World Club Series: SYDNEY ROOSTERS 38 ST HELENS 12 at DW Stadium

By STEVE MASCORD

THE overall record of expanded World Club Championship matches was left at 60-8 in favour of the southern hemisphere by this 2016 opening night mismatch – but Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson launched an impassioned defence of the concept.

The St Helens-Roosters clash at Langtree Park marked the 40th anniversary of the firsrt clash between the Australian and British champions – involving the same clubs at the Sydney Sports Ground in ’76 – and by halftime the NRL team had racked up a 22-0 lead.

World Club Challenge games were adjudged to have such potential that in 1997 the Super League competitions merged mid-season but those from the Australasia won 48 of the 56 matches played. Since the revival of the idea last year, NRL sides have been successful in all four games.

“I don’t think questioning it is a good idea. It’s about loving it and investing some time,” said Robinson following a match in which the performances of young halves Jayden Nikorima and Jackson Hastings was a feature.

“It’s awesome to go to St Helens and Wigan and Leeds.

“It’s here to stay. We want to promote the players between England and Australia. There’s some great English players down in the NRL as well.

“We have to continue the concept. The fans love it, They’re turning up.”

The Roosters’ 13-a-side season got off to the worse possible start when the kick-off in front of 14,008 fans at Langtree Park was allowed to go dead.
World Cup ebay

But after some determined defence from St Helens the Roosters hit cruise mode, making light of the absence of Mitchell Pearce, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Boyd Cordner and the departed Michael Jennings, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and James Maloney.

Boom centre Latrell Mitchell beat four players on a dime in the lead-up to the opening touchdown of the game, for prop Kane Evans, while Nikorima overcame an early head knock to star.

St Helens coach Keiron Cunningham described both Nikorima and Mitchell as future superstars.

“There’s been a lot written in the last month but we’ve always been confident about what’s ahead,” said Robinson.

“I thought we came up with stuff that usually takes a few months.”

One selection surprise was the omission of Wigan recruit Joe Burgess from the Roosters squad. “He’s a very good player who will play a lot of NRL,” said Robinson.

“But he’s only been with us five or six months. He’s probably a little bit short but Latrell developed well over the off-season.”

Cunningham said: “The difference was the outside backs of the Roosters … it’s unfortunate the scoreline blew out the way it did.”

Nikorima was not made available to the media after the match.

SYDNEY ROOSTERS 38 (A Guerra 2 K Evans D Copley D Tupou S Kenny-Dowall B Ferguson tries J Hastings 5 goals) beat ST HELENS 12 (D Peyroux 2 tries L Walsh 2 goals) at Langtree Park. Referee: Ben Thaler. Crowd: 14,008

THE JOY OF SIX: International Season Week One 2014

The Joy Of SixSANDOW SIN BIN

WHEN we went to Parramatta with claims Chris Sandow had played in an aboriginal knockout and been sent off for a shoulder charge followed by an elbow, Eels CEO Scott Seward told us: “He had permission to play. He passed a medical and the coach gave him his blessing. Chrissy has told us he was sent to the sin bin for a shoulder charge on a childhood friend. It was a bit of a joke between them.” But bootleg video on YouTube above appears to show a dismissal – with the elbow chiefly to blame. When Seward put this to Sandow, he insisted he wasn’t aware he had been sent off, only sin binned. We can’t find any record of a judiciary hearing. The title for the Murri Carnival at Redcliffe two weeks ago changed hands when it was discovered the winners, Murri Dingoes Blue, fielded a player who mistakenly believed his drugs suspension had expired. Parra’ refused permission for Joseph Paulo and Bereta Faraimo to play for the US in the Mitchelton Nines on Saturday.

PUNCHING ON 1

WE have often heard this year that “little guys wouldn’t be pushing big guys if they could still be punched”. It was just a theory until the Super League grand final, when little Lance Hohaia pushed big Ben Flower, then lunged at him with a raised forearm. As we know, Hohaia punched Flower twice, the second time when he was on his back, possibly unconscious. They both missed the rest of the game, leaving St Helens to limp to victory as they have all year. Had Flower – who left Old Trafford before fulltime – not opted out of Wales duty, he could at least have counted the upcoming European internationals against what will no doubt be a mammoth suspension. Condemnation of Flower has been widespread and almost unanimous. Soccer star Joe Barton Tweeted he had “little sympathy” for Hohaia because of the provocation, but later stressed he did not intend to defend the Welshman.

