If You Could Change One Rule In Rugby League, What Would It Be?


“THAT’s a REALLY good question,” says James Graham, late one Friday night after Canterbury match at Homebush.

“It’s a tough one. What have people been saying? Um, yeah, I don’t want to waste this. What about ‘no rules’? Huh! Just go out and play. Do whatever. No rules at all.

“Nah, I’ll thinking of something. Get back to me.”

Rule changes are the issue du jour in rugby league, with many people up in arms – no pun intended – about the recent shoulder charge ban.

Should any rule interpretations change mid-season? Should the players have a say? We asked a host of NRL and Super League stars what rules they hated, and what changes they would make if they could.

We never did get the British Bulldog’s answer. Ask hif if you see him around.

Please note that most of this survey was done before the shoulder charge blitz. Tell us which rule you’d change by Tweeting and including @Leagueweek and #myrulechange.

Now, over to the stars….


Campo reckons just touching the ball in a tackle does not make the Campese, Terrydefender guilty of being a dirty stripper.

“The strip,” he answered quickly when we put our query to him. “Some of them, you’re in contact where you’re trying to wrap it up and you touch it and they call it a strip. They’ve got to put more onus on the guy carrying the ball. “

This was an issue when David Shillington was recently sent off for a headbutt in his 200th game. He had dropped the ball. Rival Robbie Farah admitted he had a hand on it the tackle, arguing that Shillington is “a compulsive offloadeer” and should expect nothing less.


Ball stealing and consistency

What gives “Toots” the poo-poos during a football game? “Most Jarrod Crokerthings give me the shits, mate. Ball stripping … I’ve seen them go to the scrum, looking at the big screen and blow a penalty. So, there’s a bit of inconsistency there. That’s only me saying that as well, because it cost us some momentum. I don’t watch a heap of footy. Just a bit of consistency all-round. There’s been a bit of talk of the captain’s challenge. I’ll admit I’m probably not a fan of that. It just slows the game down too much I reckon. The obstruction one still gets thrown around a lot. It’s not so much the rules, it’s consistency.” We hear you, brother.

Halatau, DeneDENE HALATAU (Wests Tigers)


The NRL were backed into a corner earlier this season by a spate of players staying on the ground, bringing in the video referee and giving their team-mates a spell. Now, the video referee can only intervene over a high tackle if the incident is likely to result in a judiciary charge. Diving has taken a dive but old hand Dene Halatau reckons it’s still an issue.

“Staying on the ground, yeah,” he says. “You don’t want it to turn into soccer, eh? You don’t like seeing someone get hit illegally but if they bounce back up you also feel like they’re doing something tough by getting up. They’re not trying to milk a penalty. But if someone is injured, you don’t want them to getup unnecessarily.”

ETHAN LOWE (North Queensland)

Number of referees

ONE referee was a big hit with NRL fans during the representative Lowe, Etthanweekend this year – but that doesn’t mean it’s coming back. Some players, however, would like it to.

“I get a bit annoyed with the two referee thing. One is telling you to move, the other one is telling you you’ve got more time. That’s a bit frustrating. You don’t know who to listen to. But it’s up to people above me to make those sorts of decisions. “

It certainly is – and they’re sticking with two.

EORL CRABTREE (Huddersfield)

Crabtree, EorlInconsistency

It’s pretty clear what ticks off Big Eorl during a rugby league game – refs in general.

“Interpretation is a weird word, isn’t it, in terms of it all being up the referee. Sometimes they make decisions that are unbelievable, mind-boggling. I don’t think those decisions are … it’s just a case of consistency. I don’t know how you can get (inconsistency) out of the game. It’s human nature. Humans make mistakes. It’s just the way it is.”

advertise hereGARETH ELLIS (Hull)

Ellis, GarethThe play-the ball

Gaz Ellis is an old school rugby league man. His pet peeve is based on principles and etiquette.

“You know what really gripes me? People not playing the ball properly. That’s what defines our game, between rugby league and rugby union – the play-the-ball. So it’s a skill we should learn properly. I don’t mind if there’s an attempt but if it’s just thrown back, it gets on my nerves a little bit.”


