The A-List: SAM BURGESS (South Sydney, NRL All Stars, England & Great Britain)

South Sydney - Sam BurgessBy STEVE MASCORD

ON a dreary, cold, wet Sydney day, the redeveloped Redfern Oval gives off an unearthly green hue. It’s almost as if the lighting that allows Melbourne AAMI Park to turn the colour of the host team has been installed just below the historic patch of grass.

In the Park Cafe at the northern end of the grandstand, Sam Burgess’ face completes the club colours. The topic of conversation is the Sydney media and, specifically, gossip column speculation about who he is dating.

Big Sam is, unmistakeably, blushing.

“I looked at it and I had a bit of chuckle. There’s no truth in what’s been written in some of the stories,” the 21-year-old says of those Candice Falzon stories.

“It doesn’t help me socially. People think I’m in relationships with girls and all that. It doesn’t help me at all – if you know what I mean.”

A few minutes earlier, A-List had happened upon Sam sharing a coffee and a laugh with cafe owner Harry Azar and some of his friends. Burgess calls them all by name and seems to have spent plenty of time in the modest but often busy little establishment.

It’s a snapshot that sums the England forward up. Remember the 1997 World Club Challenge slogan “we’re not here for a holiday?” Well Sam, kind of, is. Not as in getting pissed up every night and sleeping all day, but as in “getting new life experiences”.

“It’s good to get as many life experiences as you can from footy because it’s not a long career,’ he explains.

“I’d like to think I’ll stay for a while now. I’m having the best time of my life at the moment.”

He sees away games in Perth and Auckland as “free travel”. He’s curious and inquisitive and – most of all – personable. This isn’t about making money or getting famous, it’s about doing something many of his mates back home never get to do – and representing them well while he does it.

To take it for granted or become arrogant would be to disrespect them.

As you’ve probably guessed, Sam has plenty to say – which is why we’re going to revert to one of A-List’s favourite journalistic mechanisms, the sub-heading.

LIFESTYLE

“I’ve never lived in a big city. I’ve always lived away from home, since I’ve been old enough so I’m used to that but living in a big city under a little bit of a spotlight, compared to how I used to live in England … it’s a bit of a difference. It’s not a bad difference. It’s been the best decision I ever made.

“Everyone since I got here … they give me advice. Other players, the staff at Souths, they warned me what it’s like. I think of myself as well-behaved lad anyway but they just sort of warned me to be careful.

“Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a burden, this (points to voice recorder) part of the game. We’ve got to realise we play in a big sport, a well-documented sport. It’s part of being a professional footballer. You’ve got to deal with it and just enjoy it.”

MID-SEASON TEST

“It definitely took its toll on the body. I struggled with my sleep, waking up in the middle of the night but that wasn’t the thing. It was just how fatigued I were. We played Manly that weekend. I’ve never been as tired in my life. I probably had the worst game of my NRL career. It took it’s toll and some of that I’ll have to think about next year, whether I go or not.”

ENGLISHMEN IN THE NRL

“I think there’s a bit more interest now, with obviously Mark (Flanagan), myself and Gaz (Gareth Ellis). There’s a bit more interest in players coming over. Who knows? Maybe we’ll see a few more in the next few years. “

James Graham? “I’m not saying he will, I’m not saying he won’t. I’m not sure where he’s thinking of going but I think it’s an option for James. He’s fairly young and he’s an outstanding player. He’s got a great attitude, he’s got a very competitive attitude and I think he’d do really well. Whether he decides to come or not … he’s a fan favourite back in St Helens. He’s well-liked. He’s been there all his life so it would be a tough decision for him to leave if he did. But I’m sure he’d fit in well over here – especially in a Souths jersey.

“It would be nice. I’m sure there would be a way to do it. It would be nice to get him here. I’m going to try and twist his arm and tell him to come.”

DEBUT AT REDFERN AGAINST MANLY

“It was quite an emotional day. I don’t know why, the build-up to putting on the Souths jersey was quite big for me. Everywhere I’d go, people would be looking forward to seeing you play. I got really into the Souths tradition.”

