By STEVE MASCORD
“YOU mean THE tackle?” Michael Morgan says, raising an eyebrow.
A-List has just pointed out to the 24-year-old Townsvillian that in sports, you can trade on one thing for your entire life. Exhibit A: Scott Sattler. Exhibit B: the 2003 grand final.
Michael Morgan hasn’t thought about that way before. He hasn’t thought about the impact of setting up the try that tied the greatest grand final of all time, three quarters of a year ago.
He insists it hasn’t changed his life. Yet.
“No, not at all. I think because of the way I see it … I don’t see it at all as I threw the pass to win the grand final. I don’t look at it like that,” he says, before the Cowboys begin training on a typically warm and humid NQ afternoon.
“I genuinely believe that I got extremely lucky and there were other things in the game that I didn’t do that I should’ve. So no, I don’t think it’s changed my life at all. It’s just … look, it’s a very proud moment, one that I will remember for a long time and I’m stoked it happened but ….”
When you retire, though, it could become the focus of every interaction you have with the outside world … just like Satts.
“… no, no, I haven’t thought about that. Yes, I still get asked about it a lot but I think to me it feels like it was only just last year so … we’re still the premiers from the year before.
“People still bring up a bit of last year because it’s early in the season. I think that’s the only reason … I only see it that way.”
You know how you can tell a smart person sometimes by the sparkle in their eye? Michael Morgan – nearing 100 games for the Cowboys, a Queensland State of Origin player – is one of those people.
He’s so steeped in north Queensland rugby league that his grandfather knew Arch Foley, after whom the Foley Shield was named. But he’s still managed the perspective to understand it’s just a game, weekend entertainment for the masses.
“I’d like to think I’ve been pretty level headed, even before,” he nods. “I think it’s a good thing, growing up around my mates and that.
“I went to Iggy (Ignatius) Park here. If you did anything that was cocky or anything like that, you couldn’t get away with it. I was never in a group of friends where that was acceptable.”
That is not to say he hasn’t taken his own career seriously. And the early NRL days, he is happy to admit, were tough. Quite tough, actually.
“When I debuted and first played first grade, that was probably the hardest thing for me,” he says, when I ask about the confidence to speak up as a playmaker.
“One, playing in the halves when I was 18, filling in for Johnno (Johnathan Thurston) for my first game. And then having guys like Mango (Matt Bowen), Luke O’Donnell, Willle Mason. As an 18-year-old I didn’t find I had the authority as a half to tell them what to do.
“I never talked enough. I suppose I wasn’t confident enough. I suppose I was still overawed at the whole situation.
“My debut game, like I said, I filled in for Johnno. It was a Monday night game and I found out the Monday before that I was going to be playing so it was a long week. All the hype about filling in for JT and being from here … there was a lot of talk.
“But I probably struggled with the physicality of it the most. I played four games that year but my body after every game was wrecked. I’d never played against men before. I’d never played local A-grade even. I played high school footy and straight into 20s so my first A-grade game was NRL. So my body at 18, I don’t think was ready. That was the biggest challenge for me.”
“I think the year I had at fullback (did it). I think I played 13 games in 2012, that was the most I’d played in a season before 2014 when I went to fullback.
“Moving away from the halves, I didn’t feel like I needed to talk and organise. I didn’t need to be the dominant voice or anything like that. I’d played in the halves with Johnno before but he’s a very dominant player and at times I wasn’t sure how to play with him, as much.
“So when I went to fullback I could follow him, play off the back of him. I wasn’t trying to … not compete for the ball but if there was something on, I wouldn’t have the confidence to call for it I suppose because if he wants the ball he gets it. I didn’t want to call it and stuff up.
“The year at fullback just allowed me to see the game from a different angle and pop up where I could. It was a bit more of a free reign without having to organise and talk. I could worry about myself more than anything and my own role.
“I think that was what made me start to get more comfortable and build into it better.”
Other things contributed to the player we have now, the man who many think would keep Anthony Milford out of the Queensland squad even if he was available. Not all of them were good things.
Like the loss of good friend Alex Elisala to suicide.
“Everything with Alex was extremely hard,” he said, when we finally get around to the topic. “But I think, as well, a lot of people talk about depression they only talk about suicide. Yes, its awful but there’s a lot of different types of depression that people don’t know about so to learn more about the different types of it, knowing that there’s not just one single form of depression, (is important).
