FAR & WIDE: Number 46


RUGBY League’s lucky number at the moment seems to be nine.
Following on from last week’s item about the AMNRL and USARL going their separate ways once more this year, the former has put out a media release saying it will play against teams in the latter in … a nines tournament.
“AMNRL clubs will participate in the Nines competition alongside clubs from the USARL on May 17,” said the media release.
“This is the first step in uniting the competitions into one league, which is a direction the AMNRL is seeking to head down.”
AMNRL chairman Curtis Cunz was quoted as saying: “”I can’t wait to put the politics aside and see all of the boys I used to go to battle against back in the day and then crack a few beers open afterwards
“The AGM re-enforced the democratic and transparent governance of the AMNRL and the shared vision of the member clubs.”
THERE seems to be a lot of professional players coming through who are eligible for Malta.
The latest is Jonathan Wallace, who was due to make his debut for London last weekend against Salford. The giant forward was actually born in Malta.
Jake Mamo, who played for Newcastle in the NRL Nines, is also eligible for Malta.
AFTER missing out on hosting the 2017 World Cup, South Africa have congratulated Australia and New Zealand and vowed to bid for the 2021 tournament.
“South Africa will now endeavour to work with the Rugby League International Federation to ensure the growth of the sport here and will look at establishing a strong team to qualify for the 2017 World Cup,” said SARL chairman Kobus Botha.
““All of the facilities and aspects unique to South Africa to ensure expansion of the game are still available to the RLIF”
Bid chief Ian Riley added: “Rugby league in South Africa now has a voice and the process of bidding has allowed SARL to start conversations with SASCOC, the SRSA and SARU towards recognition and support.
“It has also created dialogue between, and shown a willingness by, major rugby league countries to get involved and play a role in developing the sport. We are in discussions with the RLIF on creating a seven year roadmap for rugby league in South Africa and other territories to see how we can collectively grow the game.”
Twitter: @RLWfarandwide Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/RLWfarandwide


THE JOY OF SIX: International Season Week Two


RUGBY league is set to belatedly achieve government recognition in South Africa as soon as this week – as direct result of the country’s ambitious bid to host the 2017 World Cup. SARL official Chris Botes tells Joy of Six: “Up until two days ago, rugby league was almost in the doldrums. SARU was doing a good job of keeping it squashed down. (But) the World Cup doesn’t just involve the Department of Sport. It involves the Department of Tourism, the Department of Public Enterprise…  it’s a 500 million rand event. People are saying ‘here’s a chance for South Africa to have this major event and the only reason we can’t have it is one piece of paper’. SASCOG can’t tell us why they can’t recognise (us) … having the World Cup on the table, we have forced the decision to go to parliament, to cabinet. I’m sitting down next week again with the Department of Sport. The minister for sport, I met with his deputy on Thursday. They are saying ‘yes, we want to support you’”


THE historical significance of wins by Italy over England and the United States over France cannot be over-stated. The first American rugby league teams was the 1953 All Stars. They played France at Parc de Princes that year, losing 31-0. The countries had not met since. The Italian team played its first match two years earlier; it had never played an international against England until the weekend. The interesting aspects of the shock results are that each victor is making its World Cup debut, each has rebel competitions at home and the selection of so many “heritage players” caused controversy in each country. But nothing succeeds like success.  Even the New Zealand team that won the last World Cup including men who could be termed as “heritage players”, such as Nathan Fien and Nathan Cayless.


WHO says you can’t see the world playing rugby league? Matt Shipway is a 29-year-old who has played for Port Macquarie, The Entrance, Macquarie Scorpions and South Newcastle. He picked up a spot in the NSW Country side that concluded a two match tour of South Africa on Friday night. But Shipway wasn’t in Brakpan with his team-mates for their 58-18 win. After playing in the 50-0 win over South African Clubs Selection on October 12, he was called up by the United States (he qualifies via his grandparents). The already well-travelled Shipway flew out of Johannesburg for Toulouse and scored a try in the boilover 22-18 win over France at Stade des Minimes, played around the same time as Country were running in 11 tries against the Rhinos.