RUSSELL CROWE

“I consider myself really good friends with Russell. He’s a champion bloke. He’s helped me settle into things over here and he’s been a port of call if I do get any problems. He’s been good to me. I’m in close contact with him. He works very hard and is very busy in his own life but he’s good with all the boys. It’s unbelievable for us that he’s involved in the club.”

HIS CONTRACT STORY

The Sydney Morning Herald quoted leaked Immigration Department documents to suggest his contract with Souths was under-the-odds. “That were one of the only things that pissed me off. I laugh about it now but for people to go to such lengths … I wouldn’t have signed here if I was cheating on anything. I know it’s their job but just to print my salary, or what they believe is my salary, in the papers was – I thought – a bit of a bullshit thing. That was one of the only things that has pissed me off since I’ve been here.

“That’s what I don’t understand. That’s the difference. In England, that just wouldn’t happen. It did piss me off that it’s come off my visa application, that that’s come out somewhere. It’s a bit shit. These things happen.”

BROTHERS CONTACTED FOR A STORY

Sam and Souths were up in arms when a journalist contacted his brothers for a profile story. “I’ll tell you what: looking back on it now, I shouldn’t have been pissed off. But I’d just got here and I’d been warned about this press, media and all that crap and I just thought someone were out to get me. And then, ringing my little brothers who were daft as a brush … great guys, I love them to bits but they don’t understand the press out here. They could have said anything stupid and I was just a bit worried that they’d say something and it would get taken the wrong way. That’s what I was worried about. I’d not spoken to either of my brothers about it. I know Glenn (Jackson), he’s a good fella. At the time I didn’t know Glenn, I couldn’t put his name to his face. It were a really good story that he ran. My little brothers, they’re just crackers…”

GOALS

“I want to play in a grand final and win one. That would be my main goal. That’s my only goal. That’s what drives me each week to win a comp and just better myself as a player.

ENGLAND

“From coming over here and experiencing life in Australia, playing rugby league as a professional player, to going back and seeing it back there – it just makes you think ‘I don’t want to leave Australia’.

“It’s a great place to play footy and enjoy yourself. Who knows what will happen in England. There’s soccer that’s massive, cricket, rugby union…’’

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

DISCORD 2014: Can Duncan Thompson’s ‘Contract Football’ Save Rugby League?