“I suppose I grew from it as a person and that kind of thing and I’m just glad I can be in a position where I can help, maybe, one person.”
Back back to where we started. What fascinates me, and probably you if you contemplate it, is doing something so momentous that it changes lives. That literally millions of set of eyes can be on you when you performed a reflex action that will go on to define your life.
The vast majority of us will never experience it. I have to ask again: how does it feel?
“I haven’t actually thought about it. I thought if it didn’t happen, we would have lost because if I get tackled there or we have a go at a kick and it doesn’t come off then it’s ‘game over’ right there.
“But honestly the most I’ve thought, or what I’ve thought, is that we were very lucky because it was just a lucky play, I suppose, the way it all came off.
“I haven’t thought about it in that way, of how many people would have watched it and …
when you think about it like that, I suppose it is a bit. There’s a lot of people just at the game but I suppose with the TV, how much it was on TV, and been played since … it’s pretty crazy really.
“In a way, I don’t know if I’m answering it the way you want me to, but for that week or even months after the actual game, when the trophy went around, we were able to give people a lot of happiness – just from winning that game.
“One game brought so many people so much happiness.
“I think for that period of time, people forgot about their problems – whether it is not having work, struggling financially …
“To know we could actually make a difference in people’s lives like that and give them happiness from winning a football game … to know you’ve, by playing well and working as hard as we all did last year, made people we’ve never met extremely happy for a long period of time…..
“Even now, people still talk to you about the game and where they were for it, what they were doing, how they reacted, who they were with and everyone’s got their own story now of where they were when the Cowboys won their first premiership.
“It feels pretty special to have done that.”
Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK
By STEVE MASCORD
JASON Taumalolo is no expert on the ‘pathways’ paper that earned former NRL head of strategy Shane Richardson a little bit of derision and almost no thanks.
The uber-destructive North Queensland and New Zealand back rower doesn’t know how the document was going to achieve its aim of keeping youngsters at home with their families for longer.
But as he talks to A-List, perched on a plastic chair at a BBQ table outside the premiers’ training facility at suburban Kirwan, the 113 kg Taumalolo makes it abundantly clear what changing countries to be a professional sportsman at the age of 12 does to someone.
He wants to tell me even before I ask a question. At the age of just 22, Jason Taumalolo was burnt out. He wasn’t sure he wanted to play rugby league for a living anymore.
“Last year, the form I was in, I wouldn’t say it was the best footy, what I think I would be playing,” the Auckland-born giant says, not long after sitting down.
“I’ve had issues … I wasn’t eating right. I was turning up late to a few meetings. I wasn’t fully committed to what the team wanted.
“That happens, I guess, to everyone at some point – especially when you’re working. You sometimes think is being here what you want to do?
“Coming from New Zealand at a young age and moving here, not because of anything else but football, it was pretty scary thinking about it.
“It’s one of those jobs where everyone thinks you’re living the life and stuff. They don’t fully know what you have to do and the sacrifices you have to make to get there.
“I knew everyone was on the same page but me. I obviously knew I was letting the team down.”
You don’t hear from Taumalolo anywhere near as much as you should given his status in the game. There could be any number of reasons for this; the presence of one J Thurston sucking all the light away from other Cowboys is likely one of them.
But be honest: how many of you expected to read the words “quietly spoken” in this story?
Jason Taumalolo is NOT quietly spoken. Scarcely into his third decade on Earth, he has already defied the great Mal Meninga – and his own parents – to pledge his allegiance to a country from whence rugby league stole him when he should have just have been still kicking a ball around for fun.
A psychologist might say that choosing New Zealand (he can’t remember more than one or two of his Auckland school mates) was a way of reclaiming his childhood and sense of identity. But just making that choice himself, exercising some self-determination, also led to him questioning everything else.
“When I spoke to Mal Meninga it was a pinch-myself moment,” he recalls of the Maroons’ attempts to poach a Kiwi who qualified for them with one year to spare.
“I’m talking to one of the immortals of rugby league. That was a surreal moment.
“After we had that talk, how he wanted me to pledge my allegiance to Queensland, right then and there I was in awe of who he was and what he wanted. Obviously my parents were for me playing for Queensland.
