DISCORD 2014: Edition Six

DiscordBy STEVE MASCORD

WIGAN coach Shaun Wane says he still doesn’t know what rules next week’s World Club Challenge will be played under.
The Super League and Challenge Cup champions went on a tryscoring spree in the second half last night to flog a depleted New Zealand Warriors 46-22 in a trial played under NRL regulations – but with unlimited interchanges – at Hamilton’s Waikato Stadium.
While it has previously been reported that the WCC against Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium on Saturday week will be played under international rules with just one referee, Wayne tells Discord he has still received no confirmation of this.
“I’m going to find out in a few days,” said Wane. “I’ve not found out a final decision yet, believe it or not.
“We did everything the NRL way (against the Warriors) but I’m not sure how next Saturday’s going to go.”
Wane has also received no confirmation on who next Saturday’s referee will be. “They haven’t made the final decision on substitutes and the new rules coming in and two refs.
“Unbelievably, I’m still waiting to find out.”
A decision on whether youngster Sam Powell makes the Wigan 17 could rely on how many interchanges are permitted.
One feature of the new NRL interpretations which stuck out on Wednesday night was the pace of play with captains no longer permitted to question referees’ decisions when they are given.
“I don’t think (Wednesday’s captain) Sam Rapira was going to get in anyone’s face too much,” said Warriors coach Matthew Elliott. “Maybe he had to. There were a couple of decisions there that I thought were head-scratchers but they’re (match officials) in a trial process as well.
“But I like (the rule).”

.
SALFORD owner Dr Marwan Koukash is, of course, wrong in saying that Super League would benefit from the salary cap being completely abolished.
Comparisons with soccer are spurious; it is harder to score in soccer so sides spending widely varying amounts of money on their squads can remain on an even par during the course of a game. That’s what makes their World Cup so compelling; the sport gives underdogs a better chance than rugby league does.
But if Koukash wants to spend more than the RFL wants him to at this point, the answer is simple: enter a team in the NRL.
The idea of an English side in the Australasian competition has been around for a while but never has it been likely to receive a more sympathetic hearing than now, with the NRL already considering a variety of ways to exploit the English market.
Dr Koukash has deep pockets and the prospect of playing home games in large arenas around the UK against the world’s best should be particularly seductive to him. He could corner a market completely.
As we’ve said before, the English NRL team could play a month of away games followed by a month of home games. Visitors would play the previous Friday and the following Monday. Travel time is similar to that between Dunedin and, say, Durbin in Super Rugby.
And Wigan proved last night you can cross the world, play two days later, and still perform at a pretty reasonable level. Over to you, good doctor.

THANKS for the comments last week. Oethesaint said the Sky offer for Super League should have been rejected. You’re going to get criticism either way, aren’t you?

read on

DISCORD 2012: Edition 10

DiscordBy STEVE MASCORD

DEVELOPMENTS over the last few hours involving the ASADA investigation at Cronulla give us an insight into just how much infrastructure we really need to put around the NRL so that it operates with integrity and transparency in this punting-crazy world.

In case you missed it (but still found this column –unlikely, I know), betting has been frozen on the Cronulla-Gold Coast match this Sunday because the Australian Crime Commission and ASADA have been interviewing officials and –we think – players at the Sharks.

There is speculation as many as 14 players will be stood down and that authorities are trying to ‘cut a deal’ with the club which would involve a suspension of six months for those involved in doping in 2011.

Media was shut out of training as the story broke.

Discord has been bleating for years about the NRL setting up an internal integrity unit. One of the arguments against this was that the external expert they used, Ray Murrihy, was better connected and more experienced than anyone they could hire.

So you would imagine that should Ray Murrihy put his hand up for the job, he’d have it. Well, apparently not….

In any case, the key to protecting the integrity of the competition in the face of multiple threats associated with betting is not just about forming a unit to deal with dirty laundry.

It’s about airing ALL the laundry.

The biggest problem is inside information. If you use inside information to make a buck in business, you could get thrown in jail. In betting, everyone pats you on the back. How does that work?

In the NFL, clubs have to list who trained and who didn’t and why. Non-disclosure carries draconian penalties. And in most US states, it’s illegal to bet on the NFL anyway!

Locking the gates at training may be the first instinct of rugby league clubs when there’s drama. But the more you interact with gambling, the more transparent you need to be or else you will be dragged down by it.