DiscordBy STEVE MASCORD
EARLY in a recent Super League game, commentator Paul Cullen remarked: “We’ve been going for 10 minutes and there’s not a blade of grass that’s not been stood on”.
Leaving aside the double negative, you can picture the sort of game Cullen was describing – touchline to touchline attack, from the outset.
Now, I’ve already said that I could not remember a better weekend of football, given the comebacks and razor-edged finishes of the two preliminary semi-finals we had in the NRL.
But plenty of blades of grass went undisturbed.
The structured nature of NRL football could be one reason why the game is better to watch on television than live, in the view of all the people who also left seats at Allianz Stadium undisturbed.
The physical nature of the sport, which is harder to detect from the stands, is highlighted by tight camera shots while the ball movement – a feature of Australian football – is rather limited.
Result: you’re better off watching it at home.
Step right up, Ben and Shane Walker.
The brothers, both former first graders at a number of clubs, have turned back the clock almost a century and have employed at Ipswich Jets a style of football favoured by Duncan Thompson, who captained North Sydney to their only two premierships in 1921 and 1922.
It’s called “contract football” and it works like this: you have a ‘contract’ to pass the ball to your team mate if he is in a better position to me.
“If you played structured football, the way they do in the NRL these days, you make it easier for the defence to get three men into the tackle to do all that stuff I don’t like – wrestling,” Walker told Discord.
“The way we play, we test the defensive like three or four times on a single tackle. The defence can’t get enough numbers in to wrestle and we play off the back of it.”
Thompson, who died in 1980, once said: “Contract football is flowing football – it has no relation to bash-and-barge stuff – it is what rugby league is all about, or is supposed to be.”
Ben Walker says he learned about it growing up in Thompson’s home down, Toowoomba, where it was passed down from generation to generation.
He also says t works.
“It would work better in the NRL, where you can train fulltime,” he said. “You need players who can catch and pass under pressure – but mostly just catch and pass.
“That actually takes a lot of work these days. I have had our players say to me after watching an NRL game on TV ‘we would have towelled them up playing our style of football’.”
The Jets fielded seven rookies in their final 17 man squad of the year; they made the finals this year and next year they will employ their free-flowing style even more.
“I won’t say which NRL game I am talking about but one of those at the weekend, they played block play, block play, block play, kick.
“You could have defended it with your eyes closed.”
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MY MEMORY tells me Greg Mackey was a player who pre-dated my career as a journalist; someone from whom I sought an autograph but never a quote.
The facts tell a different story; he was at Illawarra for three years that I was covering the game, albeit all of them as a casual reporter at AAP while still in highschool.
“Bluey” was such a good player, I must have interviewed him many times.
But I prefer to think of him as an untouchable footy hero, a flame-haired five-eighth who won a match with an intercept fresh off the plane for the Chatillon club in Paris – not before momentarily stopping when an “idiot” in the crowd blew a whistle.
These were days, for me, when football players and administrators could do no wrong. If I knew about off-field “atrocities” and official incompetence, a rarely paid it any mind.
I just lived for Sunday afternoon at 3pm when men like Bluey would take to Wollongong Showground and throw outrageous cutout passes, chip and chase from their own quarter and upend much bigger men.
These, days, the fact that they lost most weeks seems inconsequential.
Steelers legend Michael Bolt says he last saw Blue on Thursday, and he had “a cheeky grin”. That’s good to know, because it’s the way I remember him too.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

Six Highlights Of The 2014 NRL Regular Season

NRL logoBy STEVE MASCORD

THERE Is something unnatural – even mean-spirited – about the finals.

For 26 weeks, rugby league is just THERE. Some weekends, there aren’t eight NRL games but no matter how well or otherwise your team plays, there’ll be a match to watch again in a minimum of a fortnight

That’s 24 matches in all – pain, sweat, ecstacy, danger, drama and heartbreak. Leave aside the commercial aspect and look at it as a football competition – 1920 minutes are played purely for the right to make the finals.

Once there, the maximum number of minutes of football you will be afforded is 320. The mathematics, therefore, answer the most basic of questions: how much more important is a final than a regular season match?

Six times more important. Every minute in a final is worth six during the home and away rounds. Put another way, the NRL season is the equivalent of running six times around a track to decide whether you make the final one-lap sprint, and what your handicap will be.

But it’s those six laps that often give us our best stories and our memories. Those six laps are what makes a season for most of us, not the hare-like sprint at the end.

From a logic standpoint, the play-offs are clearly an artifice – a construct intended to add excitement and therefore profitability to the back end of a sporting competition. We are often told performances under the pressure of sudden death are “the true test” of a team.

Who says? Why? Surely how many tries and goals you score, and how few you concede, are more impartial barometers. That’s why Manly coach Geoff Toovey said the minor premiers were not given enough credit.

Here at League Week, we’ve tried to redress the balance this week by recording and honouring the players and teams who passed the post first in 2014.

A football season is often described as “a journey” but for your correspondent, it has been many. At the time of writing, I have travelled 162,922 km this year, mostly in pursuit of rugby league.

A season for me is a blur of airports, insane taxi-drivers, rental car desks, wifi passwords and hotel loyalty programmes. What do you ask Greg Inglis after he scores the try of the century? How do you report Alex McKinnon’s injury when no-one will talk about it? How do you get Steve Matai and Anthony Watmough to comment on reports they’ve just asked for a release?

Here are my moments of the season – from the point of view of a travelling hack trying to cover them for radio, newspapers and the great Rugby League Week. They are feats which weren’t only observed, they were lived (your favourite memory may have missed the cut for a simple reason – I wasn’t there).

