NRL round one: GOLD COAST 18 CRONULLA 12 at Remondis Stadium

By STEVE MASCORD
AFTER another dismal day at strife-torn Cronulla, injured captain Paul Gallen insisted he would be back from an ankle injury in “three or four weeks” and dismissed the significance of Australia prop Andrew Fifita’s impending departure.
Going into the opening Monday Night Football match of 2014, it seemed things could only improve for the Sharks after their $1 million doping fine, the suspension of coach Shane Flanagan and injuries to Todd Carney (hamstring), Beau Ryan (neck), Chris Heighington (calf), Luke Lewis (shoulder), Anthony Tupou (knee) and Jeff Robson (cheekbone).
But by the end of the night, NSW skipper Gallen had been sidelined indefinitely by a syndesmosis injury to the right ankle, Gold Coast had come from behind to win 18-12 and Fifita had walked out of Remondis Stadium, cameras trailing him, without denying he had agreed to join Canterbury next season.
Fifita was also on report for a shoulder charge on David Mead.
“Something cracked – I knew I did something straight away,” Gallen said of his injury, suffered in a 31st minute tackle by Titan Matthew White. “I did it in trial game in 2006 or seven – it cracked twice – so I knew what it was straight away.
“I’m thinking I’d like to be back in three or four weeks … get a scan tomorrow and see what it says. I’m pretty confident it’s not going to be a long-term thing.”
Asked for his thoughts on Fifita’s departure, Gallen said: “I know the club will come very close to their offer. I don’t think it’s going to be chalk and cheese, the two offers.
“It’s just going to be up to where Andrew wants to play. He’s got a young family. You’ve got to do the best for yourself.
“Of course I’d be upset if he left. We’ve put a lot of work into him. He’s a great player and he’s played his best football here.
“In saying that, I remember three or four years ago when everyone thought the world was going to end when Luke Douglas and Kade Snowden left. I wouldn’t say them two boys have kicked on since they left and we’ve got six front rowers.
“It’s a good opportunity for us to pick up some other players – if he goes.”
The comment about Douglas came as the former Sharks prop broke a new premiership consective appearance record with 195 in the Titans victory, secured with a 71st minute William Zillman try.
Gold Coast had would-be touchdowns to hooker Beau Falloon (14th minute) and halfback Albert Kelly (42nd) chalked off but it was the try Kelly was awarded – when he took an intercept off his own line eight minutes before halftime – that angered the Sharks.
“I thought he was offside, I thought they were offside most of the night to tell you the truth,” said coach Peter Sharp.
There was also some controversy surrounding the concussion rule; stand-in Sharks captain Wade Graham called for Gold Coast winger Mead to be taken off for assessment after he stayed on the ground long enough for a penalty to be awarded.
“The bloke stayed down, they’ve had a check upstairs and they’ve found there was contact with the head,” said five-eighth Graham.
“I don’t know what the new five-point-plan is but obviously, staying down, there’s got to be an indication he’s hurt and if there’s head contact, it’s got to be something with the head. I was a bit confused by that.”
And Titans coach John Cartwright reckoned legislators had sped the game up too much this year.
“I think you’ve got to find a balance,” he said. “If you blow a lot of penalties, it is going to be a lot of dummy-half running. That’s where the easy yards are.”

GOLD COAST 18 (A Kelly G Bird W Zillman tries A Sezer 3 goals) bt CRONULLA 12 (T Arona try M Gordon goal) at Remonidis Stadium. Referees: J Maxwell/G Atkins. Crowd: 9321.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

THE WRAP: NRL Finals Week One

NRL logoBy STEVE MASCORD

MY furry colleague at Rugby League Week, the Mole, last week wrote that Greg Inglis was unlikely to play in the World Cup due to his ongoing knee problem.

So when the finals series kicked off on Friday night, a couple of hours before kick-off between South Sydney and Melbourne at ANZ Stadium, I asked the Rabbitohs coach about the situation.

“I get asked that every week,” said Michael Maguire, who your correspondent interviewed pre-game for Triple M.