Seven tackles

LIchha, MichaelOher players are less idealistic in the rules they would change. They want live to be made a little easier for them – and having to tackle for longer after kicking the ball dead is not, in any way, Michael Lichaa’s cup of tea.

“Seven tackles – it’s a killer – when the ball goes dead. Sometimes it just goes dead and they get seven. I think the people who made that rule up aren’t out there playing it because it’s already fast enough. When you’ve got the ball and you get the seven tackles, it’s nice. But … the rule’s gonna be there but it sucks when you’ve got to run back there and D up.”

JAKE MARKETO (St George Illawarra)

Play-the-ball and offside

Marketo, JakeAnd then there are the men who would use their magic wand to stop the refs penalising them. Just their team, do what you like to the rest….

“The play-the-ball is the most annoying. People do that every game., If you pinged on one of those things, it’s a bit rare. I mean, I hate when we get penalised for off-side, late in in a set. You’ve busted your backside for four or five tackles and then that happens coming out of yardage. That’s hard to cop. You can’t change that one. You’ve just got to play by the rules I suppose.”

JASON NIGHTINGALE (St George Illawarra)

Captain’s Call

Likewise, the Dragons winger wants a captain’s challenge – but only

St George Illawarra - Jason Nightingale 2

when he is captain.

“When I’m captain, I’d like a captain’s challenge. When I see the 20s do it, I get jealous. I always thing I’m right! I would have got Dylan Farrell a try when we played the Roosters. I’d put in a captain’s challenge … just for selfish reasons. It’s me thinking I know everything and wanting to try and change the ref’s decision. I try and argue but I don’t have power in that area yet.”


DISCORD 2009: Edition 6


A COUPLE of weeks ago, British league legend Mike Stephenson let a pretty staggering development seep out onto the world, in the middle of his weekly magazine column.

Stevo wrote in Rugby League Express that he knew of two Leeds businessmen who wanted to enter a team in the NRL. Not a team based anywhere near Australia or New Zealand, mind you.

No, they want to enter a team in the NRL based in Leeds.

“These guys are friends of mine and I would be loathe to identify them,’’ Stephenson told me when I called him at the weekend.

“Their aim is to make the England team stronger and they believe the way to do that is to have a team in the best competition, like New Zealand now has.’’

Stevo went on to say that in his mind the proposal was a near impossibility. But is it? Couldn’t a team playing alternatively in Yorkshire and Lancashire play a month of home games, and then play a month of away games?

Isn’t the travel time that teams have between, say, Christchurch and Durban in the Super 14 about the same as Sydney to Manchester? Couldn’t the teams about to play them be scheduled for the previous Friday night, and the teams who have just returned be given an MNF game?

And how much money would the television rights generate? My God! The NRL would surely salivate at it. Of course, the Rugby Football League would kick up a huge stink – just as the Queensland Rugby League did when the Broncos came in – about the local competition being devalued.

RFL chief executive Nigel Wood told us nothing had come across his desk.

We also called David Gallop to ask if he had heard anything. He hadn’t. We asked him that if he was to receive an approach, would protocol require him to advise the RFL and get their permission, or would they just be another consortium like Central Queensland or the Central Coast Bears.

He declined to speculate. Tell us what you think.


I’M not sure if sharks have backs but the Reni Maitua drugs positive should have just about broken Cronulla’s.

They are broke. They have lost $150,000 in sponsorship. They are running last. Their major sponsor is about to pull out. They are at the centre of the year’s biggest off-field scandal.

Here’s what I think. The best option for the game is that they relocate somewhere – Central Queensland, the Sunshine Coast, Adelaide, Perth or Wellington. There’s up to (and maybe more than) $12 million in it for them.

Discord t-shirtBut the best option for the club is to merge. Gallop has admitted the merger incentives are still on the table. That way, they get to play half their home games at Cronulla.

Who, dear reader, should Cronulla merge with?

Gallop would not speculate on whether they would get any money for forming a joint-joint venture with St George Illawarra. Surely, though, the idea would have crossed Peter Doust’s mind.

But the right partner for Cronulla would be a team that doesn’t mind giving away it’s home games already. That team, for me, is the Bulldogs. Even the colours are a decent match.