April 14: MELBOURNE SCORES AFTER THE BELL TO BEAT ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA

THE NRL would later confirm fulltime should have prevented the Storm scoring the winning try in a 28-24 win. Working for Triple M, your reporter grabbed the winning scorer – Young Tonumaipea – right on fulltime. Unfortunately, we were on the same frequency as another outlet, meaning Young sounded like he was broadcasting from Venus. The mobile phone was quickly produced, and interviews were submitted by email. The trouble with the clock was not immediately obvious but Dragons coach Steve Price told us on air: “When I thought it was zero, he still hadn’t played the ball. We were truly the better team tonight – by far.”

April 20: BIG PAUL VAUGHAN BAGS A TRY ON THE DEATH TO BEAT MELBOURNE’

WE were on the scene within seconds of the Italian International danced nimbly between defenders to score the try of his life. “I just picked up the ball, I don’t know what happened, it happened so fast,” said Vaughan after the 24-22 victory.. “I think there was a loose ball, I saw a couple of lazy defenders and skipped across and gap opened up and I went for it. I thought it might have been a possible obstruction.” It was the Raiders’ third win of the year – they would find them harder to come by over the balance of the camptain.

April 25: GREG INGLIS SCORES LENGTH OF THE FIELD SOLO TRY BEATING SIX DEFENDERS

THERE was a collective withholding of breath in the Suncorp Stadium media box as Inglis set off on this run for the ages. Surely, he won’t get there – will he? Even gnarled hacks applauded when he did. Coming to the South Sydney dressingroom doors later in the evening, Inglis said: “I think anyone can score one of them. You’ve got Benny Barba …you see a try like that from (Michael) Jennings over the years at Penrith. You just see all these naturally gifted players. It’s a bit unfortunate in our game that you don’t see enough of it.” He came close with another beauty in the return encounter.
June 7: CRONULLA WINS FROM 22-0 DOWN

CRONULLA’S season has been bleak by any measure. The ASADA controversy and suspension of coach Shane Flanagan meant 2014 was a write-off from the start. When they arrived at Suncorp Stadium in late Jun,e captain Paul Gallen had publically questioned whether caretaker Peter Sharp was giving 100 per cent. No-one expected them to win and they duly trailed 22-0 after 27 minutes. What followed seemed impossible; the Sharks started their comeback just before halftime and won 24-22. “I think it’s a turning point for the club – it doesn’t matter where we finish this year, and in my career – where we’ll remember when everything turned around,” he said. Days later, Carney would be sacked over the bubbling incident.

June 15: CRONULLA WINS FROM 24-0 DOWN

GENERALLY speaking, I don’t cover Sydney games for the newspaper. There are enough rugby league reporters in Sydney. But when they Sun-Herald gave me one, it was a doozy. Eight days after the biggest comeback in the Sharks’ 47 year history, they broke the record again – by beating the reigning premiers and world champions. Not only that, they did it without Sharp, Carney and captain Paul Gallen. Jeff Robson scored the winner with three minutes remaining, and the Roosters crossed with 11 seconds on the clock but the try was disallowed because the referees were unsighted. “I thought I got it down,” Mitch Aubusson said. Cronulla’s round 25 display in Townsville almost got the wooden spooners three mentions here.

JULY 20: RISE FOR ALEX

NEVER mind that Newcastle lost their home game to Gold Coast, 28, on the Rise For Alex weekend. McKinnon’s injury was the saddest event in the careers of most of us. I covered the match and will never forget that night and what I witnessed and heard from the sidelines. But the Rise For Alex round was a testament to the compassion of the rugby league community and a platform for a brave, stoic young man who has already made a difference n the lives of so many and will continue to be beacon. The character, bravery and hard work of Alex McKinnon and those around him was best thing about 2014, and will remain so no matter what happens over the next four weekends.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