Secrets are worth money and can be exploited. The day should not be far away when Cronulla – as part of the price it pays in return for a slice of the betting cake – has to announce at the earliest possible juncture “training now closed and function cancelled due to ASADA interviews with six players”

If you’re going to take money from punters, then compel clubs to say whether a star player like Sonny Bill Williams is actually playing. How many rules and protocols do they have in horse racing? We need to replicate every one of them in rugby league – stewards, scratchings, the lot.

If rugby league wants to keep its nose clean while it pockets millions from bookmakers, it needs much, much fewer secrets.

You can’t be half pregnant and you can’t half-engage bookmakers.

.

I FEEL sorry for Phil Veivers, the Salford coach who was sacked yesterday.

His team’s comeback against Hull KR two Sundays ago was one of the most stunning I have ever seen, and yet a week later he was gone after a heavy home loss to London.

Salford owner Marwan Koukash seems like an entertaining fellow and the fact that he is chasing the best players in the world – and now the best coach – is good for the game.

But his call for the salary cap to be raised is ill-conceived at best. Many clubs in Super League cannot afford to spend up to the cap and there are even calls for it to go down.

If Super League wants a cash injection and to operate at a higher level financially, then – as I’ve said before – they should talk to some of the franchises who have tried and failed to get into the NRL.

I know for a fact the West Coast Pirates have discussed entering Super League at a board meeting. What a great fillip it would be for Super League if they announced the Central Coast Bears or Brisbane Bombers had been granted franchises in 2015!

.

THANKS to everyone for their comments last week. From now on until the World Cup, you will only be able to read Discord here online, which is part of the agreement between Fairfax and my primary employers, Rugby League Week.