MATT Parish has probably had better weekends. Fairfax Media revealed on Sunday he did not have a job at Parramatta next year and on Saturday his Samoan side was lapped 52-16 by England Knights, a second string England side, in the curtain raiser to the Italy game at Salford. With Roy Asotasi having missed the plane to England and subsequently withdrawing from the tournament due to family commitments and injury, the Samoans seem to be up against it. Steve Matai and Jeff Lima head the list of injury withdrawals while Roger Tuivasasa-Sheck, Frank Pritchard, Thomas Leuluai and Sonny Bill Williams are playing for the Kiwis and Josh Papalii is with Australia. Reni Maitua could end up at five-eighth. The Samoans received significant government funding before leaving for England – justifying it on the field is now the challenge.


THE venue for Saturday’s Italy win – describe by one onlie bookie as “the biggest rugby league upset ever” – couldn’t have been more fitting for the Azzurri’s coach, Carlo Napolitano. When the Italian side was revived after four decades in 1999, Napolitano was the only English-based player in the squad that played World Cup qualifiers in France. Soon after, he followed a good mate called Adrian Morley to Australia to live. How did they know each other? They were both from rough streets of Salford, where the Saturday’s game was played. A member of that 1999 side was a young Sydney Roosters winger by the name of Anthony Minichiello, Napolitano’s captain for their World Cup debut 14 years later.


COUNTRY coach David Barnhill says South Africa should be awarded the World Club Challenge as a kind of consolation prize if, as expected, they miss out on the 2017 World Cup. The Country side has been a little underwhelmed by the profile of the game here (this week’s column comes to you from Jo’burg) but overwhelmed by the facilities and hospitality. Amazingly, every member of the SA national team starting side is from the same club – Tuks – which is based at the University of Pretoria. That means the same 13 can play in their local comp, the Student World Cup and Tests! Friday’s crowd was smaller than 500. “They should give them a chance to show what they can do in organising events by playing the World Club Challenge here,” says Barnhill. “The facilities are great, it’s halfway for the teams, it’s worth a try.”


THE JOY OF SIX: International Season week one



ACCORDING to the Rugby League International Federation constitution, the gates of all Tests are to be levied with the money going into central funds. The levy is supposed to apply, as a percentage, the same to Saturday’s Vanuatu-Niue game in Port Vila as April’s Australia-New Zealand match in Canberra. But is it being applied at all? The 2008 World Cup made a reported $4 million profit. How was this spent? If we are all to get behind the 2013 tournament with our cash and enthusiasm, surely a little transparency shouldn’t be too much to ask in return? The fact is, domestic leagues don’t want the RLIF taking sponsors and other financial opportunities off them and that’s been holding back international footy for years.


ANOTHER player who could have shone in the World Cup is out. Hooker James Segeyaro’s shoulder injury forced him to withdraw from the Papua New Guinea side over the weekend. Italy have lost both first choice halves, Terry Campese and Craig Gower, but Tonga’s Brent Kite is playing on despite hand and wrist injuries. Samoa coach Matt Parish has not had a good time of it. Frank Pritchard, Krisnan Inu and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck were nabbed by the Kiwis while Jeff Lima, Steve Matai and Carlos Tuimavave were ruled out injured. It appears Matai played in the NRL grand final with a serious hand injury. He ran straight up the tunnel at fulltime against South Sydney the previous week – perhaps he suffered it then. He’s been named as a technical advisor for the Samoans.


IT used to be that you could comfortably make it to every rugby league international played in a given year. Yet on one of the quietest weekends of the year, NSW Country beat South African Clubs Selection 50-0 in Silverton, Vanuatu beat Niue 22-20 in Port Vila and Greece downed Thailand 90-0 in Bangkok. The Port Vila game was a great spectacle, with players from both teams forming a circle for a prayer at fulltime and celebrating long into the night – with the referee! Self-starting countries like these need all the help they can get from the RLIF. But it’s a double-edged sword – the Federation probably wouldn’t let them use players who qualify through great grandparents (and there were plenty of them), or allow five reserves!


ON the surface, there wasn’t much for the Thais to be happy about when they were beaten 90-0 by Greece at Technology Stadium, Bangkok, on Saturday. But in the stands for the game run by Shannon Crane’s Thai Rugby League was the boss of the rival organisation, Andrew Charles. Charles’ Thailand Stars play the Philippines away next week and several of those players – including Queensland-based Charlie Jones – turned out in Crane’s team. Charles was also invited to a sponsor’s function. The result of the game is compelling proof a country that has so far hosted just two rugby league games cannot continue with the folly of two governing bodies. Despite the thrashing, everyone also seemed to have a good time afterwards.