Dogs CEO Todd Greenberg has said Cronulla should be considering a merger – but has discounted his club from involvement. We’ll see.

That, of course, would leave us one team short in 2010. I asked David Gallop if he had already worked on a contingency plan for fast-tracking a new team into the premiership.

He said ‘no’.


IT was disappointing to see my favourite player, Terry Campese, not take on the defensive line himself at all on Monday night.

I want to see a fellow who plays with a smile on his face test himself at State Of Origin level but it seems unlikely he will get a shot in the first game of the series after a tentative display against Melbourne.

With John Sutton injured, my choice for the Blues at five-eighth is Trent Barrett. He’s looking a bit battered at the moment and claims he needs the split rounds to recover, given his advanced years!

But he is a determined competitor and has the physical presence to bolster NSW’s defence.


I’VE left the Matthew Johns imbroglio alone this week but I want to thank everyone who commented on last week’s column.

In many ways it is good to get some of these issues out in the open instead of leaving them behind bedroom doors. I think “broadminded’’ people need reminding how conservative others are and – perhaps more importantly – vice versa.

And I notice that my comments about legal action for defamation may actually become reality. What a terrible court case that would be for all involved….

BONDI BEAT: January 2015

December 2014By STEVE MASCORD

ROB Peter to pay Paul. Give with the left hand and take with the right. Better the devil you know.

Rugby league has always loved clichés and as the Australian authorities belatedly look at rationalising their fixture list and recognising the importance of international football, Bondi Beat is put in mind of these three in particular.

The NRL believes it can attract more than A$2 billion for its next television deal, if it offers networks the same thing it currently peddles.

One problem though: it wants to change what it is flogging. Six weeks of the club season are wrecked by State of Origin, with clubs not having access to their own players and the great flowing rapids of NRL interest slowing to a trickling stream which is not easily replenished when it’s all over. Attendances are a worry.

Players are so concerned about burnout they told Great Britain to stay home in 2015, as any reader of this column would be all too aware.

On the other hand, the Auckland Nines make a fortune and the Rugby League International Federation wants to set up its own equivalent to make money between World Cups.

The World Club Challenge has become the World Club Series. The Four Nations were an unexpected success, with the highest aggregate attendance despite there being no games in Sydney or Auckland.

Samoa have emerged to such an extent that the “Pacific Test” on the representative weekend next year is likely to be a double-header.

State of Origin continues to be a universe unto itself, smashing television, sponsorship and attendance records. In 2015, it returns to Melbourne.

But the club season, and the endless churn of programming over 30 weeks, pays the bills. Rugby league is art; broadcasting is commerce. And if the season is going to be shortened to make space for new offshoots of our game to grow, then it won’t be worth A$4 billion anymore.

amazonSo the NRL needs to make what games are on offer more lucrative. They have a very specific formula for how much the rights are worth – and these figures are based on audience size and the asking price of advertising.

Some of the ideas for making the existing NRL matches more valuable, so we can make as much money from fewer of them, have been around for a while.

One has been to insert a 30 second pause before line dropouts are taken, giving us another advert. Another is to revert to the mid-week cup format of four-quarter football (Ian Heads’ excellent new book The Night The Music Died outlines how the 1974 Western Division side made the most of the extra two breaks).

These ideas have been around for a while.

Colleague Phil Rothfield of the Daily Telegraph recently uncovered a couple of other kites flow inside the Competitions Committee room. One was making each quarter go for 25 minutes, lengthening the entire TV programme as well as the opportunity to insert commercials.

Another would be the use of eight interchange players.

Most rugby league fans want the Australians to take international football seriously, and to expand their competition.

But is fiddling with the rules a) at all or b) to the extent detailed above a price worth paying? Tell me on Twitter at @BondiBeat what your choice would be if it was between the NRL remaining isolated and a more progressive outlook, but with big rule changes.

American Football tailored itself for television and the NFL became the biggest club competition the world has ever seen. Personally, I think four quarters is a no-brainer. It gives us more revenue, it has been successfully trialled before and its impact on the fabric of the game is, while significant, still acceptable.

A 30 second break at every break in play eliminates one of the biggest advantages we have over our rivals – continuity. A 30 second break at line dropouts gives tiring defences too much time to regroup and meddles too much.