“But I made up my mind when I was young, playing for the Australian Schoolboys team. I didn’t feel comfortable being in the green and gold jersey.
“When I spoke to Stephen Kearney and a few of the other New Zealand officials, I was quite relieved that all that pressure was over.”
Taumalolo has some great yarns to tell – like how he came to be called Jason despite being born Vaai.
“When I got enrolled in primary school my name was Vaai, what you seen in the passport. The first week in primary school, the teacher kept saying my name wrong and then she ended up just calling me Jason. Then I took my report card home and it said Jason and my mum said ‘ah, who’s Jason?’ And that’s how it happened. Haha.”
And about how James Tamou – the original 21st century Kiwi turned Aussie superstar – helped him to make the exact opposite decision.
“He was saying how much he loved (Origin). He told me ‘look ahead in 10 years. Look at both paths. Tell me which one you’d be more regretful in picking’. If I’d played for Australia, I’d probably regret it. I didn’t want that.”
Have you ever heard a 22-year-old talk about leaving a legacy? This is what Jason – sorry, Vaai – says when I ask him how he refocused after his period of doubt last year.
“When I was a junior in New Zealand I used to go watch the Warriors games, watched the likes of Ruben Wiki and Stacey Jones and even Brent Webb back then. I didn’t even know he’s Australian.
“That was the path I saw. I wanted to leave a legacy as one of the greatest players to play for New Zealand.”
Heady stuff from someone you may have never even heard speak. But if there’s one thing to take out of this chat in steamy Thuringowa, it’s that kids should not have to change countries, states or even cities for football before they are even in their teens.
“It’s the last thing you would expect from a 12, 13 year old to be coming over here just for football,” he says. “Mum and dad were big on me trying to be an A-plus student at New Zealand. Like every good student, when they play a sport and become good at it, they don’t really concentrate that much on school work.
“The last thing a 12-year-old or 13-year-old needs if he’s playing good footy is to put pressure on them.
“There was pressure on me and a lot of wraps. I couldn’t cope, especially at a young age. I understand why the NRL would put a rule like that to protect those kids.
“I’ve seen players come here at a young age. I’ve played Australian 15s, made rep teams with them, they get that rap where they talk them up as the next big thing.
“I look at them now and they’re not even playing NRL. Some of them don’t even have jobs.
“I guess I was one of the luckier ones. I still felt the pressure of trying to live up to the standards that everyone put on me.
“It was a pretty tough period for me. I could tell during that period that I wasn’t playing my best footy either. Some of that led to be being dropped to Q Cup and stuff. I was in and out of first grade.
“The biggest example right now would be young Kalyn Ponga here at the Cowboys, who’s getting raps. I’ve seen him play. He’s a great player. For his young age, not many times have I seen a fullback play like that. I think the last time I saw someone play that kind of footy, pretty much carve every team, was … I remember playing against James Roberts, under 15s. He was playing for NSW, I was playing for Queensland and he was running rings around us like there was no tomorrow. I’d never seen someone single-handedly beat a team.
“To see a kid like Kalyn Ponga come along, and everyone put the pressure on him, I just hope he has the right head on his shoulders and the best support he can (get), mainly from his parents. I’d like to see him one day become one of the greatest players to play NRL.
“All these young kids, they should probably stay home, you know? And develop more as a person.”
We forget they’re people. And in the case of Jason ‘Vaai’ Taumalolo, pretty damn impressive people.
Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK
THERE were 42,303 people at Suncorp Stadium but few would have been more relieved at Brisbane hooker Andrew McCullough’s winning try against North Queensland than Broncos prop Josh McGuire.
Nearing a half century of tackles, McCullough celebrated the decision of Australia captain Cameron Smith not to take his jersey next year by backing up a Dale Copley break to dive over with six minutes left in the Queensland derby, securing a 16-12 win.
“I was on the bench and I started choking one of our water runners, I was that excited,” Samoan international McGuire said.
And with good reason; the 106 kg 24-year-old was reported twice – the second offence allowing the Cowboys to take a lead – and was responsible for a Ben Hunt try in the 60th minute being disallowed.
He was booked first for a high tackle on Gavin Cooper and again for diving at the legs of Robert Lui, leading to Cowboys replacement Ashton Sims telling the referees: “He could have broke (sic) his leg”
Of the first incident, McGuire said: “I’ll just cop it on the chin, it was unlucky, it was an accident”. When asked about the second, he claimed to be unaware of the rules regarding challenges on kickers.