STROLLING along Port Vila waterfront on Sunday night, Joy Of Six was stunned to run into Gold Coast Titans hooker Matt Srama and his girlfriend. With a trip to the Philippines on hold because of a shoulder injury, Srama decided to head to Vanuatu completely oblivious to the fact a rugby league international was being played there. Titans official Matt Francis – who spoke to several promising local players – must have missed Srama at the airport by a matter of hours on Sunday. Honourable mention, too, to the local French film-makers who shot the Vanuatu players walking towards the camera, Melbourne Storm style, at training two days before the Niue game and turned it into a slick promo video at lightning speed. One suspects they were not paid anything like what our game shells out for similar clips in England, New Zealand and Australia.


JACKSONVILLE Axemen owner Daryl ‘Spinner’ Howland continues to rail against the number of foreign-based players in the United States World Cup team. Now comes a claim the team might actually be, in some regards, illegal. Howland has cited the Ted Stevens Act, which impacts on amateur sports in the US and their relationship with the US Olympic Committee. However, given that other sides at the World Cup have fewer, and even no, domestic players, it’s hard to see anything changing with regard to the Tomahawks. In more positive news for Spinner, the Axemen have launched their own beer.


FAR & WIDE: Number 39


CONGRATULATIONS to everyone involved in Greek Rugby League on the news the national federation has been officially recognised by the government.

The Hellenic Rugby League has, as a result, been given ‘observer’ status by the RLEF.

“Now that the Hellenic Federation of Rugby League is recognised by the Greek justice system we can put the sport on the map here,” said official Tasos Pantazidis.

Elections will be held shortly. Far & Wide witnessed a great presentation on social media by another Greek official, George Stilianos, at the recent RLEF AGM.


AS is often the case with international rugby league, some of the things we announce in this column just don’t come to fruition.

So it is with the Malta-Italy international which was set down for later this month. Some financial guarantees weren’t forthcoming and the game is off.

There was going to be a cap on the number of professional players in each team so it would have been a nice boost for local players from the Mediterranean countries.

Alas, our game isn’t exactly flushed with funds, so these things happen. Far & Wide is hearing the Mediterranean Cup, on the other hand, could be revived after a few years in recess.


A LITTLE piece of history for the game a couple of Saturdays back when the USARL ‘Championship game”, or grand final, was played as part of a double-header with the international between the United States and Canada at Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.

And you could argue it was a double victory for rugby league in the United States.

The US Tomahawks squad is slowly starting to absorb players from the ‘rebel’ USARL and the side to be coached by Brian Smith at the World Cup scored a 44-16 win to level the series with the Wolverines.

And in the USARL decider, locals the Philadelphia Fight beat the Jacksonville Axemen 28-22 to capture their second title in three years.

The crowd for the double-header was reported to be around 1000.


MORE details about the upcoming tour of South Africa by NSW Country have been announced.

The game against Gauteng Combined Clubs Select will take place at Bosman Stadium in Brakpan on Ocrober 12, with the same venue to pit the bush boys against the full South African side six days later.


THE JOY OF SIX: Round 24



WE long ago just started assuming that Sam Tomkins is joining the New Zealand Warriors next year. But at one point, his coach at Wigan Shaun Wane was supposed to be going as well. Wane has now extended his tenure at DW Stadium – and had it extended by another year as a result of Sunday morning’s Challenge Cup final victory. And according to Wane, his fullback is going nowhere. “He’s a contracted player with us,” Wane told Joy Of Six. “I’m hoping he’s going to be here next year and I don’t see that changing”. Team-mate Blake Green said he had a gut feeling on Tomkins’ intentions but didn’t say what it was while Parramatta-bound Lee Mossop reckoned Tomkins was “a closed book”. What did the man himself say? Nothing. Media were kicked out of Wembley before he emerged from the dressingrooms.


MELBOURNE’S 60-point mauling of Parramatta only fuels the perception that we have a lopsided competition. This has led to a number of proposals for change, including the Eels coach Ricky Stuart calling for the return of reserve grade. But stats guru David Middleton recently conducted a study of average margins in premiership games going back to 1908. He also tried to assess the evenness of competitions in the salary cap era by looking at the number of teams who won 50 per cent or more of their games. The results, published in the current edition of Rugby League Week, show very little change over the years. The average margin in 1908 was 14 points, this season it’s 15.4. In 1925., the average margin was 6.7 points but Souths won the minor premiership by such a stretch, mandatory finals were introduced the following year!