McQueen: We’ll Benefit From Early Losses

South Sydney - Chris McQueenBy STEVE MASCORD
SOUTH Sydney star Chris McQueen says the Rabbitohs will benefit from their slow start to the season.
The bunnies have been a benchmark for a couple of seasons now before faltering in the finals but 2014 has been more problematic, with five wins and four losses leaving them in fifth position after nine rounds.
“We had those early losses and I think that’s going to be a good thing for us,” said Queensland Origin hopeful McQueen.
“Last year, we came out and won eight of our first 10 or something like that. This year, losing those games early on has made us realise and understand what we need to do to be at the top.
“I think that’s going to work out to be good thing … in comparison to last year, we are better off even though our record’s not as good as it was last year.”
McQueen reckons there are still chinks in the Bunnies’ armour, despite a 40-18 win over Gold Coast on Saturday.
“We went through a pretty bad run earlier in the season. We just trained hard, that was the only thing that was going to get us back to some form we’re starting to find it.
“The boys are full of energy and just want to get out there and play well. We’ve had that the last couple of weeks but we’ve had those periods just before halftime when we’ve sort of lost that momentum a bit.
“Our starts have been great but we need to keep that throughout the whole first half and the whole game.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

Inglis: ‘Anyone Could Have Scored That Try’

By STEVE MASCORD

GREG Inglis last night claimed anyone could have scored his amazing first half try against Brisbane.

While the thrilling ANZAC Day win by South Sydney finished amid controversy, Inglis’ effort in beating seven defenders on a diagonal run from his own 10-metre line will be remembered long after contentious refereeing calls are forgotten.

“I think anyone can score one of them,” the 28-year-old said late on Friday as he left Suncorp Stadium.

“You’ve got Benny Barba that can do it, you’ve got Benny Barba who’s another freak. You see a try like that from (Michael) Jennings over the years at Penrith.

“You just see all these naturally gifted players. It’s a bit unfortunate in our game that you don’t see enough of it..”

The try puts pressure on Australian and Queensland selectors to consider Inglis as a fullback ahead of Melbourne’s Billy Slater but that’s another issue the 2009 Golden Boot winner was keen to play down.

“We’ve got a great fullback there in Billy (Slater) and I’ve always said when it comes to rep footy, I’ll be happy to play anywhere,” he said.

“Representative footy is one of the highs of your career , aside from the ultimate winning a grand final with your mates.

“In the end … going back to centre, I do like the contact and I do like just a little more in your face.”

Inglis said he did not read stories pushing for him to be fullback for Queensland and Australia. “I just aspire to be in the … side,” he said.

“In the end, I’ll go back to the team effort and what suits the team.”

Recalling his try, which started with him fielding a Ben Barba chip kick, Inglis said: “I just put my head down and did my best and it paid off in the end.

“I was actually looking for the other winger, AJ (Alex Johnston). He’s quite fast, white Nippy. In the end, it was just one of those things, one of those lucky events that happened on the night.

“(You’re thinking) ‘I hope I get there, I hope I don’t get a cramp or something’.

“You just put your head down and run as fast as you can and that’s what I did.

“I was satisfied that I’ve still got it in my legs and I can get there in the end. In the end, I was just so happy to finally get there.”

