FAR & WIDE: Europe, California, Women’s rugby league, Greece

EUROPEAN Countries are getting ready for the final stage of World Cup qualifiers, with the matches played in the coming weeks.
Pool A includes Wales, Italy and Serbia while Pool B comprises Ireland, Spain and Russia. The top two in each group automatically qualifies for Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, with second in each playing off for the final berth.
The tournament kicks off on October 15 at Moscow’s Fili Stadium, when the host country takes on Spain.
Of the six teams involved, Spain and Russia would be regarded as the outsiders.
THE United States Rugby League is again making a push towards the Wesr Coast.
Jacksonville Axemen founder and Floridian league pioneer Daryl ‘Spinner’ Howland recently reached out to interested parties about getting a competition up and running.
He received quite a response.
It’s to be hoped those involved in California previously, such as Zane Hirtzell, Col Manners and Ben Everill can be involved.
We’ll keep you posted.
SINCE our last column, we had the great announcement that the Women’s World Cup would be run concurrently with the men’s tournament next year.
And while Sydney controversially missed out on most of the men’s tournament, Wooloware’s Southern Cross Stadium will host the pool matches and finals.
The final itself will be played at Suncorp Stadium on December 2, the same day as the men’s final.
It’s a feather in the cap of RLWC CEO Andrew Hill that he was able to mend bridges between the tournament organising committee and the NSW government by attracting funding.
One can only assume the bridges were burned by former boss CEO, given that the government offered the men’s tournament no funding at all.
The US is playing Canada on October 1 at Wilmington, Delaware, and F&W will be there!
THE RLEF is continuing to rebuild rugby league in Greece. It recently conducted match official training there, accrediting the country’s first female referee, Zoe Valassa.


THE JOY OF SIX: NRL Round 17 2015


SO David Klemmer accidentally knocked out a NSW staffer who was holding a tackling bag? If he is on the field for a kick-off on Wednesday, Maroons players are best advised to stay out of his sight. The Beast Of Belmore has revealed he spots an opposition player from 30 or more metres away and tries to cause as much damage as possible by running over the top of him in such situations. “Whoever I see, I try to spot someone and run as hard as I can at them,” Klemmer told Triple M in the aftermath of the Belmore triumph last Monday. “I’ve probably got someone lined up to run at before the kick-off. As soon as I get it, I’m going straight for him.”


THE silence flawlessly observed for Phil Walsh before the weekend’s three NRL games made your correspondent proud to be involved in rugby league. Such unity, such empathy. Now, if I add a ‘but’ to that, someone is bound to take it the wrong way. I’ll just say this: Danny Jones, James Ackerman and Zane Purcell died playing rugby league this year. Ackerman was honoured at two NRL games. I would like to have seen the whole comp observe a minute’s silence for each of them. Sometimes NRL clubs seem culturally isolated from the rest of rugby league – particularly overseas – while identifying themselves more closely with big time leagues in other sports. To reiterate, I fully support the solidarity shown regarding Walsh – maybe we can honour the three we lost on grand final day.


IN a manner of speaking, I have a small inkling of how Cameron Smith feels after Sunday night’s 60 Minutes program. I covered the game in which Alex McKinnon was injured, for radio and for the newspaper. Like Cameron, I misread the situation completely. When people told me Alex’ treatment was “just precautionary” and that he reacted the way he did because he “got a fright”, I foolishly believed them. Fox’s Andy Raymond showed himself to be, frankly, a better journalist in the way he reported on the injury. Like Smith, I focused too much on the short term – in my case, trying to get a quote in the paper. I did that – but the quote was another well-intentioned smother. I am sorry for my performance and my decisions that night, which do not stand up to scrutiny. I wish I could change them. I’m sure Cameron feels the same.


TEAMS are fined if they are late onto the field for a match but what if the game starts late? Who gets fined then? This was the dichotomy highlighted by St George Illawarra officials when they were told by the TV floor manager  to stay in the sheds an extra five minutes at WIN Stadium on Saturday night.  No-one could argue with the point made, either. Still at Wollongong, while the commentators sought to honour the days of the Steelers, it was a boy from the local suburb of Windang – North Queensland centre Kane Linnett – who was the hero for the visitors. Asked if Linnett was feeling the cold as much as his tropical team-mates, NQ captain Gavin Cooper said:  “He can wear a singlet because he’s got that much hair over his back.”