“To be honest, his knee’s where it needs to be. He got through a full week’s training this week, which is a real positive for us.”

You’ll remember the first week of the 2013 finals for your reasons. Maybe your team won, maybe your team lost, maybe your team is the North Queensland Cowboys which means they should have done the former but ended up doing the latter.

Maybe you’re Matt Cecchin or Henry Perenara, in which case you will never forget the weekend just passed.

Me? I spent the weekend doing a lot of radio; so much so that I still have the vestiges of a headache from wearing headphones for hours on end. So I’m going to do turn this week’s wrap into a kind of Things You May Have Missed – stuff I came across that slipped between the cracks of the daily news cycle.

FRIDAY:

Maguire went on to secure his first win over Melbourne, 20-10.

“We missed the start last time against Melbourne, we missed it against the Roosters,” said Souths utility Chris McQueen said.

Jason Clark suffered a knee injury at training and was in doubt right up to kick-off.

“We had the captain’s run last night and we were pretty confident,” he said, “But we left it right up until the game.”

SATURDAY

While his team-mates celebrated, Todd Carney cut a disconsolate figure as he limped towards the tunnel with a serious hamstring injury after the 20-18 win for Cronulla over North Queensland.

“The leg feels a bit sore,” he told me “It’s a bit disappointing, I can’t soak it up with the boys. I’ll have to do everything possible to get it right for the game.

“I wouldn’t have played if it wasn’t 100 per cent. I did everything I had to do yesterday but obviously it fatigued and it’s gone wrong again.

“It was a sharp pain, like happened a few weeks ago, and it just got worse as the game went on but I couldn’t leave the field.”

Shane Flanagan on Carney: “He hasn’t torn the hamstring, he’s just getting referred pain from his back.”

The Sharks had been unaware of Beau Ryan’s seventh-tackle try. Paul Gallen: “I just found out about it off Ryan Girdler. Sometimes you get things go your way, sometimes you don’t. We’ll take it.

“I suppose the NRL probably thought Melbourne were going to be here but they weren’t. Too everyone’s credit, the Roosters fans and the Manly fans, they turned out to watch us play as well.”

The Cowboys didn’t know either. Antonio Winterstein: “We didn’t have any idea, that’s the first time I’ve heard about it. We can’t do anything about it now. I thought he (Kane Linnett) had it there. The replay showed otherwise.”

Despite the rancour afterwards, Matt Bowen was nothing if not a sportsman. “It is disappointing to go out the way we did but in saying that, full credit to the Sharkies. They wanted it more than we did,” was his remarkable comment.

“It wasn’t meant to be tonight. In saying that, we did a couple of things to hurt (ourselves) in the first half. We can’t do anything about it now. They got the win and they get to play on and we don’t

On his future, Bowen said: “I’ll have to make a decision next week. We’ll see what happens.”

Coach Flanagan’s heart sank when Bowen got the ball with a few seconds left. “He was the one person in the rugby league world I didn’t want to have the ball,” Flanagan said.
A time keeper approached Flanagan while I was waiting to speak to him, to explain the confusion at fulltime over time on the clock.

“They just explained to me it was the clock the referees see on the ground.. The actual referees and time keeper did tell him there was 11 seconds to go. It was just a technical glitch with the game clock that all the fans saw and the players see as well.”

Does he care that the seventh tackle try took the gloss off the victory?

“I do care. It was done earlier. These things happen in our game, it’s human error. The referees, if they made a mistake, they didn’t mean it, I’m sure.

Neil Henry has been painted as a conspiracy theorist but he also said this to me, on the ABC: “No-one goes out to deliberately get the tackle count wrong. But with the number of officials they’ve got, they should get it right.

“I think the refereeing, overall, has improved a bit. We saved a couple of our worst decisions for the big stage.”

The next game was a 4-0 win for the Roosters over Manly – the scoreline from a certain preliminary final in 1992 which this Illawarra fan would rather forget.

“We’ll improve our attack next week but that’s the way we need to be defending at this time of year,” said Roosters five-eighth James Maloney.