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

Rabbitohs, Dragons Steal The March On Rivals

Sydney Roosters - Sam MoaBy STEVE MASCORD
OLD favourites South Sydney and St George Illawarra have been identified by rivals and their own players as the teams who have cunningly exploited the NRL’s new rules the best.
According to Sydney Roosters prop Sam Moa, Souths coach Michael Maguire has capitalised on the crackdown on gang-tackling, while Dragons winger Jason Nightingale says what was once a weakness for the joint venture – small forwards – has been transformed under the new rules to a strength.
The bunnies flogged premiers Sydney Roosters 28-8 at ANZ Stadium on Thursday while the Dragons topped 40 points for the first time in 111 matches, downing Wests Tigers 44-24 at the same venue on Sunday.
“When you play Souths, they’ve got a strike force across the field and they’ve got a really big pack,” Tongan star Moa explained to League Week.
“The rule changes enables quicker play and that kind of suits them but we’re playing of an even board and the same rules apply to us and we have to adapt.
“We didn’t connect very well in the middle, us forwards. We weren’t finishing off our tackles, that enabled their big forwards to get a quick play-the-ball. Issac Luke would jump out, he’d pass it to another big forward charging onto the ball.
“It seemed like we were on the back foot for a lot of the game.
“I felt that in the game, they were better than us at that part (holding up the attacker to halt momentum) but last year we came up with a pretty good formula. The boys will change, we have to adapt. We’ve got a pretty good defensive coach in Craig Fitzgibbon.
“He’s been teaching us a whole lot of techniques. It’s just down to us to apply them in the game and take them on board.
“There’s a bit of a shock but there’s a bit of positivity coming out of it because in some ways it was a bit of a kick up the arse that we needed. We won the World Club Challenge and we won the grand final…people keep writing off Souths but they trialled really well and they looked really good in the off-season.”
On page ?? of this week’s magazine, Wests Tigers coach Michael Potter says the new rule interpretations make it, literally, survival of the fittest – and Nightingale says the Dragons are pleased with the change in emphasis.
“That doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for the big, powerful people,” says the New Zealand international. “I think Souths are a great example of that – they’re big monsters but obviously they’re fit as well but they’re used in the right way. They’re effective even though their fitness might not be as high as other forwards or teams.
“It’s advantagous to us; we’ve always prided ourselves on being a fit team. We’ve been bent back, we probably do have a smaller pack, a more mobile pack, so those rule interpretations will – I think – help us. We haven’t got an unfit guy in our squad. They can all run all day.
“But like I say, that doesn’t mean you can’t have powerhouses run all over you because there’s a place in the game for those people.
“It’s gotten really fast – that’s great for our game. It puts a lot more responsibility on your backs when you’re coming out of your own end because those forwards are getting extra tired.
“I really enjoyed playing – and watching the games over the weekend. There’ve been some great initiatives to clean the game up and I hope it stays like that.”
Brisbane are another team who believe they’re better off under the new regime. “The ruck has really sped up, which is pretty good for forwards like myself and Benny Hannant,” said prop Josh McGuire.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