I AM indebted to reader “Pete” for this example of why the idea of restricting representative suspensions to representative games is an intellectual miscarriage. “So Justin Hodges could go out on Wednesday night in his last origin game before retirement and cause absolute mayhem and cop six million demerit points and be suspended for next year’s origin series that he won’t be playing in anyway yet not miss any club games?” A million demerit points? I told you a trillion times not to exaggerate, Pete. Expect the Ennis loophole to be closed as soon as 9am Thursday. Suspensions will expire at the start of the following round.


ORIGIN shmorigin. The real rugby league grudge match was played over the weekend – and get ready with you “red zone” puns. Russia defeated the Ukraine 34-20 in neutral Belgrade to move a step closer to qualifying for the 2017 World Cup. “Russia was a really tough opponent,” said Ukraine coach Gennardy Veprik, no doubt echoing the thoughts of millions of his countrymen. Present at the game was RLIF chairman Nigel Wood, who will take part in something called the Founders Walk from July 19 to 24. Participants will walk 193km from St Helens to Hull, taking in the grounds of all the original Northern Union clubs from 1895.


FAR & WIDE: Number 45


THE AMNRL is preparing to announce its program for the year following confirmation there will again be two competitions in the United States.
The AMNRL, which runs the Tomahawks national team, and rival USARL had been involved in peace talks for much of last year and a framework for a merger was drawn up.
But after an Independent Commission to run the sport in America was picked, the USARL clubs got cold feet and called the whole thing off.
Two AMNRL-aligned New York clubs, the Raiders and Knights, have distanced themselves from the peace deal and the existing administration in a media release and leaked email respectively.
But new AMNRL chairman, and Connecticut Wildcats owner, Curtis Cunz, says the establishment competition will fight on.
EDGARD Taturyan has been involved in Russian rugby league since 1989, filling a host of roles including that of national coach.
But after turning 75 last year, Tarturyan has decided to stand down. Despite the challenge presented by rugby union sevens being accepted into the Olympics, Edgard is confident our sport has a positive future in the former Soviet Union.
ALL the news on the TV from the Ukraine seems bad – but for rugby league, these are positive times.
The country has 45 sports schools and an agreement has been struck for all of them to include rugby league this year. Officials hope to soon boast some 2000 junior players.
RUGBY league’s 55-year tenure at Darwin’s Richardson Park is over.
Spiralling costs have been given for the reason to vacate the venue, which was said to once be home to a giant crocodile who patrolled the hill.
“Gone are the heady days of hosting 2000-3000 league fans for a home-and-away round and now, so are we,” was the pithy comment of NTRL general manager John Mitchell.


FAR & WIDE: Number 32


HERE’S one from the ‘It Can Only Happen In Rugby League’ department.

Keen readers will be aware that Thailand made their international bow last October, taking on the Philippines in Bangkok, and assembled a national team from scratch without having a club competition.

Since then they’ve been trying to get club teams off the ground. Well guess what’s happened? C’mon, think about it, what would be the most ridiculous but predictable development to occur in a country where there is almost no rugby league.


National coach Andrew Charles wrote to Far and Wide when we recently reported plans for a game in Bangkok between Thailand and Greece A. Basically, he said ‘that’s not us, it’s the rebels’.

Say wha? Charles said the man behind it is one Shannon Crane.

A few excerpts from his response: “They seem to be selling franchises for a domestic comp … they had our Facebook page disabled claiming for copyright infringement but we are registered …. Super League Thai Style … we are all sad about it but pressing on.”

I mean, seriously. This equals the stand-off in the 1990s between Super League Japan and the East Japan Rugby League when there was no actual rugby league being played in Japan.


ON a much more serious and insidious note, the antics of the Moroccan Rugby Union in trying to wreck a tour by the Great Britain Pioneers students team is nothing short of a disgrace.

In case you missed it, police marched journalists out of one game and theats by the rugby union resulted in a ground withdrawing permission to host another match while even the bus company was prevented from carrying the team around!

As in South Africa, rugby league is not recognised as a separate sport to rugby union in Morocco and the rahrahs have done their best to keep it that way.