All the points were scored by young winger Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. I asked if he’d ever done that before.

“It’s a first try for me. I’m glad I was able to get the points for the boys.” He then gave this gem of a quote: “We just looked at each other and said ‘this is who we are, this is the game we play’.”

The big worry for Manly fans must be backing up six days after and out-and-out war Geoff Toovey: “We’re fortunate we’re playing the Cronulla Sharks. They had a tough game here today as well, against the Cowboys. Very physical there as well and they played a similar type of football. Hopefully they’re as bumped and bruised as we are.”

I spoke to Roosters coach Trent Robinson after the game and again the next day on ABC’s The Hit-Up

“I grew up watching the eighties games and enjoyed that sort of footy,” he said. “The courage that used to get shown back then, we had to show tonight – along with Manly, We both showed it.

“Both sides should be proud.”

SUNDAY:

On Sunday, Robinson paid tribute to Steve Menzies, whose career ended with Hull’s 14-4 win over Catalan on Friday night.

“It’s a bit like Sonny coming here, my first head coaching gig, I recruited Beaver. He allowed me to coach him. He doesn’t need to stop, the way that he’s still playing.”

Video referees Justin Morgan and Luke Patten were booked as guests before the seventh tackle furore. Asked if video refs are supposed to keep count for the men on the field, Morgan said:  “Yes. That is right. It’s somebody’s role in the box to keep the tackle count during the match for reinforcement and correction. It would have been somebody’s job last night.?

And do you tell the referees about major blunders at halftime?

Morgan: “For me, it’s very similar to coaching. You have to know the individual. You have to know how they’ll take that information on. Some referees will want to know. They’ll want to know that information. They’ll want to know ‘did I get that right?’ ‘Did I get that wrong?’

“Others, you most probably need to be a bit more gentle … most of them, if they ask you the question, they want a straight answer.’

The final guest before I headed out to see Newcastle eliminate Canterbury 22-6 was Parramatta chairman Steve Sharp.

“We’ll have something in the pipeline in the next week, or two maximum, as to who’s going to be our coach,” he said.

Do players joining the club next year have get-out clauses? “In fact, if they don’t want to come to our club, I don’t really want them there. We want people who want to play for the club.”

What about the Bulldogs chasing Jarryd Hayne? “Jarryd’s got a contract with the club which he has just extended for two years. There is no getout clause. Jarryd’s going to be here in 14 and 15 at least.”

Filed for: SMITHYSPEAKS.COM.AU

read on

Cronulla Ship Sails On Without Captains

Cronulla - Paul GallenBy STEVE MASCORD
CRONULLA is likely to be without its first- and second-choice captains until August after Todd Carney helped the Sharks overcome Brisbane and leave the Broncos at long odds of maintaining their proud finals record.
With a foot injury having ruled Paul Gallen out from the NSW side for Origin III and up to three more weeks, coach Shane Flanagan then had to deal with a shoulder injury to his replacement, Wade Graham.
Five-eighth Carney responded by setting up three tries, converting them, and booting the winning field goal in a 19-18 win at Suncorp Stadium.
“He’s in a bit of pain – it’s either his AC or his actual collarbone,” said Flanagan of Graham. “We’ll get some scans on it and hope for the best but I wouldn’t expect …. I think he’d be out for a couple of weeks.”
Flanagan said of Gallen, who withdrew from Origin III on Friday: “I would’t think he’d be right for the Roosters game. I think we might have him back the week after that, the Panthers game. We hope he’ll miss one, maximum two weeks.
“He’s very disappointed. You don’t get too many opportunities, anyone in this game, to lead your state in an Origin decider at home. That’s the pain he’s going through at the moment – I don’t think he even feels his foot.
“It’s a terrible blow for him. The whole club feels for him.”
Carney is expected to deputise and he showed all the requisite qualities in a performance which rival coach Anthony Griffin reckoned was unquestionably the difference between the sides.
Lauding Carney’s performance, Flanagan said: “Both teams were missing some quality players and someone had to stand up. Our quality player stood up and got us over the line.
“All the games that we’ve won, we’ve played well. I put tonight in the category that we didn’t play well but we got two points. The way we played, doesn’t really please me.”
Griffin put on a brave face despite a run to the finals which requires the Broncos – who have only missed the finals once in the last 21 years – to win all but one of their remaining regular season matches.
“They all earned the right to wear that jersey tonight,” he said, describing the weeks ahead as “a challenge”.
“To his credit, Carney came up with a couple of great play. It was just brilliance from their six …. him and (Michael Gordon), a couple of times there they just opened us up.”
Carney faces the man who beat him to the NSW six shirt, James Maloney, next Saturday.
“When you get a field goal, you get in a bit of a comfort zone,” said Carney. “They (Brisbane) got the smell of it.
“It was a bit rough-and-ready, like all my field goal attempts this year. It was good to get one.
“I want to keep getting better as the weeks go on, towards the back end of the year, because last year around finals time I had a few injuries and my form dropped.
“So hopefully this is the game that sparked my final run hope for the year.”
Shark Mark Taufua was reported for a shoulder charge on Peter Wallace. “I was surprised it was even a penalty – seriously,” said Flanagan. “He’s got nothing to worry about in my view.”