read on

BONDI BEAT: February 2013

RLW February 2013By STEVE MASCORD
ON the surface of it, the current plight of the Newcastle Knights proves that the NRL and Super League are not that far removed from each other.
Soft rock kings Dire Straits are in Salford and Newcastle? No, it’s the other way around.
We Australians like to think we’re flying, with our $1.025 billion television deal and players coming from all places and all codes to lace a boot in our competition.
But Nathan Tinkler, the Knights’ moneybags owner, seems to be slowly going broke and only recently the members board asked him to give the club back to them. Hunter Sports Group, which has a massive tax bill and is bleeding cash and letting go of many assets, ducked for cover when it came to public comment and instead left those with no real knowledge of the clubs’ financial situation to face the media.
Sound familiar?
At Salford, the council refused a bailout proposal for the Reds who are a the subject of a winding up petition – of which several out-of-pocket players are a part.
It seems they might have nicer weather and a better national team in Oz but there’s nothing new under the sun-or-not in rugby league.
But there’s a big difference.
Nathan Tinkler was not allowed to take control of the Knights until he put up a $20 million bank guarantee – and paid off ALL of the Knights’ bills. Now, he may have amassed some more debts in his short time in control but the club will be immeasurably better off if he departs during this season than it was when it took the reins last than two years ago.
Compare that to the plight of Salford. Their tax bill is only Stg50,000 but tell them they had a bank guarantee and they’d cry with happiness and head to the pub.
This writer can’t say he feels sorry for Tinker, who once told a reporter: “You’re a f—ing deadbeat, people like me don’t bother with f—ing you. You climb out of your bed every morning for your pathetic hundred grand a year, good luck.
”There’s a tall poppy syndrome; you would have heard of that because you hang around with the deadbeats and the losers who have done nothing with their lives.”
I’d rather do something with my life for enjoyment than for cash, Nathan. When you do something for satisfaction, you are rewarded instantly. Is it only money that gets you out of bed?
Might as well sleep in a bit this year…
.
IT’s a measure of how much anticipation there is about the current season that when Manly put out a lame sponsorship announcement the other day, it was not only seized upon but ripped the shreds.
Normally, a press release saying the club was now called the “Kaspersky Sea Eagles” would be summarily ignored. How many times have clubs around the world tried to sneak their sponsor into the paper with such announcements, with the releases sinking without a trace.
But instead of being treated with the usual disdain, the media release received such a big run in traditional and social media that people thought Manly were actually changing their name! They had to put out a statement climbing down from the original announcement!
Do you know that Brisbane were recently “called” the Wow! Sight And Sound Broncos?
Please calm down everyone. The season will be here soon enough.
.
SOMETHING is happening in the United States – and it’s too hard to say whether it’s good or bad.
The AMNRL site, owned by the establishment competition run by David Niu, is gone. The USARL site – run by the rebels – remains. Breakaway side Boston 13s recently Tweeted that they hoped to have players in the Tomahawks squad for RLWC13.
At the moment, players from the breakaway comp are precluded from playing for the national side. Apple Pope had to quit his Jacksonville Axemen to retain the Tomahawks captaincy.
As we told you last month, there is also new activity on the West Coast. It should be an interesting lead-up to the Americans’ World Cup bow. We aren’t even sure if coach Matthew Elliott will be holding onto the job after getting a start with the New Zealand Warriors.
IN Oz there was a commericial in the early eighties for a non-alcoholic mixer called Claytons, with the slogan being “The Drink You Have When You’re Not Having A Drink”.
Every since then, “Claytons” has been local slang for something fake.
And from what I can tell, we may be about to see a Clayton’s Shoudler Charge Ban.
From what I am told by sources deep within the refereeing ranks, shoudler charges will be OK in the NRL this year as long as the arm of the defender is extended. In other words, the difference between a shoulder charge and a legitimate tackle will be defined as whether the arm is tucked into the body or not.
I’m also hearing that if there’s no penalty on the field, and no high contact, then the match review committee won’t even bother looking at it.
I’m sure Chris Sandow’s coach, Ricky Stuart, would prefer him to stick his arm out anyway.
.
SO, will this month’s World Club Challenge between Leeds and Melbourne be the final one in the old two-team format …. finally?
The clubs want to stage a six-team tournament at the end of next season, perhaps in a neutral venue such as Las Vegas or Dubai.
The RLIF, on the other hand, is keen on a tour of some sort (more news as it comes to hand) in Australia and New Zealand at that time.
A compromise would see three Super League teams travelling to Australia for a pre-season WCC next year, with the clubs leveraging the games as part of their stadium deals.
In the mean time, in a couple of weeks the Melbourne Storm will be setting up shop at Eton, which may be the poshest school in the entire world.
.
MY own thoughts on Rugby League World‘s World XIII last month were that St George Illawarra’s Brett Morris was very lucky indeed to get in.
He can do much, much more than he acheived last year; remember the way he started 2011 playing for the Dragons against Wigan. His twin brother Josh has moved way ahead of him and is now an outstanding centre.
While on Josh, if you think rugby league players just like to go to cheesy holiday spots and get rolling drunk in the off-season, Josh took a group of Bulldogs to the South By Southwest (SxSW) music festival in Austin Texas last year.
Would love to go myself.
Cooper Cronk’s ascention to being the world’s best halfback is richly deserved and a great advertisement for patience, given the men he has been lining up behind for the best part of a decade.
.
WHEN Fiji coaching director Joe Dakuitoga told me shortly after one of Petero Civoniceva’s “final” appearances at Suncorp Stadium that the big fella was going to play a year in the Queensland Cup to stay fit for RLWC 13, I had to check it out from the man himself.
“Tell him to get off the kava,” Petero texted.
But as it turns out, Joe was right and Petero was … well, it would be a massive co-incidence if he had never considered this possibility until the Fijians presented it as fact to a reporter, wouldn’t it?
One can only surmise that Civoniceva didn’t want to take the lustre from his various farewell matches but admitting he actually had more than a year left in his career.
In fact, he may even get another run at Suncorp Stadium if his new team, Redcliffe Dolphins, may the Q Cup final.
.
I THOUGHT last month’s edition was a cracker and I particularly enjoyed reading about France’s 25-18 win over Great Britain at Headingley in 1990.
I was a spot 21-year-old on my first visit to the UK back then and remember two things about the match very clearly. One, the French were sponsored by Jiffi Condoms. Two, I was taking a pee when they scored the winning try.
Don’t forget @BondiBeat is now on Twitter

DISCORD 2013: Edition Two

meprofileBy STEVE MASCORD

RUGBY league is getting $50 million from Tom Waterhouse. What would the salary for a fulltime integrity commissioner be? $150,000?

Discord is willing to go as far as to say that to accept this money from a bookmaker WITHOUT appointing a fulltime integrity commissioner would be reckless and irresponsible. Morally, it’s wrong to take the cash from betting without accepting the attendant responsibilities.

The Ryan Tandy affair was a salutary lesson in how dangerous punting can be to our sport. European soccer players being paid many times more than NRL stars have been tempted to cheat with big money at stake.

Horse racing and dog racing exist on the moolah that comes in from punters but they have stewards and rugby league does not. How far do we have to look around the corner to see a betting scandal that equals the Melbourne Storm salary cap crisis in scope and implication?

My point here is simple and doesn’t need paragraph after paragraph. The Independent Commission has delivered many of the things that the NRL needed as a major business but lacked.