PUNCHING ON 2

LIKE Wigan’s Super League campaign, the proud 15-year-plus history of the United States Tomahawks may have come to an end with a punch at the weekend. The USARL is taking over running the game in the US and is likely to dispense with the old AMNRL trademark, meaning it was all on the line when the Americans trailed invitational side Iron Brothers 8-4 with three minutes left in a Nines quarter-final in Brisbane. The Tomahawks got the ball back but sometime-cage fighter Tui Samoa took umbrage to something a rival said and punched him. Water carrier Paulo – banned, as we said, by Parramatta from playing – helped separate them, Samoa was sent to the bin and Brothers scored again to eliminate the US 14-4.

GRACIOUSNESS AND GAFFES

AND what a mixed bag we had for rugby league public speaking at the weekend. On the plus side, congrats to departing Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin, the club’s player of the year Ben Hunt and CEO Paul White for their oratory at the club presentation. “Ben Hunt was entitled to test his value on the open market but he didn’t,” White told around 500 guests. “Although at a backyard barbecue I was at, he did get his message across to me by changing the words of the Status Quo song to ‘down, down, prices are down”. Griffin said: “Whatever I do now, I’ll be a competitor. But I’ll never be a critic of this club or the people in it.” On the negative, St Helens’ Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, at fulltime on live TV: “I’m absolutely buzzing. I could fucking swear”. Yes, he said those words – in that order.

WORLDWIDE LIVE

SOUTHS chief executive Shane Richardson has savaged the running of the international game in Britain’s The Observer. “I look at the state of international rugby league and it just makes me angry,” Richardson – citing the departure of Sam Burgess as a symptom of the problem – said. “I know from the years I’ve spent in the game, and the contacts I’ve made in business, and the places I’ve been around the world, that there’s a potential to do so much more.” Nevertheless, Greece played their first home international at the weekend, beating the Czechs 68-16 in Athens, the Philippines defeated Vanuatu 32-16 on remote Santo and Norway were preparing to meet Thailand in Bangkok. Next weekend, Latin America faces Portugal and Fiji takes on Lebanon, both in Sydney while Tonga take on PNG in Lae and the European Championships commence.

RETIRING ON A HIGH

REPORTS of veteran rugby league photographer Col Whelan’s retirement were greatly exaggerated last year. The NRL weren’t quite ready to take over Col’s operation and he went around in 2014 for one last season – wearing a South Sydney cap to every game. NRL rules prohibit media from wearing club merchandise but the media areas are full of uniformed club staff posting on social media, an inconsistency the irascible snapper sought to highlight. At fulltime on grand final day in the bunnies rooms, players became concerned Col had stopped shooting. He was crying with happiness. At the Red and Green ball, Whelan presented every player with a disc containing 120 photos of their life-defining triumph. What a way to go out – enjoy your retirement, Col.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

Nathan Brown Slams Wigan Props

Brown, NathanBy STEVE MASCORD

OUTSPOKEN Nathan Brown has issued a World Club Challenge warning to Sydney Roosters: Wigan’s props are cheap shot merchants.
The St Helens boss and former St George Illawarra coach made the comment yesterday after his new signing, former Penrith half Luke Walsh, finished his first night as a Super League player in hospital undergong x-rays for a possible facial fracture after a late challenge from Wigan’s Welsh giant Ben Flower.
The 28-16 Wigan win at Langtree Park also marked the English debuts of North Queensland icon Matt Bowen and former South Sydney and Wests Tigers forward Eddy Pettybourne.
“He got hit in the head – without the ball. You know that’s going to happen when you play Wigan” said a fuming Brown.
“That’s standard with their front rowers. It happened to Gaz O’Brien last year.”
Brown was otherwise complimentary to the side who will meet the Roosters at Allianz Stadium on February 22, calling them “effective”, “fluid” and “terrific”. The starting props in Sydney are likely to be Flower and Scott Taylor with Pettybourne off the bench.
New signing Jordan James, a former Royal Marine, will push Gil Dudson for the final bench spot.
That’s if Flower, 26, escapes the wrath of the judiciary. Walsh played on after the 70th-minute hit and was taken straight to a local hospital for scans. Results were still unavailable at the time of writing.
Pettybourne, who played for the United States in the World Cup, had fans chanting his name after a couple of big hits off the interchange bench. “He’s got good footwork and a hit on him,” said coach Shaun Wane.
“There’s a few technical things EP can work on. He’ll get better.”
Bowen had few oppotunities, St Helens scoring one try after the Cowboys star lost the ball in a tackle. He was replaced at halftime.
“That was always the plan,” said Wane, joking: “He’s the same age as me.”
In Friday’s other pre-season game, Leeds flogged London 68-10 at Headingley.