Surely we need a more active RLIF to stand up to this sort of prejudice. We really need an Ambassador For Rugby League. Who would you appoint?


RUSSIA could have lifted the European Shield with a win over Italy in Este two weekends ago but instead were soundly beaten.

Warming up for the World Cup, Italy raced to a 32-0 halftime lead and then coasted home. The Russians need to beat Germany in August to secure the title, which is played for over two years.

Meanwhile, Vanuatu will announce its post-season program this week.


FAR & WIDE: Number 28


AN interesting and mysterious yarn popped up in the wake of the United States-Samoa Test in Hawaii a couple of weekends back.

Ten members of the Samoan side, all picked from the domestic competition, failed to board the plane home. Initially, there were fears they had deliberately gone AWOL in America but a Samoan newspaper report said they checked in for the flight but were “turned away at the gate”.

Another report said one player was missing so 10 refused to leave Hawaii without him.

The Samoans won the game 34-10. We’ll try to get to the bottom of things in the coming weeks.

“It was hard work getting the visas and I’d hate to think anything had happened to endanger future teams travelling to Hawaii for matches,” said the RLIF’s Tas Baitieri.


EXCITING news from the Philippines with the Asia Cup confirmed for a venue 80 kilometres outside Manila in October.

The Filipinos welcomed another player to NRL first grade two weeks ago – Gold Coast’s Shane Gray.

The tournament kicks off on October 19 with the Philippines taking on Japan at Clark Airforce Base. After that, Japan plays Thailand on the 21st and the Philippines play Thailand in a rematch of last year’s historic match in Bangkok, on the 23rd.

The Filipino boys arrive in Manila three days before the comp starts and will spend time coaching naval cadets who have been learning the game under former South Sydney official Tom Simpson for the last 12 months.

It is possible to see both NSW Country games on tour in South Africa and still make it to Clark for the opening Asia Cup game. We checked.


THE latest European Shield game has seen Russia visit Belgrade and come away with a win against the Serbians.

Russia will win the Sheild if they beat Italy at the end of the month. Prop Sergey Konstantinov was the star, scoring two tries before a broken arm ruled him out of the clash with the Italians.

@RLWfarandwide http://www.facebook.com/RLWfarandwide


FAR & WIDE: Number 20

THE battle for control of the game in Italy has heated up with the establishment Italian Rugby League holding a meeting with the national Olympic Committee, CONI.
As keen rugby league fans would be aware, the two countries making their World Cup bows later this year – Italy and the United States – both have rebel competitions.
Speaking on the European Federation website, FIRL vice-president Tiziano Franchini says: “The meeting was crucial for the future of rugby league in Italy.
“Our request for an interview was received by the secretary general in a very quick and positive manner.
“This first meeting was an opportunity to make formal contact with the national body that manages the sport in Italy, to carry forward the process of official recognition of rugby league here.”
As hard as it is for Australians to understand, rugby league struggles in some countries to get official recognition as a separate sport to rugby union. In South Africa, the league was told by the sports ministry to affiliate with the SARU!
But we are happy to say the Trinidad and Tobago Rugby League has just been handed official government recognition.
THE Russian national team may show up to the European championships without jerseys!
They are due to play Serbia on May 25 but are still desperately looking for a kit sponsor. It’s too cold in Europe this time of year to play naked.
As detailed above, the Russian Ministry of Sport doesn’t recognise rugby league. Russian deputy minister of sport Pavel Kolobkov is currently considering a new application for recognition.
In the meantime, if you can help the Russians with jerseys to compete on the international stage, please email webmaster@rugbyleagueplanet.com
IN case you missed it, Mal Meninga has joined the PNG Kumuls management team.
Mal, who formerly was an ambassador for the country’s NRL bid team, has the role of performance director.
Adrian Lam is back as coach and Gold Coast winger David Mead has re-committed himself to the cause after a falling out with the previous administration.

MAHE Fonua was not the only Victorian junior on the field when Melbourne took on Canterbury on Thursday night.
Bulldogs fullback Drury Low played his junior football at the Waverley-Oakleigh and Altona clubs in the VRL. He represented Victoria in Under 15s and under 18s, playing alongside Gareth Widdop in the latter team.

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