This is another one.

If you’re going to get in bed with the devil …use protection and make sure it’s heat-resistant.

.

IT’S interesting that Andrew Chalmers, the former chairman of the New Zealand Rugby League, looks like being involved in the new administration at Salford.

But having a club teeter on the brink with three weeks left before the start of the season is terrible. I hope there are no sanctions from the RFL as a result of the club’s financial difficulties. It seems a weird dichotomy that the governing body will help a club out of debt – but then dock them points for going broke.

Discord has no problem with clubs being held accountable for the actions of their fans because they have the power to lock out fans.

But fans, players and coaches have no power over incompetent administrators, do they?

.

I’VE been asked for opinion on Kevin Sinfield being handed the Golden Boot. Please excuse me if I repeat myself in a few different forums on this.

read on

DISCORD 2012: Edition 47

meprofileBy STEVE MASCORD

SO, the NRL’s new digital deal looks set to partially fund a salary cap of around $5.8 million – with each club’s marquee player allowance to be increased.
Sometimes the Independent Commission gives the impression of being the proud curator of a domino show. You walk in and the room is dark, you have a whinge about doing your cash at the turnstile, and then the lights come on and someone flicks the first bit of square plastic.
All around, there’s that sound falling dominos make as thousands of the blighters go down, colours changing, little bridges crossed and balls tossed in the air. There’s a toy train set involved…
There was a glimpse of this management style recently when the Commission needed some extra cash for the club grants and a fifth Thursday night game for Channel Nine materialised out of nowhere, generating a handy $30 million upfront payment.
It seems if the Commission has added expenses, it wants to pay for it with added earnings without touching central funds.
We should all be happy we can watch games live on our mobile devices – like sports fans elsewhere in the world. We should all be pleased that players are not going to boycott the All Stars game.
And rumours that the NRL is about to take on at least two – maybe more – fulltime journalists for its digital division will be greeted by tears of joy by those of us in a terminally ill industry.
One aspect in the slew of announcements over the past 48 hours intrigues me, however. NRL.com and Testra will have “exclusive” rights to post-match media conferences.
I dearly hope they mean “exclusive live” rights. After all, who’s going to ask questions at a post-match media conference if you can’t use the answers?
Last year, when North Queensland coach Neil Henry erupted about refereeing decisions in the preliminary semi-final loss to Manly, Telstra lodged a copyright complaint about my press conference video on YouTube (WhiteLineFeverTV, since you asked)
There were almost 200 other press conference videos on my channel they had no concern over. I can only deduce their concern was that 4000 people had watched this one.
I lodged a counter claim – stating I shot the video myself and was an accreditted journalist – and the video was restored more than a week later when the drama had died down.
A press conference is an open forum for all media – although under the NRL’s rather generous television contracts, only rights-holders can broadcast live from inside a venue.
That said, I just hope the NRL hasn’t sold Telstra something that isn’t its to sell.
.
SEAN Long is right: the silence from the Salford City Reds in the wake of their most recent setback is extremely disappointing.
In case you missed it, Salford City Council has refused to loan the Reds Stg750,000. The club is already the subject of a winding-up petition, of which former NRL stars Vinnie Anderson and Luke Patten are a part.
The club also owes Stg50,000 in unpaid tax.
The memory of Crusaders officials withdrawing their franchise application and then going abroad will still be fresh in the minds of players, coaches and staff.
Salford’s new administration needs to make a comment and make one fast. Could the contrasts between the financial fortunes of the NRL and Super League be any more stark?
PS: The new album from Shinobi – Eric Grothe Junior’s Band – Against The Brave gets a proper release this week on itunes. Congrats Eric.
.
THANKS for all last week’s comments, most of which were supportive of my belief that there is a kind of thought police permeating the game and forcing conservative values on many of us.
Mark talked about journalism and scandal. From my side of the fence, I have found that stories with a clear “goodie” and “baddy” do tend to get a better run…
From CarlT: “The last time I looked, the court convictions showed that a child was at least 400 times safer in the care of a porn performer, prostitute, pimp, or pornographer than they were in the company of a member of the Christian clergy.”
Morality questioned said porn is there to “degrade women and exploit weakness in men”. Aren’t females also consumers of porn? Thoughts?
Tiredoftalking called me out on saying “to the best of my knowledge”. It’s about time. I hate saying that. But this column is a comment piece – I quite simply am not being paid enough for it to spend hours chasing up someone’s criminal record.
That may be an uncomfortable fact but it’s true. And since I have spent most of my career as a sportswriter, I wouldn’t know how to find someone’s US criminal record anyway. Any ‘real’ journalists out there who can help me with that? But I said “to the best of my knowledge” to signify what’s on the public record. It means: “I might be wrong”. By the way, I have no interest in working for 60 Minutes or Four Corners – happy just where I am.
Chris said last week’s column was the media feeding the media and there to get me a pay packet. See above. I get $75 for this column unless it goes in the paper, then I get wordage. I wrote about the subject of rugby league and morality because
it interests me, that’s all.
Here’s the forum: 
Here’s the podcast:

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

Super League round nine: WIGAN 40 SALFORD 20 at Salford City Stadium

By THOMAS McCOOEY

WIGAN had victory wrapped up long before fulltime but according to coach Shaun Wane, the Warriors still weren’t ruthless enough.

Salford briefly led 8-6 in the opening quarter of a hour but five Wigan tries in the second quarter had the game won by halftime as they led 8-30.

“I split everything up into 20s,” revealed Wane on how he assesses each performance, and went on, “the last 20 of the first half we completed 100 per cent. We ran hard and our middle ran well. Jeff Lima had a cracking game and Harrison Hansen was outstanding I thought.”

In a second half when Wigan were outscored 12-10, Wane admitted he was wanting the game to end but was adamant the dip in Wigan’s intensity wasn’t down to lack of respect of the opposition, something he which was suggested of himself in the aftermath of the round seven defat to Widnes due to his squad selection.

“Salford are a good team as we’ve seen, and they can score a lot of points as we’ve seen these last few weeks. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy today, but I just felt that we dropped a bit of intensity in the last 20 minutes. Towards the end of the game I was waiting for the final whistle to come which was disappointing. We could have been a bit more more ruthless, but over the 80 minutes I’m glad with the points we scored and the two points we’ve got.”

During the second quarter which Wane was so pleased with, Salford boss, Phil Vievers, was left to rue a penalty count which read heavily in Wigan’s favour.

He wasn’t for elaborating, stopping at saying, “I’ll just say I thought it was inconsistent.”

Just four minutes after the restart for the second half, the ever mercurial Sam Tomkins ducked and waved for his second try, and it looked as if Wigan would become the second team in as many weeks to rack-up 50 points against Salford, but the home side got a grip on the game as Wigan slacked-off, and registered two tries of their own.

Vievers hinted that perhaps with more ball, the result would have read differently, despite never really being in the game after their short-lived lead.

“We can still play with the ball, there’s no problem with that. We can play entertaining stuff when we want to. What our issues are at the moment is when we make an error we need to rectify that in the next set of six instead of coming up with a penalty.”

By the time former Wigan player, Jordan James, slid over on the last play of the game, the result was long gone as the score prior to that came 20 minutes earlier for Wigan’s Matty Russell in a quiet second half. All it really served to do was continue discussion around Wigan’s below-par defensive displays over recent weeks, as Vievers acknowledged himself this game was well and truly over before the final whistle.

“By the time we got to halftime we had a bigger mountain to climb than it should have been.”

Wigan’s Josh Charnley only managed to kick half of his attempts at goal which would have added further gloss to the result, but Wigan fans have been assured that the ever reliable Pat Richards will be available for next Friday’s derby against St. Helens, as will captain, Sean O’Loughlin, who wasn’t risked as he was 50/50 with a knock to the knee according to Wane.

WIGAN 40 (Goulding 2 Tomkins 2 Carmont Farrell Russell tries Charnley 4 goals) bt SALFORD 20 (Holdsworth, Williams, Pattern, James tries Holdsworth 2 goals) Referee: J Child Crowd: 6,774
Final team lists:
SALFORD: Luke Patten; Josh Vievers, Joel Moon, Sean Gleeson, Danny Williams; Daniel Holdsworth, Matty Smith; Stephen Wild (c), Vinnie Anderson, Matty Ashurst, Lee Jewitt, Stuart Howarth, Ryan Boyle. Res: Gareth Owen, Luke Adamson, Jordan James, Iafeta Palea’aesina

WIGAN: Sam Tomkins; Josh Charnley, Darrell Goulding, George Carmont, Matthew Russell; Brett Finch, Thomas Leuluai; Liam Farrell, Gareth Hock, Paul Prescott, Mike McIlorum, Lee Mossop. Res: Joe Mellor, Ben Flower, Jeff Lima, Chris Tuson.