THE North Queensland-Newcastle game was a microcosm for the debate over the shoulder charge rule and allegations of diving. Referees say the deterrent to players staying on the ground is that the video referee can only intervene if the offending player deserves being reported. The tackle on Brent Tate, which stunned the Cowboys centre, was worthy of a penalty only. Tate didn’t take a dive but the way in which it was dealt should have discouraged others from doing so, even though the lack of a penalty was somewhat unjust. On the other hand, Kade Snowden’s challenge on Ray Thompson would have brought stern action in any era, regardless of whether shoulder charges were banned. He clearly made contact with the head – Thompson suffered a broken jaw.


IF THERE is one inequality in the way we use the video referee in rugby league, it was summed up when Gold Coast’s Albert Kelly took an intercept defending his own line – something that is generally physically impossible – and streaked away from the Warriors defence. Nearing the tryline, it was as if he was looking for someone to tackle him. Why? Because if he had been pulled up short and the Titans scored on the next tackle, the video referee would not have the power to go back and check if he was onside. The old cliché, ‘what if this decides a grand final’, comes to mind. Video referees should be able to tip to referees in this circumstance. On the BBC on Sunday morning, we had the video referee mic-ed up and his discussions with the on-field officials broadcast. What do you think?


COLLEAGUE Peter Fitzsimons touched a raw nerve by going over the records of South Sydney coach Michael Maguire and prop Jeff Lima with wrestling and extreme tactics. Some would say if you go into a game with an injury, you have to expect it to be targeted. But most would argue that targeting a specific injury with an illegal tactic or manoeuvre is different than just running at someone and is beyond the pale. That being the case, should we take intent into account in handing down charges and suspensions? Is illegally attacking someone with a known injury a case of bringing the game into disrepute? We will only find out the level of premeditation years after players retire, when they start spilling the beans. If there are beans, media men and judiciary members will look back with a good deal of regret at have gone easy on the nastiness.


IT may seem like the longest shot in sport but South Africa are serious about staging the 2017 World Cup. Your correspondent witnessed a detailed presentation from the SARL in London Friday night, to countries attending the European Federation AGM. I’m not sure how much I can repeat but suffice to say the Africans are bullish and intend to use major stadia, 13 of which hold more than 40,000 people. Even with 60 per cent ticket sales, they are confident of turning a massive profit. And each country would get a fairly significant grant from the organising committee, which includes key members of the syndicate that attracted the FIFA World Cup. But in a country where the Olympic Committee still refuses to recognise that there is more than one rugby code, would anything like 60 per cent of tickets be sold? We can’t keep holding World Cups in England and Australia but 2017 is probably too soon to take a leap of faith like this.



FAR & WIDE: Number 27


THIS week’s column concerns itself with South Africa, with some good news and not-so-good news.

The good news is that Country Firsts will be embarking on a tour to South Africa immediately after the NRL grand final. The side, picked from those playing in NSW Country, will take on an invitational selection on October 12 and the South African Rhinos a week later.

Both games will be in the Johannesburg/Pretoria area. Former NSW back rower David Barnhill will be coach.

“We went to the commission and said that we should be the team that tours the developing countries,” said CRL chief executive Terry Quinn.
“We went to Samoa last year and we applied for funding for this tour and got it. We don’t really know what we’re walking into, though.”

What the Country boys will be walking into is a disgraceful example of bigotry aimed at our game by the South African Olympic Committee.

The committee and the South African government refuses to recognise rugby league as a separate sport to rugby union. But one regional sports body did recently affiliate with the SARL.

This prompted a warning from the Olympic Council to all regional sports bodies not to affiliate with rugby league – despite the fact the council’s own bylaws stipulate they should recognise sports that the Commonwealth Games movement acknowledges, of which we are one.

The man who wrote the letter is one Tubby Reddy, who is apparently already a controversial figure in South African sport.

“The member currently recognised by SASCOC is the South African Rugby Union (SARU). As such, all applications relating to the sport are to be directed to the  organisation’s National Sports Federation.

“Accordingly, members are to confirm that they have taken note of the provisions contained in SASCOC’s Articles of Association, will immediately rectify any purported violation.”