Filed for: SUN HERALD

TRAVELS: V

TravelsBy STEVE MASCORD

THE old ‘Aussie take on the British game” routine has been done to death over the years – but I’m sure it’s what you’re expecting from me this week.

Since about 1970, Australian media types have been talking down their noses at British players, administrators and supporters about what has to be done to “fix’ the game here.

The fact is, it’s become such a cliché that it no longer seems to carry much weight. You just shrug and go watch your team this weekend like you always have.

Last weekend, I went to three games: Leeds-Hull, St Helens-Hudderfield and London-Widnes. I thought the middle one was compelling, the others had different flaws as spectacles.

Let me say off the bat that I love Super League. I sit up and listen to commentaries online on a Sunday night at home and tweet scores –that’s how much I love it.

I love the ball movement, I love the sense of adventure and the risk taking and I love the crowds who make the audiences at home seem like they are painted onto their seats.

No-one has sent me here for the first month of the season. Sure I pick up some work doing the World Club Challenge but I cannot think of a better place in the world to be right now than here, watching three games a week.

So if I must do the old “Aussie preaching to poms” routine, let it be known that I am not approaching the issue from a perspective of arrogant distance.

Leeds remains a true hotbed for rugby league, up there with Brisbane and Wigan. Game night is compelling and uplifting and the Rhinos are a great team to watch, with Ryan Bailey the perfect pantomime villain.

Now Hull, to me, do not look the part at all – and Gareth Ellis’ presence would have made no difference to the result on Friday.

They seem to lack penetration and play off the top of their heads. It’s hard to see them joining the top echelon of Super League sides this season.

Huddersfield on Saturday played like an NRL side – an NRL side with a point to prove. Please, don’t tell me playing against a coach who left you for “greener pastures” the previous year is not a motivator.

This is the sort of situation I see time and again as a rugby league writer. Players deny being motivated by factors that are as plain as the nose on Laurie Daley’s face and mock us as cynics for suggesting such a thing – and years later in their biographies admit we were 100 per cent right.

Whereas Friday night’s floggings were bad for rugby league, this one was good for the comp (sorry Saints fans) and injected much interest in this weekend’s Widnes-Saints game.

Which brings us to Sunday’s events at The Stoop.

I found it to be a rather depressing afternoon all round. The main reason, perhaps, is outlined in the item below but the 2800-odd crowd and dismal performance of the Broncos made it a particularly downbeat occasion.

On one hand, we want London to spend up the salary cap and be competitive. On the other, we seen tiny crowds like this come through the turnstiles. You don’t need to be a genius to work out that one of these things will continue at the expense of the other.

You can talk all you like about them playing at the wrong venue. London are like Melbourne – they are in hostile/apathetic markets and must ALWAYS be competitive (challenging for titles) to be a success.

In Australia, the AFL signed Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau and then just gave them to expansion clubs. I know it would never be tolerated in the north but maybe the only answer for London is for the RFL to adopt a similar policy with the Broncos.

I know Red Hall has had its funding cut and is laying off people but at some stage they have to revisit central contracting and take dramatic, unusual measures to help London – as the AFL did for its missionary franchises. Yes, I know the culture is different here and you are still getting your heads around salary caps and play-offs but we have to do SOMETHING.

As an  outsider, it is obvious to me that rugby league needs a team in London. But what we have IS not is not working. Another Aussie example (sorry) – the A-league soccer body founding itself running some of the teams in its own league to prevent them collaPsing.

OK, end of arrogant, ignorant sermon. I hope you found my thoughts interesting, even if you didn’t agree with any of them. I just figured I had to write about the first round of Super League this week.

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I was having a beer with my friend Howard Scott in the main grandstand at The Stoop on Sunday when I received one of the worst phone calls of my life.

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Super League round one: HUDDERSFIELD 40 ST HELENS 4 at Langtree Park

By STEVE MASCORD

FORMER Australia forward Luke O’Donnell won’t confirm or deny asking his English club for a release and says he’s unsure of the extent of Sydney Roosters’ interest in him.