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

WORLD RUGBY LEAGUE POWER LIST: Year Two

Power ListBy STEVE MASCORD
WE certainly picked the right time to kick off our World Rugby League Power List in 2012 – if only because it bore little resemblance to rankings we now present to you 12 months later.
Last June, the game had just lost NRL chief executive David Gallop, who went to the FFA, and Rugby Football League executive chairman Richard Lewis, who is now back in tennis.
But at the time, the NRL didn’t have a CEO while no-one has really replaced Lewis at Red Hall, although former Football League CEO Brian Barwick is now the chairman and Maurice Watkins is on board a senior non-executive director.
But it’s at League Central in Sydney that the biggest shakeup has taken place. Since Gallop’s departure, Welshman David Smith has taken over as chief executive and he has designed and instituted a detailed administrative structure.
Todd Greenberg is head of football, Jim Doyle is chief operating officer, Shane Mattiske is head of strategy and Paul Kind runs commercial with three positions to be added.
The old guard is largely either gone, or going.
Last year we summed up the aim of this list thus: – if rugby league has a “direction” as such, who is behind the thing, pushing the hardest? These aren’t necessarily people who throw their weight around most often – but equally we have not favoured wallflowers who could action enormous change for the sport with their wealth and influence but who have so far done nought.
In achieving this aim, we looked at appointing a panel of judges. In future years, that might happen but for now we are sticking to the informal process observed by most journalists gathering information most days – ringing people and talking to them.
The buck for this list stops with the name at the top of the page.
1. John Grant
ARLC chairman: Grant has receded into the background somewhat but is still David Smith’s boss. He attends marquee events, presses the flesh, does interviews and recently presided over the decision to prioritise 30 tasks that the ARLC wanted to achieve over the coming months. He’s the most active and influential member of the commission and still spends a great deal of time at League Central – although much less than before Smith’s appointment. Because of his personal interest in international football, the game’s progress in that area will be significantly influenced by him.
2. Dave Smith
ARLC chief executive: For months last year, the only rugby league official we seemed to see on television was the Commission’s chairman, John Grant. He was everywhere – but has virtually become invisible since he found his man in Welsh banker David (now ‘Dave’) Smith. The name change is eerily reminiscent of predecessor David Moffett, who used to ring open line radio programs posing as ‘David From Hornsby’. Despite being labelled a ‘dunce’, Smith completely remodelled the NRL administration and was at pains to point out the changes were all his. By this time next year, he should go up a place on this list.
3. Gary Pemberton
ARL Commissioner. It seems strange to have three ARLC types at the top of the list and then no more. But Pemberton, Grant and Smith are seen as the men who run rugby league in Australia while the others six commissioners work behind the scenes. We called him a “head kicker” last year but he has been less obtrusive since then. However, clubs hear from Pemberton regularly. Pemberton has experience in TV rights negotiations but unlike others in that area of expertise, has held his spot in the top 20. The likes of Ian Frykberg and Lachlan Murdoch will next be heard from here in four years.
4. Cameron Smith
Melbourne player. Cameron Smith’s influence was best exemplified by David Smith telling the assembled club CEOs earlier this year the hooker wanted the accreditation of three journalists revoked overthe Jon Mannah story. If an Australia captain has ever been so politically active, we haven’t known about it. Smith regularly talks to players around the competition and reportedly would like to be Queensland coach one day. His steady demeanour means he inspires trust in others. As influential as any player has even been off the field.
5. David Gyngell