Far and Wide would like to think the RLIF could get involved in correcting this ridiculous situation – a publically funded body not recognising a distinction between sports that has existed since 1895.


ORIGIN I tonight is going live into Perth on GEM for the first time tonight, a big boost for the game in WA.

A recent roadshow coaching excursion into the Pilbara was also a massive success with local coaches staggered by the interest created among kids.

Well done WARL. Now they just need an NRL team!



How International Rugby League Will Look Over The Next Five Years


CANBERRA can be rather fetching in Autumn. And it’s in Australia’s capital, late last month among the yellowing leaves and ring roads, that the Great Britain rugby league team was fetched back from the history books.

The rumours have been around for quite some time but when the World Cup executive met in the days leading up to the April 19 Test between Australia and New Zealand, the news finally leaked out – GB’s flag will most likely be hoisted after an eight-year break in 2015.

It’s something RFL chief executive Nigel Wood wanted to keep quiet but RLIF chairman Scott Carter spoke openly about it in the lead-up to the meeting. A tour at the end of the 2015 season will comprise two Tests against each of the trans-Tasman rivals and mid-week matches against yet-to-be-determined opposition.

The executive also heard of plans to expand the World Club Challenge, with the top three NRL teams to play exhibition games in Perpignan and London to help pay for the trip.

Next year, the WCC will likely head to Perth as a two-team competition. The next, it will be six teams played over an entire weekend in the UK, with the final on Sunday and the second- and third-ranked teams playing off on Friday and Saturday night.

Two out of the three NRL teams will ape the expansion efforts of the AFL by playing before what is expected to be big expat crowds in Super League’s two outposts. It’s the sort of thing many of us have been calling for, for years.

We often whinge that our sport is depressingly small-time on a global scale. But on the flipside, isn’t it great that Forty20 Magazine can ring up the head honcho of the sport worldwide and he’ll tell us a bunch of things about the upcoming international calendar that have not been reported anywhere else?

Let’s start with the 2014 mid-season internationals. Carter says it’s gratifying that Australia have committed to the Anzac Test for another four years. We’ve been told by Australian sources that NRL wants to play two different countries in the Pacific Test next year, even though Tonga and Samoa seem convinced they are locked in again.

Fiji and Papua New Guinea are favoured next year. If NRL clubs agree, this could become a double header with Tonga-Samoa. We asked Carter about the Pacific All Stars concept and he said that would be a matter for the Australians.

Onto the 2014 Four Nations, to be shared between Australia and New Zealand, then.

“The highest ranked Pacific nation (in the World Cup) will be the fourth team in the 2014 Four Nations, which is in the southern hemisphere,” Carter tells us from Auckland.

“Australia, New Zealand and England had some discussion about logistical issues – stadia and such. It will come down to a bidding process, where the games are played.

“In recent years, governments and councils on both sides of the Tasman have been interested in staging such events. This has included non-traditional areas for our sport so it is wide open.

“A lobbying process will now begin where we let the authorities in various cities know which fixtures are available. There is absolutely nothing to say the final must be in Australia.

“If a New Zealand city wishes to host the final and puts together the right bid, then that can happen.” For financial and television reasons, it seems unlikely the fourth nation in next year’s tournament will host a match.

OK, we’re doing things in chronological order. Here’s what most of you really want to know about: the return of Great Britain, who’ve not tackled a foreign infidel in anger since 2007.

“As I said before the meeting in Canberra, there’s a lot of interest in a Lions tour,” Carter says. “The idea is that Great Britain would play four games in Australia and four games in New Zealand, of which two each would be Tests.”

Carter wasn’t in position to say who the opposition would be for the mid-week games on the western side of the Tasman – but was happy to discuss the New Zealand schedule.

“There’s a great history for Lions tours and one tradition we really want to maintain is the Maori team,” he says.

“If you remember, in 2010 England played the Maori and it was an 18-all draw. So that would be one of the games.

“There is also a feeling that we should keep the tradition of regional teams who have played touring sides in the past. One of the obvious ones there is Auckland, who have actually beaten international teams.”

But wait, dear traditionalist. There’s more!

While the international programme as we know it now has a Four Nations in the northern hemisphere in 2016, there is another idea doing the rounds.

“There has been some discussion about having an outgoing New Zealand and outgoing Australian tour to the UK at that time instead,” said Carter.