But his Huddersfield coach is surprised by reports that the Bondi Junction outfit is clearing salary cap space in the hope of signing O’Donnell for this season.

Roosters recruitment manager Peter O’Sullivan confirmed the club’s interest. O’Donnell has a year to run at Huddersfield, with a further season’s option.

“There was a little bit of interest there, they spoke to my manager – I think – at the end of last year,” O’Donnell told the Herald at Langtree Park after helping the Giants stun St Helens 40-4 yesterday.

“I don’t know if it’s anything to do with that.

“If they’ve spoken to my manager …. In the last couple of days, I’m not too sure. My manager wouldn’t want to mention too much to me before my first game.

“That’s all news to me. Like I said, there was a little bit of interest there but it hasn’t developed too much more than that.

“I don’t know if someone has pre-empted something happening but nothing is happening as yet.”

Asked if he had asked the Giants for a release, O’Donnell answered: “I can’t really say anything.

“While I’m here, I’m just focused on playing well for the Giants and that’s it. Whatever happens, happens.”

Told of the report, Huddersfield coach Paul Anderson said: “Who’s come up with that?

“Did he look like he wanted a release there (tonight)?”

Asked if O’Donnell was going anywhere, Anderson replied: “Not as we’re stood here at the minute.”

Rooster Tom Symonds is reportedly heading in the opposite direction, with a Super League stint this year on the cards.

Yesterday’s result was a major shock, coming as it did in coach Nathan Brown’s first match in charge of St Helens after leaving Huddersfield in contentious circumstances last season.

Huddersfield fans sung “what’s the score, Browny, what’s the score” throughout the second half.

Meanwhile, Hull captain Gareth Ellis’ foot injury is not as bad as first feared, the club announced. Ellis was hurt in the warm-up for his Hull debut on Friday night and feared being sidelined for six months.

Former Wests Tiger Ellis will have scans on his injured foot early this week.

HUDDERSFIELD 40 (L Cudjoe 2 J McGillvary B Ferres L Patrick L George S Lunt tries D Brough 5 S Grix goals) bt ST HELENS 4 (S Flanagan try). Referee: R Silverwood. Crowd: 12,003

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

LIVE BLOG:

FULLTIME: Last night we were decrying 72-odd points of deficit on the first night of the season. But tonight’s deficit is a different thing – because the rank underdogs were on the right end of it. And then there was the intrigue with it being the first game in charge of Saints for Nathan Brown, who had moved from Huddersfield in the off-season. Danny Brough sat out most of the second half through injury and watch his team-mates continue the slaughter. A stunning result and a real worry for St Helens fans.

78 mins: You missed Leroy Cudjoe pouncing on a loose ball to score, Steve Ganson clearing Jermain McGilvry of a knock-on in the lead-up, and Mark Flanagan finally crossing for Saints. 4-40.

62  min: This afternoon Shaun Lunt was spruiking  his website on Twitter, promoting a tipping competition. It’s doubtful any of his disciples tipped this. He just scrambled over from the scrumbase. Thank God they weren’t playing under the experiemental rule where the attacking side has an extra man in that circumstance. BTW it’s freezing. 0-36.

56 min: This is a dead-set rout. Jason Chan centre-kicks for Larne Patrick to score after an in-goal mix-up from Saints defenders. Huddersfield fans are chanting “Browny, what’s the score? Browny, Browny”. Grix goals this time. 0-32.

50 min: Players are often slow to start the second half – and so are bloggers. But no such problem for Danny Br0ugh, whose cutout pass put Luke George over in the corner a short time ago. No idea why Scott grix took the (unsuccessful) conversion attempt. 0-26

HALFTIME: Huddersfield 22 St Helens 0. This is one of the classic examples in rugby league of players having a powerful reason to achieve a result – only to (inevitably) deny it played any role at all. Nathan Brown left Hudderfield last year to join St Helens, and was then given the bum’s rush early. Tonight, his former club is giving him the rounds of the kitchen at halftime in a stunning performance, with four tries in Brown’s home coaching debut. Danny Brough, Luke Robinson, Brett Ferres, Scott Grix all outstanding. Brough added a penalty right on halftime. Obviously … big deficit for Saints to claw back.

31 min: They’re in again! Great lead-up work from Robinson and Scott Grix before Leroy Cudjoe steps inside the cover defence to dot down one-handed without a defender’s touch. Brough goals. Big upset looming. 0-20.