Television executive. With the NRL’s TV deal signed since our last power rankings, the executives of the stations that got the rights have held their places and those who missed out have disappeared completely. Channel Nine remains central to the way most Australians consume rugby league. People who tweet scores from games they are showing on delay are regularly abused and Nine’s commentators are arguably more famous than most players. Nine succeeded in convincing the NRL to allow them to delay Sunday games and keep grand finals in the evening by throwing truckloads of money at the new administration.
6. Todd Greenberg
NRL official. Despite his high profile, Greenberg didn’t make our list last year because we were told he was not a wheeler-and-deaer, preparing to focus on what was in front of him at the Bulldogs. But having handled the Ben Barba episode at the club earlier this year, Greenberg has been appointed as David Smith’s frontman at Moore Park. He’s the man who knows it’s Ben Barba, not Benji Barba, and will speak on football-related matters in future. Presumably, given Dave Smith’s pre-occupation with the corporate side of the business, Greenberg will increasingly seem like the boss of the NRL to average fans.
7. Patrick Delany
Television executive. Our first new entry, the Fox Sports CEO has been very proactive this year as his pay television channel completely overhauled its rugby league coverage, cutting a talent-sharing deal with Nine. A former Commonwealth Games swimming trialist, Delaney is known to be in constant contact with clubs about innovations such as the Fox Kopter and cornerpost-cam. A great corporate link with News Limited and a big move into tablets and mobile technology increases Fox’s – and Delany’s – influence.
8. Phil Gould
Penrith general manager. Gould was David Gallop’s no.1 nemesis and saw him off. No other club official commentates on games and writes columns in newspapers. He has the ear of David Smith and the respect of most, putting in long hours and leading the fight against the GWS AFL franchise. Gould appears to be a fan of the ARLC but history shows he will be a formidable adversary if they get him offside. He talks about politics, football and personalities and shapes public opinion in each these areas. And he almost prised Johnathan Thurston away from North Queensland.
9. Ray Dibb
Canterbury chairman. The rise of NRL club chairman has been a key development since our most recent power rankings. The group succeeded in getting an advance on the TV rights income which has been estimated at some $7 million per franchise. Initially, there were fears they would block the introduction of the commission completely if they didn’t get their way. Dib is in constant contact with other club bosses, recently appointed the first female chief executive of the NRL era, Raelene Castle and played a key role in the recent restructure of the NSWRL.
10. Gary Hetherington
Leeds chief executive. Our highest ranking English power broker, Hetherington runs the dual code Leeds Rugby conglomerate and is the man behind bids to expand the World Club Challenge which now look like being successful. Hetherington is always thinking outside the box, be it taking games to places like Dubai and Hong Kong or tinkering with the domestic season, and has more influence than anyone at Red Hall given the recent financial problems at Bradford and the near-collapse of Salford.
11. Dave Trodden
Wests Tigers official. The Balmain solicitor stepped down as Wests Tigers chairman at the end of his term last year but by then he had already played a key role in establishing the NRL chairmans’ group and won significant funding from the Commission, creating a new power group in the game. At the end of 2011, he was quoted in RLW saying the clubs were refusing to sign licence agreements with the NRL, which could have freed them to form their own competition. Despite no longer being a club chairman, Trodden remains active. Also a huge influence over NSWRL restructure.
12. Graham Annesley
NSW Sports Minister. The next big revolution in the NRL is going to concern the stadiums policy, and attempts to match venues to events more sensibly.. That will mean a painful departure from suburban grounds and better deals for clubs and fans at the super stadia. As NSW sports minister, former international referee Graham Annesley will be at the centre of the paradigm shift. He’s rocketed up eight spots in our world rugby league power rankings as a result.
13. Wayne Beavis