That’s right, Australia and New Zealand on tour in Britain at the same time, perhaps playing the home nations and even out-of-season club sides – similar to what happens in the other code.

“But I stress, it was just something that was thrown up,” said Carter. “At the moment, it’s a Four Nations which is in the international schedule and that’s what is more likely to happen.”

OK, are you flipping over the decade-long calendar on your fridge? We are now in 2017. There is another World Cup on.

“I have two hats here,” Carter begins. “As RLIF chairman, I can say that there are two bids.

“There’s South Africa, a country where there is definitely the infrastructure and experience to stage an event of this magnitude. There is definitely still interest there.

“However, the South African Rugby League is having recognition issues with the government.”

(The South African government refuses to recognise rugby league as a separate sport to rugby union. If the public has the same position, we simply MUST stage the World Cup there!)

Bid documents have gone out to the SARL, ARL and NZRL.

“As NZRL chairman, I would say that the joint bid of Australia and New Zealand, considering the audience and facilities, would have overwhelming merit,” he said.

The 2017 World Cup final is not assured for Brisbane, or even Australia. “It’ll come down to competitive tenders,” said Carter.

“There is no reason whatsoever why the World Cup final cannot be held in New Zealand.”

As for the qualification process and number of teams in 2017 … it’s too early for that. The RLEF has said that the European Shield, now being contested over two years, will act as a qualifying tournament in 2014 and 2015.

Of course, the reason all this discussion took place in Canberra in mid-April is that there happened to be a game on. Canberra was awarded the Anzac Test because it is the city’s centenary and we were rewarded with a sold-out 25,628 crowd.

The Kiwis had a wretched build-up. Injuries disqualified Benji Marshall and Sonny Bill Williams from selection, Krisnan Inu was under spear tackle ban and captain Simon Mannering was ruled out with a calf injury on match eve.

But despite having three first half tries disallowed, the scores were 6-6 at halftime. Then the Australians made a minor tactical adjustment at halftime.

“We definitely readjusted our gameplan in that second half,” said halfback Cooper Cronk.

“The conditions play a part in terms of New Zealand playing field position and (being) camped on our line. We threw a few long passes in that first half which allowed the New Zealand rushing defence to shut us down.

“We shortened things up (in the second half), played down the middle third of the field and obviously used the wind behind us.”

Whereas in Townsville last October, the Kiwis looked like they would have won if given more time, on this occasion the impressive Australians triumphed going away.

On the morning of the game, the Daily Telegraph reported that the 2015 Lions would face a combined Anzac side to mark the 100th anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli – in April, months before the proposed GB tour.

“Some things do get discussed without really being considered seriously,” Carter said when asked about the idea.

“There was a light-hearted suggestion that … “well they invited us to a Turkish beach back then, so we might reciprocate.”


DISCORD 2013: Edition 22


OUR greatest hope for the appointment of Raelene Castle as Canterbury chief executive today should be that columns like this will one day soon seem hopelessly patronising and old fashioned.

Because this column is welcoming the Kiwi’s appointment to the rugby league club based largely on the fact she is a woman. This column is pointing out that the Bulldogs have come a long way since the Coffs Harbour scandal of 2004, when sponsors didn’t want a bar of the club, and women in particular were deserting them

This column is recording the fact that Liz Dawson and Donna Burke were in charge of footy clubs 15 and 25 years ago respectively that they were – believe it not – also women.

This column is the response to a climate that still exists in society, and in rugby league in particular, which should not.

The CEO of the NRL, David Smith, issued a media release welcoming the netball administrator’s appointment.

He stressed that she was clearly the best person for the job, but then added: “It is also worth acknowledging the significance of a female chief executive and the message of opportunity that the appointment sends to women in our game.

“I’ve said before there is a place for more women in decision making roles in rugby league and we need to be even more inclusive in the years ahead.”

…hopefully so inclusive that Smith will have to give up issuing a press release every time a woman is appointed to a position of influence.

We welcome you, Raelene. We are happy about your appointment. We hope your presence improves our culture.

But at the risk of being a wet blanket, the fact it is a big story we have a female footy chief executive even when we have had a female prime minister for three years is probably not a great rap where rugby league is starting from.

