a start, there are the concerns of Cameron Smith that player burnout is being ignored. In today’s paper, Cameron warns the players will get militant – calling in the RLPA – if the clubs just approve the tournament without consultation.

Now, there is a good chance the promise that the Nines will REPLACE existing trials and not be added to them will solve this dispute. But if not, where do we go?

My own concern is that rugby league has spent 118 years making decisions purely for money and where has it got us? Generally speaking we only get it right when we have at least one other reason to do something.

The World Sevens and World Nines introduced new countries and territories to our game by allowing them to compete with fulltime professionals in a truncated version of the sport.

The Auckland Nines do nothing but bribe a bunch of pro football teams to cross the ditch in search of cash.

But there is a compelling and very simple case in favour of the Auckland Nines. If the Auckland Regional Council does not give this money to us, they’ll give it to another sport.

And that idea makes me shudder a bit. There must be a solution, then, to getting their cash and still doing something for the greater good of the game (if the stand-off remains).

Let’s break it down.

On one hand, someone wants to give us cash. On the other hand, we  (or the players) don’t want to do what is necessary to earn that cash. So, would they give us a little LESS cash to do a little less? What if it was a World Nines, with national teams? What if we had all the Australian states (plenty of NRL players were born in Victoria, WA, Northern Territory, even South Australia) and the north and south islands of New Zealand compete, instead of 16 clubs? How about a weekend of pre-season games which would have been played anyway?

How much cash would they give us for the All Star game, or the World Club Challenge? I repeat, they want to give us X for Y. Would they give us Z for W? Let’s ask!

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THE shoulder charge has been banned in England we have the same volume of outrage that we saw in Australia.

To our English readers, I’ll repeat some points from an earlier column. Doctors said the shoulder charge was dangerous. The NRL was put in a position where by not banning it, it was seen to be PROMOTING it, given that rugby union had already passed a ban.

If a group of doctors say something in the workplace is unreasonably dangerous and bosses do nothing, the bosses are liable. We are protecting arses not heads but that is the way things are.

Yes, they WILL ban tackles. Yes, they WILL ban rugby league as archaic and brutal. But not in our lifetimes. Until then, we will get more gentle and safe at a glacial speed and there’s nothing you or I can do about it.

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IN all this talk about expanding the World Club Challenge, one evolutionary issue has been overlooked by many – including me.

It was a point made by Martyn Sadler in Rugby League Express on Monday and underlined by Brad Walter’s story on the explosion of NRL funding in the Herald today.

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