Extra interchanges make us too much like basketball and the NFL and further erodes the element of fatigue and therefore bravery. I’m against it.

But I’m willing to accept that maybe the NRL can take a constructive leadership role in the evolution of our rules. It’s quite possible they can’t, and their actions will be mainly destructive, but I still have an open mind.

Tell me what you think.


THE Rugby League International Federation search for a CEO is becoming a little farcical.

After being turned down by former IRB chief Mike Miller, it’s my understanding they’ve also failed in a bid for premiership-winning South Sydney chief executive Shane Richardson.

Richardson may be looking for a new challenge after being the first club chief in Premiership history to win titles at two clubs but the RLIF could not get their act together in time to convince him it was a good idea to take up the post.

Bondi Beat is hearing mutterings of financial complications in the bid to set up a fulltime office. It’s all very sad – and the NRL has clearly decided to do its own thing in the Pacific by pairing development programmes with foreign aid from the Australian government.

The RLIF has lost its tax-exempt status and wants it back


AS usual, it’s been a poor off-season for the game when it comes to player misbehaviour.

South Sydney’s Kirisome Auva’a was banned for nine months after the court finally dealt with his domestic abuse allegations, Greg Bird was charged with urinating on a police car (which he denies) on the first day of his honeymoon, and John Hopoate’s son Jamil was jailed for a serious assault.

That’s just off the top of my head.

The NRL continues to be criticised for inconsistently dealing with the these offences – but they are all different. I’m not sure what the answer is.


TERRY Campese is one of my favourite players and I’ll be cheering him to make a big impression at the KC Lightstream Stadium.

donateYou know what’s sad? That he missed last year’s World Cup for Italy, for whom he could have made a massive impression, to prepare for a season which finished in him being nudged towards the door in Canberra.

Last year I predicted Matt Bowen to be a sensation in Super League and it took a while for him to warm up – so I’ll be more circumspect in my predictions regarding Campo.

But he will be one of the most talented handful of players in the competition in 2015. The only question is whether injury allows him to show it.

Please check out my podcast, White Line Fever, by searching that title on itunes.


Storm Could Start Doubting Themselves, Says Campese

Canberra - Terry CampeseBy STEVE MASCORD
CANBERRA captain Terry Campese has predicted self-doubt could creep in for the out-of-sorts Melbourne Storm if the Raiders hold them out for the opening 20 minutes of their crucial clash.
The Storm arrived in the capital late Saturday hoping to end a two match losing streak and right their premiership defence. While Melbourne have won 10 of their last 11 games at Canberra Stadium, the Green Machine hasn’t been beaten there all year.
“The main focus for us … will be the first 20 minutes,” five-eighth Campese said at training on Saturday.
“If we can match it with them in the first 20, hopefully they start asking themselves a few questions and that’s when we can get on top of them.
“That’s when young Tony Milford and players like that, like Reecey (Robinson) come into their own and can hopefully create some havoc in the middle.”
Campese, who turns 29 on Sunday, predicted the premiers and world champions would be “fired up”.
“They’ve lost two in a row and it’s definitely unlike Melbourne to be in this kind of slump,” he said. “I know Craig Bellamy will have them at their best.”
But Canberra aren’t just hoping for victory, which would leave them just one competition point behind the Storm. David Furner’s side has its sights on a top four finish – even though they have arguably the toughest run of any of the teams around them.
“We’ve got a tough run home – I think everyone we play’s in the top eight (plus the Warriors)… top four’s our main focus,” he said. “You get a home semi-final and if you lose, you get another week.”
Canberra could be further boosted by the late inclusions of centre Jack Wighton (groin) and prop Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (foot).
“Close, very close,” Furner said when asked about the chances of the pair playing. “Tommy and Jacko are going to do a bit of warm-up.”
But controversial NSW Origin star Blake Ferguson will not be playing a role. He played NSW Cup on Saturday.
phonto (1)“The team’s been going well, Fergo said to me after the game last week he was underdone,” Furner explained. “And even in the fitness during the week….I know he’s been doing some alternative training in those four or five weeks but …..
“I expect a good showing for the following week. I watched his game … there’s some areas there he needs to work on. It’s just about match fitness.”
Storm coach Craig Bellamy, meanwhile, says assistant Kevin Walters will definitely stay on untol the end of the season, regardless of whether he is appointed as Neil Henry’s replacement at North Queensland.
“We do things a little bit differently than in the AFL,” said Bellamy. “I’m not going to cut off my nose to spite my face.
“Kevvy’s does a good job and and is an important part of what we do here.”
Teams for the match, which kicks off at Canberra Stadium at 2.05pm, are:
CANBERRA: Anthony Milford; Reece Robinson, Jarrod Croker, Joel Thompson, Sandor Earl; Terry Campese ©, Josh McCrone; Shaun Fensom, Joel Edwards, Josh Papalii, Dane Tilse, Glen Buttriss, David Shillington. Res: Shaun Berrigan, Jarrad Kennedy, Brett White, Paul Vaughan.
MELBOURNE: Billy Slater; Sisa Waqa, Will Chambers, Maurice Blair, Justin O’Neill; Brett Finch, Cooper Cronk; Ryan Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hoffman, Kevin Proctor, Bryan Norrie, Cameron Smith ©, Jesse Bromwich. Res: Jason Ryles, Tohu Harris, Siosia Vave, Slade Griffin .
Referees: Jared Maxwell/Gavin Morris.