29 min: Mystifying call by video referee Steve Ganson. Luke Robinson studiously avoided lettin the ball touch the turf running out of his own in-goal but Ganson rules a dropout against the Giants. They hold Saints out. 0-14.

27 min: Lovely fella Sia Soliola but he definitely got Luke Robinson late there. Richard Silverwood had ruled “play on” but recanted, with Brough missing a penalty shot from 30 m out. Hit the woodwork. As you were. Saints look to have the chops to pierce Huddersfield at any time but can’t hold the ball. The Giants are showing no sign of dropping in intensity.0-14

15 min: This time Brough goes for goal, at 12-0. It’s not an easy shot but it’s good. Someone just Tweeted “Saints fans want Brown out already!” Stuart Fielden looks as commanding as he has been in half a decade. 0-14.

10  min: Wow. Very simple try to Brett Ferres through some threadbare defence and Brough converts. Apparently Huddersfield have not won in the town of St Helens since 1978. To what extent to we think the Giants are motivated by Nathan Brown’s decision to quit the club? 0-12.

8 min:  Should Danny Brough have gone for goal there? Play broke down after he opted for a tap. BTW, this year you’re allowed a quick 22 tap if you are the bloke who caught it. 0-6

5 min: Great to see France-Is-Smelly (conceived in a Paris sewer) in action again. Willie Manu’s fumble allows Jermaine McGilivray to score the first points of the match for the Giants, Danny Brough converting from in front. Despite the mistake, Manu looks dangerous. 0-6.

Pre-kickoff: Good evening everyone. I actually th0ught this game was at 5.45pm – lucky I was two hours early, thinking I was three. Wondered why those team sheets were provided so promptly – most unlike modern coaches! Superb day in Merseyside, clear skies, a little chilly, and unfortunately too many empty seats. Teams are on the field. Interesting song over the PA: “You Fill Up My Senses”. John Denver? There should be a public safety warning about the new refs’ uniforms. I’m sure they have the same effect as strobe lighting.

Final team lists:

SAINTS: Paul Wellens; Tommy Makinson, Jordan Turner, Josh Jones, Francis Meli; Lee Gaskell, Jonny Lomax; Willie Manu, Jon Wilkin, Sia Soliolo, Anthony Laffranchi, James Roby, Josh Perry. Res: Lance Hohaia, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Tony Puletua, Mark Flanagan.

HUDDERSFIELD: Scott Grix; Luke George, Leroy Cudjoe, Joe Wardle, Jermaine McGillivray; Danny Brough (c), Luke Robinson; Luke O’Donnell, Jason Chan, Brett Ferres, Craig Kopczak, Shaun Lunt, Stuart Fielden. Res: Eorl Crabtree, David Faiumu, Larne Patrick, Jamie Cording.

Halftime: Huddersfield 22-0

THE WRAP: NRL Finals 2012: Week Two

By STEVE MASCORD

FOR James Graham, not making a grand final would be an unsettling break with routine.

Playing with mighty St Helens, the 27-year-old Canterbury forward has appeared in the last six successive grand finals going into his rematch with compatriot Sam Burgess ion Saturday night – where he hopes to secure his place in a seventh.

St Helens have not missed an appointment with Old Trafford since 2005. They’ve won just once in that time, however, with Wigan and Leeds getting the better of them on the other occasions.

But as an average margin of 30 points on the first weekend of the Super League play-offs last weekend illustrated, there are big differences between the competitions at this time of year.

“The hype around the game in Australia compared to the game in England is huge,” says Burgess, who clashed with Graham when they last met in round 13.

“There’s a big build-up, it feels like a big game … it’s a huge pinnacle in the sport.

“It’s big back home but Australia just pips it. Finals football, it’s the talk of everyone when it’s on.

“(Saturday) was one of the most vocal crowds I’ve seen in three years here.”

By comparison with Graham’s eternally successful Bulls, Burgess’ former club Bradford has been at death’s door this year. The Bulls last featured in a grand final the last year St Helens missed out – 2005.

Speaking on radio at the weekend, Burgess said the decision of new coach Michael Maguire (formerly of Wigan) to stop talk of history, premierships to keep show buiness at a distance has made a difference on the field/

“I think to some extent it does,” Burgess told the ABC. “We’re certainly aware of the history and great tradition at the club.

“We’vr got history timelines up at our training ground at the club … but Michael’s approach is we just focus on the week in front and the only thing we can control is our performance and preparation.

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