FAR & WIDE: United States, Malta, Norway, Czech Republic, Jamaica, Canada, Wales, Germany, Thailand

Far & WideBy STEVE MASCORD
JACKSONVILLE Axemen have been the outstanding team of American rugby league for the last decade but they were toppled in the USARL grand final a couple of weekends back.
Northern Conference champions Philadelphia Fight took out the big one 42-20 at Boston University after eliminating the local club the previous week.
The Fight finished the season undefeated.
The US has announced a clash with Canada at Wilmington, Delaware on October 1.
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FORMER Penrith and Celtic Crusaders star Jarrod Sammut has been named in Malta’s squad for the upcoming internationals against Ireland and Thailand.
The Ireland game is in Bray on October 8, the Thailand match in Chiang Mai on October 28. The Knights will have different coaches for each match.

NORDIC Cup winners Norway are about to put their pride on the line with an away international against the Czech Republic.
The match will take place at RLC Dragons Krupka Stadium on September 24 (4pm kick-off if you’re thinking of going.
The sides last met three years ago, with Norway winning 26-14 in Oslo.
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JAMAICA and Canada have met in the first youth international for each team.
The Canadians won the Under 17s game 24-4 in Kingston.
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SOUTH Wales Scorpions have been rebranded South Wales Ironmen and the club’s new CEO is a former rugby union international, Lee Byrne who wants to pilot the team into Super League.
A number of Scorpions/Ironmen players have been named in the Welsh side which is about to embark on a tour of Germany.
@RLWfarandwide

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

FAR & WIDE: Number One 2015

Far & WideBy STEVE MASCORD
TOP flight rugby league is kicking off early, and in unusual surrounds, this Sunday when Leeds play the United States Pioneers at the University of Northern Florida in Jacksonville.
The Rhinos have been to Florida for pre-season camps three times previously. On this occasion, they have brought in several players from their new sister club in the US, the Atlanta Rhinos, to train with them.
The really historic aspect of the game is that this is the first time the Pioneers are taking the field as the official representatives of the governing body in the US, following the collapse of the AMNRL.
It was the AMNRL that sent the Tomahawks to the 2013 World Cup. The USARL has taken over the running of the national side.
The Rhinos have taken a number of supports with them for the game. Kick-off is at 2pm local time.
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FRENCH Federation president Carlos Zalduendo was recently part of a government delegation – headed by president François Hollande, to Australia.
donateAfter returning from the trip, Zalduendo declared his intention to strengthen his federation’s ties to the Pacific.
“We want to work again with New Caledonia, where we had a presence less than ten years ago, involved in player, coach and referee development,” Zalduendo said.
“This could be an excellent way to bring New Caledonia closer not only to its South Pacific neighbours.”
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ANOTHER big event coming up is the Reconciliation Nines in Redcliffe on January 24 and 25.
Thailand is the only international side currently taking part and they are looking for recruits. Hit them up on Facebook for details.
amazonThere’s another Nines tournament coming up in Mexico in February.
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DANNY Brough was recently voted Scotland’s player of the year.
The Huddersfield Giant continues to choose the Bravehearts over England – and the SRL continues to be grateful. Gold Coast’s Luke Douglas was the 2013 winner of the award.

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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

THE JOY OF SIX: International Season week one

The Joy Of SixBy STEVE MASCORD

1. WHAT IN THE WORLD?

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.

2. INS AND OUTS

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.

3. PACIFIC PRINCES

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!

4. THAIS HAVE LEGS

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.

5. SMALL WORLD

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.

6. AMERICAN CIVIL WAR CONTINUES

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.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

FAR & WIDE: Number 43

Far & WideBy STEVE MASCORD

BUMMED out because you’re not going to the World Cup? Never fear: there is a big day of international footy coming up in Sydney, with seven games at the same venue on the same day!

Lebanon will take on a Fijian combination made up of non-RLWC players at Club Italia, Lansvale, on October 19. The countries will also meet at under 18s, Under 16s and Under 20 levels and we’ll also have Malta playing Italy in an age group yet to be determined.

The remaining game will involve NSW junior representative teams and complete pretty much the longest day of football Far & Wide can remember.

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JACKSON Hastings, son of Kevin who Sydney Roosters recruitment manager Peter O’Sullivan chased so hard, will be halfback for the Australian Schoolboys when the play New Zealand Under 18 Residents in Auckland this Saturday.

The game, to be played at 12.45pm (local time) at Bert Henham Park Mount Wellington, is an attempt to reward Kiwi kids who stay at home rather than join Australian clubs.

The sides played an earlier Test on Monday in Whangerei.

Australia’s Sione Matautia is the third brother from that family to represent the schoolboys, emulating the efforts of Shane, Ben and Chris Walker.

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TIME to get around the various state grand finals in Australia.

In South Australia, Centrals are the Division One winners after beating Norths 28-16 in the decider earlier this month. Well done boys.

In Western Australia, it was the North Beach Sea Eagles who lifted the trophy. They beat minor premiers Freemantle 16-8 in the wet a couple of weeks ago.

Onto Darwin an the NTRL, where Palmerston beat Brothers 36-22. It was the sixth premiership for Palmerston, who had to come back from 12-0 down.

And in Victoria, Sunbury lifted its first premiership, downing Altona 36-16 in a game that was televised on community television.

And it was a cliff-hanger in the ACT, where the Queanbeyan Kangaroos beat the Queanbeyan Blues 17-16,

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

@RLWfarandwide

DISCORD 2013: Edition 35

DiscordBy STEVE MASCORD

JUST under a decade ago, the National Rugby League made it known that a team which relocates could receive up to $11 million from the administration.

The availability of the incentive was a tacit acknowledgement that there were too many teams in Sydney but that saving the history and intellectual property of an existing team was preferable to shutting it down and starting afresh.

Then, out of nowhere, then-CEO David Gallop revealed that there would also be an incentive to stay where you were!

Gallop reckoned that saturation of the Sydney market was important in the face of encroachment from rival codes and the NRL would be willing to help prop up a team that looked likely to fall over.

Relocation, as an option for Sydney teams, was dead.

In recent weeks, we have seen it given pulmonary massage in light of the travails currently being experienced by Cronulla.

The theory is that if the club was to be sued by players who are found guilty of using illegal substances, they would quickly become insolvent. That could also happen if the NRL imposes a Draconian fine on the club in the wake of the ASADA investigation.

It’s one thing to predict the Commission would use the situation as leverage to get the club to move. But does the ARLC even favour relocation?

As things stand, the incentives for staying put are the same as moving. It’s time for the NRL administration to make its position clear on relocation.

Is it a preferred option or not? Please let us know.

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THE last two weeks, we’ve been reporting on the back and forth between the two rival bodies trying to start rugby league in Thailand.

While there is currently no league in the kingdom, it’s instructive about the issues and battles which seem to repeat themselves all over the place in our sport.

Shannon Crane, who runs the TRL, sent us a link to the League’s entry on the Thai Department of Business’ registry. He also says the rival Thailand Rugby League’s Facebook page has been closed down and insists he does reside in Thailand, not Brisbane.

We will not be continuing the back-and-forth. Case closed!

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COMMENTS time and let’s go back to last week’s column.

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