BONDI BEAT: March 2014

South Sydney - Sam BurgessBy STEVE MASCORD

THE issue of Sam Burgess’s departure from South Sydney has prompted much analysis and hand-wringing about his place in South Sydney, England, the NRL and rugby league in general.
Why is he leaving, as appeared likely at the time of writing? How much will he be missed by these four institutions? What does it say about each of their futures?
Let’s deal with each one by one.
Burgess is an important player at Souths, probably their best after Greg Inglis. There has been speculation his “love of the spotlight” has made him unpopular there. I don’t know about that; what I do know is that his onfield brain explosions have increasingly been costing his team and his temper is a concern to all.
It’s a trait that has shown no sign of abating.
The documentary on Burgess which was shown before last year’s grand final was part of his third party agreements with the club. Colleague David Riccio has speculated the coaching staff at Souths were unimpressed with it.
Had it not been aired, the club would have been in breach of the salary cap for blocking a legitimate third party deal. Coaches focus too much on external things and it’s self perpetuating – you use some inane quote to motivate your side and then you have to prevent your own players from giving inane quotes. Why don’t we just have a truce, furchrisakes?
But that’s another column. Souths will miss Burgess but they’ll replace him. They’ll do well to win a comp with him this year.
England will miss Sam Burgess much, much more. He was their best player in the World Cup and it’s hard to see another forward with the footwork and power of Burgess emerging any time soon. Can he play in this year’s Four Nations? A big question.
England rugby union snaring Burgess is a big victory in the battle of the codes for them. However, is Burgess quick enough to play centre in the 15 man game? Do you even have to be quick to play centre in rugby union? I’d have to watch it comment and that’s a sacrifice I’m not prepared to make!
In short, the NRL and rugby league in general will not blink with Burgess’ exit. It will flutter an eyelash in Sonny Bill Williams direction when he does the same, but that’s all.
The dogs are barking but the caravan moves on, as Alan Jones once said.
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AS usual, I spent the pre-season in the UK. Moving the World Club Challenge forced me to go back to Oz earlier but it was great to see the Super League season open at DW Stadium.
The debate about the new television deal is intriguing.
It was like the original Super League War all over again; Sky put money on the table to secure the long-term rights of rugby league (and other sports) immediately. It was clearly not going to be there forever. Unlike 1995/6, however, there were no demands regarding the restructuring of the game (we hope).
So while Red Hall is copping flack for allegedly railroading the clubs into accepting the deal, how much more would they be copping had they thumbed their noses at Stg200 million?
The concern is that BT Sport and Sky Sports will eventually have to call a truce in the battle over European rugby union. They’ll have to share content. And when that happens, the market value of other sports will go down.
That belief powered the decision to accept Sky’s offer. We can now sit back and see whether it was an accurate or inaccurate belief.
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THE proposed Great Britain tour of Australia and New Zealand next year is proving somewhat problematic.
While the good rugby league folk of the British Isles are excited about something that has not happened since 1992, the antipodeans seem largely unmoved. I mean,
Cameron Smith did say in his World Cup acceptance speak that the squad had enjoyed its time in “Britain and Wales”. England and Britain are interchangeable to many foreigners, including Americans.
The result is that the NRL and NZRL seem in no hurry to confirm the trek. Then again, we’ve had no confirmation of this year’s internationals either, have we?
A couple of years ago, there was talk of the Lions heading south of the equator but no-one would have them. Could it happen again?
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AN update on next year’s World Club Challenge is in order, perhaps.
As previously reported, South Sydney and Brisbane have agreed to be the second and third NRL sides to head to the northern hemisphere in February. They would play the second- and third-placed Super League sides on the Friday and Saturday before the WCC proper.
The new information I have to hand regards the lead-up games. South Sydney are set to play Brisbane at Barnett in a major boost to our code in London.
And the NRL premiers will play Catalan in Perpignan en route to England. What a great promotion – the sort of things other professional sports have been doing with exhibition games for years.
By the way (I almost typed ‘BTW’ there – derr) if the WCC is to be taken seriously, surely the prize money has to go back up from Stg25,000 – hardly a fitting purse for the world champions in a professional sport.
The real put of gold at the end of the WCC rainbow is the clubs being allowed to sell their own TV rights. Which brings me to this proposal: if Ian Lenagan and Marwan Koukash are so confident the elite clubs should determine their own destiny, why not let them start by running the expanded WCC?
It needs year-round attention to realist its potential.
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WHILE the NRL was spending a fortune on bodyguards for its stars at the Auckland Nines, a little tournament in western Sydney was picking up the slack for the lack of international development being promoted across the Tasman.
World expansion pinup boys Canada travelled down under for the first time and we also had the likes of Fiji, Niue, Cook Islands, Fiji, the Philippines, Portugal, Thailand, Greece, Malta, Japan and South America’s Latin Heat going around.
Auburn Warriors beat the Philippines 14-8 in the final.
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WHAT really happened in America to scupper the planned merger of the AMNRL and USARL?
Bondi Beat has heard two principal theories. One, the USARL delegates came to believe the AMNRL delegates had not been democratically elected by their clubs and had lost faith in the process and two, the USARL clubs got cold feet about an independent body determining their fate.
Either way, it sounds terrbly rugby league, doesn’t it?
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ONE of the first places I went this past off-season was South Africa, where a NSW Country side was on tour.
There was scarcely 300 people at the stadium for the game against the Rhinos and one of them was Jock Colley, the CRL chairman. Jock was an irrascible fellow, not afraid to upset the suits from the city when he felt the bushies were copping a raw deal.
To mix a metaphor, he wasn’t afraid to get off the gravy train and rock the applecart.
He made the annual City-Country game interesting by speaking his mind in the lead-up when it came to unco-operative clubs and players who didn’t believe in the cause.
So it was a shock on the opening day of this season in England to learn Jock had collapsed during an evening walk. He was airlifted to Sydney, placed on life support, and later passed away.
You’ll be missed Jock. We need more like you.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD

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