Even during the recent Women In League round, many well intentioned media men and officials made comments about the appearance of those they were interviewing to recognise the role of females in the game. “You’re an attractive young lady, why would you play rugby league?” is not intended to be an insult or to be condescending but such comments are inappropriate given what that Women In League round is trying to achieve.

The idea that all comments about skin colour, positive or negative, are now firmly off limits is only just seeping through to many in rugby league. Similarly, comments directed at women about appearance – even compliments – are most often inappropriate in the workplace because they objectify and even subjugate.

But rugby league has always been a male workplace and those who have worked in clubs all their lives have never had to deal with these issues. You can’t use racial epithets  anymore and you can’t tell your boss she’s a good sort.

The reason is that these comments perpetuate historic power imbalances – between white males and everyone else.

Having more Raelene Castles will bring the culture in rugby league clubs more in line with the rest of society in the second decade of the 21st century. That’s why her job at the Bulldogs is good news.

Can you imagine a time in the distant future where we don’t need to encourage, recruit and welcome women, non-anglo saxons and gays to parts of our society in which they are not currently involved in any great numbers?

Consider what they will think as they scroll through this piece of archived commentary – no doubt through a wireless brain implant.

They’ll regard the things I am commenting on as completely alien and me as a primitive bigot.

At least, I hope they do.


I’VE written about this elsewhere but there’s some not-so-cool stuff happening in South Africa at the moment.

The South African government refuses to recognise rugby league as a separate sport from rugby union. Recently some regional sports bodies did affiliate with the SARL.

The South African Olympic Committee has responded by writing to all regional sports councils warning them not to recognise rugby league under any circumstances.

This is despite a bylaw which states any sport recognised by the Commonwealth Games Committee – as league is – is entitled to domestic recognition.

It’s the sort of discrimination that league has always faced when it tried to start (or restart – South Africa toured Australia in the sixties) in new territory.

If we had a real RLIF with an office and fulltime employees, they would be lobbying the IOC. But we don’t. Discord will keep you up to date in events over the next few weeks.


OK it’s that time again – comments.

read on



THE recent L’Equipe story on rugby union’s collusion with the Vichy government and the impact on French rugby league rammed home a big point to me about our game’s weaknesses.
That is, our lack of awareness in the rugby league “first world” about what is happening in the rugby league “second world” and especially the “third world”. While most of the readers of this column would have been aware of what occured during the Second World War in France, the vast majority of Australian fans were not.
They knew absolutely nothing about it.
Since this is column number 13, I thought I might do a bit of sabre-rattling on behalf of our game. If, as a sport, we are only as strong as our weakest links then we are very, very weak indeed.
While rugby league as a sport strives to attract the casual sports fan and waivering young amateur player, those of us at centre of rugby league fandom should be trying engage those at the periphery.
We should be telling those who only watch on TV or read about the game in the daily press as much as we can about out history, our cherished myths and re-inforce the fact that over vast tracts of our slowly expanding empire we are worse than underdogs, we are invisible, marginalised, even victimised.
We have great stories to tell but we tell them to each other, when we should be reaching out to those who could make us stronger.
To this end I was alarmed to read today that the South African Olympic Commitee has written to regional sports councils warning them not to affiliate with the SARL after one such body recently had the temerity to do so. Here’s the story: http://www.sarugbyleague.co.za/article/9836/sascoc-bullying-sports-federations
In South Africa, the Olympic Committee refuses to recognise rugby league as a separate sport to rugby union. In taking its stand, the Committee is wilfully overlooking a clause in its own bylaws which says it should recognise any sport with which the Commonwealth Games Committee is affiliated, of which rugby league is one.
That a publically funded body will not recognise a game that has been around since 1895 is absurd and disgraceful.
Where is the Rugby League International Federation in all this? Who is fighting in the corner of the real heroes of our game, those trying to start (or in South Africa, revive) the game in hostile territory?
Surely the RLIF should be lobbying the IOC to end this outrageous bigotry forthwith.
But the RLIF exists mainly in theory rather than reality. And we are all inward looking fans of clubs and players, who don’t actively do much to promote our ideals and ambitions to others.
We look back on the Vichy days as scandalous and sad. But what are we doing about what is now happening right under our noses?
The man who has written to the provincial organisations is one Tubby Reddy. He has a website, Tubbyreddy.com, and the contact email address is given as Jean.kelly@tubbyreddy.com

THANKS for all the comments on the last column.

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