“I just sprinted out of the line and he jumped. I didn’t realise he jumped. I didn’t know the rules, to be honest. I thought you could tackle them as long as you wrap your arms.”
But McGuire’s most costly infraction looked like being standing in front of team-mate Ben Hunt when the halfback dashed over for what could have been the winning try in an enthralling struggle.
Without consulting the video referees, on-field officials Ben Cummins and Gavin Reynolds ruled defender Tariq Sims had been illegally obstructed.
“I probably got lazy and didn’t push through fast enough,” McGuire recalled. “I’m a front rower, I don’t get to decide what happens there. I just push up and if he passes me the ball, I take it.
“If he doesn’t, it goes out the back.”
North Queensland attacked right to the death in a mistake-affected, but thrilling contest before a crowd that has put the NRL attendance average for the young season back on track.
Brisbane lock Matt Gillett was put over by Ben Barba early, Cowboys captain Johnathan Thurston responded with a converted try of his own and then new five-eighth Josh Hoffman’s kick allowed Daniel Vidot to put the home side ahead 10-6 at the break.
Hoffman, whose agent pressed for a release when Barba was signed in the off-season, broke his media silence after the game.
He was lavish in his praise of Barba, saying: “”He brings that x-factor. He’s got a good voice. His talk … it’s great to have someone like that behind you at the back.
“From being behind there (I know) the forwards, they’re going to need a lot of talk from a fullback. It’s good having that sort of player behind him.”
Asked about his newfound prowess as a tactical kicker, Hoffman said: “”I’ve been looking at a few YouTube videos of Darren Lockyer. He’s got that big left foot. It’s just trying to bring my own thing to the jersey.”
Cooper allowed NQ to draw level nine minutes into the second half, when a kick was tapped down to him by Kyle Feldt, and the 10-10 deadlock was broken by Thurston the second time McGuire was booked.
“It was a great contest, I don’t think it was a particularly great game,” said North Queensland coach Paul Green.
BRISBANE 16 (M Gillett D Vidot A McCullough tries C Parker 2 goals) beat NORTH QUEENSLAND 12 (J Thurston G Cooper tries,Thurston 2 goals) at Suncorp Staidum. Referees: B Cummins/G Reyolds. Crowd: 42,303.
Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
By STEVE MASCORD
NORTH Queensland co-captain Matt Scott has revealed the moment the switch flicked for the Cowboys this season – when the premiership hopefuls stopped blaming everyone else for their misfortune,
After winning the inaugural Auckland Nines, Paul Green’s side coughed and spluttered its way through the opening weeks of the new season, winning two out of their first seven matches
But despite the raft of changes coach Green has made at the club, it was a meeting of senior players following a 26-21 defeat to Manly In Gosford that Scott credits for refloating a fast-sinking ship,
“The Manly loss in Gosford earlier in the year was a bit of a wake up call for us,” the Australia Test star tells RLW.
“It was just about not making excuses, we obviously had a bad call go against us but when we looked back on the video, we saw how many moments we had in that game to win.
“Ultimately, it was up to us if we won or lost – not any one decision.
“It was players – player driven. We knew what we’d done wrong and how we had to improve to handle those situations,
“There’ve been a. number of moments during the season. It’s just about taking the game into our hands, it’s how we perform.
“We’ve got to be strong mentally.”
Scott said there was a link with leaving behind the club’s controversial exits from the last two finals series,
“Obviously, you talk about those finals losses, Manly and Sharks, there was a lot of talk about those decisions,” he said,
“But it’s like the Manly game this year – the game was in our hands, it was very winnable regardless of any refereeing decisions,
“We’ve got to take those decisions out of it and rake control of games.”
Scott has no firm view on how many shots at a title the Cowboys will get.
“I don’t even know what a premiership window is,” he says,
“We’ve got a pretty good squad, we’ve done pretty well this year but we definitely feel we’ve got a fair bit of footy left in us,”
He says allowing Brisbane to score 14 unanswered points on Saturday night was “a reminder that we’re going to have to be better than that to beat the Roosters.
“As far as being on the harder side of the draw? We would have had to play them eventually.”
Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK
By STEVE MASCORD
NORTH Queensland rookie Curtis Rona has revealed how he always thought he would one day play at Eden Park – for the Western Force.
Unheralded Rona scored two tries in the Cowboys’ 16-7 NRL Nines final win over Brisbane to secure the club’s first title at senior level. It’s been a long journey to the rugby union citadel for Rona, who was born in New Zealand.
He says if it wasn’t for his girlfriend he’d be still in his adoptive home of Perth, struggling to make ends meet.
“They brushed me – I would have loved to have gone back and played for the Western Force,” Rona tells RLW.
“My family moved to Perth from Taranaki when we were younger. One day I thought I’d be playing Super Rugby here. Family? Pretty much the whole stadium was my family. I had to get 15 tickets (for the nines).
“My girlfriend was the first person I spoke to. She’s pretty much why I’m here. She put me on the straight and narrow. I was on a crooked path over in Perth. I wasn’t training, I didn’t want to compete, and she said ‘you either train hard, or….'”
Rugby union officials might find themselves kicking stones over the loss of the talented threequarter if he continues his rise in Townsville.
“I played league for an opportunity,” Rona explains. “I played rugby union through my upbringing but I switched over to league when I was 17, 18, and it pretty much just took off from there. There are more pathways for young players.
“It’s pretty crap that you can’t play (senior) rugby league in Perth because there’s no team or pathway. Bring me back – I wouldn’t mind playing with them (if they get into the NRL).”
Rona says the his last club, Sydney Roosters, showed little interest in retaining him. “The Cowboys gave me an opportunity,” he said.
Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK
NO HARD FEELINGS
LACHLAN Coote hasn’t given up on playing again this year despite suffering the fourth serious injury of a comparatively short career. Coote was a casualty of the Nines, ruled out for six months with an anterior cruciate ligament injury. ”I definitely want to get back and play with this bunch of boys,” he said. ”It will be a goal for myself to try and get back.” Coote wasn’t taking out his frustration on the new Nines concept. ”We’ve still got another trial next week and it could have happened then. Footy is a cruel game.” Zac Santo is the early favourite to replace Coote at fullback.
INJURY TOLL PAYED WITHOUT COMPLAINT
INJURIES led to the demise of the World Sevens in 2004, along with poor crowds and declining TV interest. With the return of truncated rugby league to the NRL, casualties made a return as well. Lachlan Coote, Paul Gallen, Todd Carney, Curtis Sironen, Jarrod Mullen, Luke Keary, David Stagg, Michael Chee-Kam, David Williams, Ben Barba, George Jennings and others all return to Australia sicker and sorrier. So why is no-one calling for the Nines to be cancelled? Because the clubs are being so handsomely compensated? Because the organisers have spent money courting the media? Because, as Eric Watson says, the clubs no longer dislike each other? Or is it because the often-maligned rugby league media is actually less negative than it was a decade ago? “Everyone here has had a good experience – I think that’s the main reason,” said victorious Cowboys coach Paul Green
THE decision suspend Melbourne’s Richie Kennar for one nines match in 2015 for his grade four careless high tackle against St George Illawarra is, on the surface, eminently sensible. The game in which he committed an offence was not rugby league as we know it and if he had committed a serious offence, it would have been referred to the judiciary and his ban would have included 13-a-side games. But the precedent is dangerous. The lobby for suspensions meted out in trials and Origin games to only cover those arenas will be emboldened. And what if his hit determined the rest of the final? Would we have been as comfortable seeing him play next weekend?
“They were terrible, the refs in our game,” Brad Fittler told an NRL video crew after his comeback on Saturday (the first game, not the one with the intercept). Then there was a grin. The match officials were walking behind Fittler in the the tunnel’s ‘Mixed Zone’. “Can I bag refs? Can I get fined? I’m retiring at the end of the day!” Fittler didn’t play yesterday due to a hamstring injury. Andrew Johns’ comeback in the media match was less successful; he hooked himself for a horrible pass at one stage and the NZ team beat the Aussies 3-2.
FOURTH ESTATE EVICTION
MEDIA types were happy enough Warriors owner Eric Watson took the time to visit the Eden Park media box and dispense some useful quotes. Aside from the comments which appear on page ??, Watson also said the Nines should stay in Auckland forever and reckoned England signing Sam Tomkins was valuable because he would remedy a communication problem at the Warriors. But when the media opp was over, Watson remarked that the view from the press box was so good it should be sold as a corporate suite and the hacks kicked out. Journos might be left wishing he had not paid them a visit. These are hard times for non-rights holding hacks, with social media and leveraged content swamping them.