Player agent. With the television deal done and the competition structure settled, player agents such as Beavis come into their own once more. When it was reported recently that Neil Henry had two weeks to save his job as coach of North Queensland, it was a meeting Beavis held in Townsville which sparked the rumour. Beavis manages Trent Barrett, who has been linked to a coaching job at the Cowboys. He also represented the players in talks with the RLPA about representative payments and is also deeply involved in the Agent Accreditation scheme.
14. Wayne Bennett
Newcastle coach. The supercoach has dropped a few spots because he has had enough on his plate at Newcastle, restricting the time available to influence the sport as a whole. Nathan Tinkler has gone from the top 20 completely for similar reasons. But when Bennett has something to say, like recently regarding cannonball tackles, people listen. Having brought back the Tri- (now Four) Nations, he has reportedly moved his focus to Australian sport as a whole. Bennett knows how to use his influence and is anecdotally close to ARLC chairman John Grant.
15. Jim Doyle
NRL chief operating officer. Already influential in his role as the chief executive of the New Zealand Rugby League, the Navman millionaire has crossed the Tasman and is helping run the NRL. Doyle turned Kiwi league around in the wake of the SPARC report, winning many admirers, and could even be regarded as over-qualified for his NRL gig. His oversight includes the new NRL integrity unit and he gave an early indication he won’t be a wallflower by speaking out against the practice of sweeping off-field incidents under the carpet.
16. Shane Richardson
South Sydney chief executive. Richardson has a finger in plenty of pies. As one of the longest-surviving club CEOs, he has plenty to say at CEOs conferences. As a former Super League club boss, he is on the committee that liases over the future of the World Club Challenge. And as the boss of the competition’s form team, he has a big input on competition-wide policies, such as media procedures. Richardson is also not afraid to make a public statement, meaning he can use the media to apply pressure where necessary – a lost art among most NRL CEOs
17. Isaac Moses
Player agent. A new entry by unlucky to miss out last year. Moses is the man who manages Cameron Smith, the current Australian captain, and the recruit the game most covets, Israel Folau. As part of Titan management, which also handles Karmichael Hunt, he has been involved in some of the most seismic transfers in recent rugby league history – ones which affect the overall health of the game by shifting athletes from one sport to another. Moses was banned from operating by the Agent Accreditation Scheme over his involvement in the Storm salary cap drama but the suspension seemed to have little or no impact on his operation
18. Simon Moran
Warrington majority shareholder. The English “pop impresario” rarely gives interviews but is too polite to decline them, simply going missing at the appointed time. He’s the man behind some of the biggest bands, festivals and venues in the UK but his big passion is rugby league and, more specifically, Warrington Wolves. He has single-handedly turned them into a Super League force and is part of a powerful group that is negotiating over the future of the World Club Challenge. A man with enough money to make things happen.
19. Paul Gallen
Cronulla captain. Gallen has become increasingly outspoken in recent years and the ASADA investigation at the Sharks has brought his leadership qualities into shark focus. Cronulla’s decision to stone-wall the drugs agency has forced it to change tack and probably prolonged the investigation. On the field, he took the law into his own hands in Origin I as NSW skipper and probably went a long way towards determining the result. Number 19 with a bullet.
20 Owen Glenn
Warriors shareholder. Probably holds the fortunes of rugby league in New Zealand in his hands. The billionaire took a share in the Warriors last year, with an announcement he and Eric Watson would share the ownership on a 50-50 basis. Without the club as a flagship, rugby league in New Zealand would not be able to keep its head above water in comparison with the dominant rival code. The owners last year announced they wanted to make the club the biggest sporting franchise in Australasia. That’s got off to a shaky start.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

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