Filed for: SUNDAY AGE


Campese Confident Of Being Fit For Origin


CANBERRA captain Terry Campese last night insisted he was still in the running for Origin I despite being carried off with a left knee injury halfway through Brisbane’s convincing Suncorp Stadium victory.

There were initially fears for the former Australia five-eighth’s immediate future when he collapsed as Broncos half Corey Norman scored the first of his two tries in a 30-6 win.

But not only was Campese confident late last night there had been no cruciate ligament damage but he said he may not even miss any club games as a result of the mishap.

“We’ve got the bye next week luckily and hopefully it’s just a bit of rest and I’ll be right to play the Sharks,” Campese said.

“It didn’t feel the best out on the field. I’ve just come off hoping it was a medial strain and maybe some meniscus but we’ll know when we have the scan on Monday.”

Campese said the fact there was more pain than previous knee injuries was regarded by medical experts as a good sign. “All the pain is on my medial side so that’s good,” he said.

Coach David Furner defended the decision to play Campese after he had his knee drained during the week. Although the decision to use him was taken on Thursday, Sam Williams travelled to Brisbane as a standby.

Campese said: “I just had a bit of swelling on it during the week but all that went away. I just had the strapping there for caution. Yesterday’s session, (I was) 100 per cent. I didn’t even feel it at all. Just before I hurt it late in that first half, it was feeling really good, feeling 100 per cent.

“It was just one of those things.

“It didn’t swell up today. We had the plane ride yesterday. None of that aggravated it.”

Campese’s rivals for the NSW no.6 shirt – including St George Illawarra’s Jamie Soward, the Warriors’ James Maloney and Cronulla’s Todd Carney – will get the chance to impress state coach Ricky Stuart by being available for selection for City-Country next weekend.

But Brisbane’s Peter Wallace will not, having been ruled out of last night’s game and the Mudgee rep match with a groin injury.

Furner said of Campese: “The week before, he had a little bit of clicking. I wouldn’t push a player (to play) if he didn’t want to. He was quite happy to … he looked pretty good at the start.

“We’re pretty confident it’s not major or anything like that. It might just need a clean-out. Whether something’s floating around, we’re not sure.”

Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin said he expected fullback Josh Hoffman to be named in the New Zealand side, where he is vying with Kevin Locke for the no.1 jersey.

“I would be (surprised if he is left out),” said Griffin. “He’s been in terrific form and I think he would have been the halfback last year but through injury. He deserves that spot, he’s earnt it.”

Broncos captain Sam Thaiday also backed Ben Hannant’s claims for a green and gold jersey while Griffin reckoned Matt Gillett – the creator of a magnificent try assist last night – should challenge for an Australian bench spot.

“The utility value might help him – the fact he can place centre, back row, front row, that might sneak him onto the bench,” said Griffin. “over the seven weeks, his form will give him some consideration.”