PUTRID ONE DAY, BEAUTIFUL THE NEXT
BRISBANE endured their worst-ever season last year and North Queensland were dudded by a refereeing error. So while the 45,403 fans at Eden Park yesterday were disappointed at the Warriors missing the final, it was still a feelgood story. Things could have been different, however. South Sydney’s Dylan Walker grouned the ball just outside an upright in the dying moments of the quarter-final against the home side. Had he picked up the lolling ball and put it down inside the woodwork, meaning a five-point try, the game would have been tied and bunnies may have progressed. But the scoring system confused everyone – including scoreboard attendants and journalists.
Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
By STEVE MASCORD
MATT Bowen probably hasn’t made a controversial statement in his life. But, shielding his eyes against the Florida sun, today he is no mood for mincing words.
“What better game than to go play in the World Club Challenge in Sydney? I want to go back and prove a few people wrong,” the 31-year-old, who has played his entire 13-year career at North Queensland, tells the Sun-Herald.
“I always wanted to play on. I would have played at the Cowboys another year and that would have been me. But I got told I wasn’t wanted and then I wanted to prove people wrong – that I still had something in the tank.
“I always wanted to finish my playing back at the club.”
We are sitting on a pool bench at the National Training Center in Chermont, Florida. The town water tower is not far away in the distance; the manicured hedges, wide open spaces, field with rugby posts and single story gym are reminiscent of 1300smiles Stadium, where Bowen has been at this time every year of his adult life.
But it’s not Townsville. Bowen, maybe the most popular player in NRL history, has travelled to the other side of the world to get his Wigan house keys, then to Florida for this training camp. He’ll have two pre-season games in the UK, then one in New Zealand and the WCC against Sydney Roosters on February 22.
He ignores prompts to go into great detail about who told him his tenure at the club was over, and what their exact words were. But he does not disguise his pain.
“It’s the Cowboys telling me I wasn’t needed this year,” he says as his new team-mates wander from the pool to mini-buses which will take them to the nearby bungalows where they are staying.
“They just told me they had other plans. They gave me a job there but in saying that, I wasn’t done playing.
“I’ve spent a long time there and I’m leaving all my mates behind. It was a bit hard at the start.”
“Mango” believes perception – all those stories about his knee cartilage being grown in a petri dish – played a role his demise at the Cowboys. “I think so, I got sick of getting asked about it and I’m sure the papers got sick of writing about it.
“At the end of the day, I’m back playing and enjoying it.” Bowen may have become a contortionist in the off-season, adding: “The knee’s behind me”.
When he got the news he had been dreading – and reading about – for months, Bowen says he didn’t seriously consider retiring; not for a second. Raw stats suggest his game is not what it once was, but more than once he was the Cowboys’ best player in 2013 matches.
If he had been judged against the standards of others, and not his own from a decade ago, he would probably still be in the NRL.
There were reports Hopevale’s favourite son did not want to play against the Cowboys, but in fact joining another NRL team was something he seriously considered. “I did but that sort of fell through,” he explains. “I’m just happy now where I am.”
The Cowboys job offer is still open, but Bowen has not ruled out a triumphant (and even vengeful?) return to the NRL in 2015 if his form with Wigan warrants it. “A few people were saying that, that crossed my mind,” he said, “but I’m committed to Wigan now. If that got tossed up and I’m feeling good and I want to go back, I’m sure that will be one of the things to do.”
Wigan return to Britain today after 10 days in Florida, which saw them train under MMA fighter Seth Petruzelli.. Bowen’s family will catch him on his second lap of the globe and move to Wigan after the WCC.
While it wasn’t his first choice, playing for Wigan is not something the fullback takes for granted. He’s walking in the shadows of giants like Kenny, Ferguson and Miles and replacing Sam Tomkins.
“I’ve always wanted to play in the Super League,” he says. “I went for a tour in the DW Stadium the other day … if I can play a game in the Wigan jersey I’ll put my name down in history with all the names that have played for Wigan.”
Filed for: SUN-HERALD
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”.