By STEVE MASCORD
SORRY but Discord doesn’t believe Warrington coach Tony Smith did anything wrong by helping Sydney Roosters prepare for the World Club Challenge.
Wigan coach Shaun Wane has described it as “sad” that Warrington would help the Roosters tactically, including a video session and an opposed training session.
“But I take it as a compliment that one of the best teams in the world is asking for help from a Super League team, especially a team that did not manage to beat us in a huge game last year,” he commented to The Star newspaper.*
It’s a good story – but if the Roosters were taking the Wolves under their wing at training, it’s reasonable for them to expect something in return.
Smith may have coached England but like Roosters boss Trent Robinson, he’s Australian. He doesn’t owe Wigan anything, really.
One Super League club that is unwittingly helping Wigan is Huddersfield, who have to kick off the season a week early next Friday so the Warriors can travel to the southern hemisphere. Their coach, Paul Anderson, is not best pleased at the situation.
And have we forgotten that the England national coach is on the Sydney Roosters coaching staff? I’d assume HE is helping the Roosters, right?
* Wane later denied being offended by Smith’s actions
COLLEAGUE Tony Hannan is correct in saying Super League’s new deal with Sky can only be properly judged when – or if – we know how much money is involved.
Given that the NRL contract will certainly dwarf whatever the figure is, it’s possible we will never be told.
But on the surface, these are positive times for the game in the UK, with a new sponsor announced and controversial competition structure bedded down for next year.
The season launch is at Event City in Manchester on Monday. Two more sponsors for the competition are likely to be announced there, or later in the week.
THE signing of Lote Tuqiri by South Sydney is another example of how our sport could benefit from a proper Nines circuit.
Tuqiri could keep playing indefinitely in Nines and his name would put bums on seats. When brings me to the Cabramatta Nines. I’m not in Sydney right now but if I was, I’d be getting out there this Saturday.
Congratulations to Thailand for their 46-10 win over Japan (13 a side) at Redfern Oval last night.
THANKS for last week’s comments, as always. Mercurial MattyV makes a very, very good point about the dangers of the last five minutes of games being refereed differently than the first 75. Will we now just get time-wasting in minutes 70 to 75?
WAYNES WORLD VIII?
ASKED on Saturday night why his Newcastle side was coming good in the finals, coach Wayne Bennett replied: “It’s spring”. Then quizzed if that was the reason just for him, he replied: “For all of us, that’s the time you want it to happen”. On the eve of the second preliminary semi-final, veteran Danny Buderus said Bennett was “a different coach” during the finals. That was apparent to outsiders after the 18-16 victory, when Bennett acceded to every interview request. On Sunday, he even made a rare appearance on FM radio. The reason Wayne Bennett makes himself scarce for most of the year is so he can cash in his media chips when it matters most, drawing attention and pressure away from the players by cracking jokes and hamming it up in public. The man with an image for dismissing the media actually strategies his interactions with them down to the finest detail.
WALKING WOUNDED CUP
YOU’D be forgiven for forgetting there is plenty of rugby league on after the grand final, by virtue of the World Cup. But will there be any star players still standing? Benji Marshall and Justin Hodges are already gone, Sonny Bill Williams is rated at long odds chose the tournament over boxing and then there are the walking wounded of the the NRL finals series. Greg Inglis, Anthony Watmough and Billy Slater (all knee) all look doubtful for Australia. Jack Reed’s shoulder has already cost him his England spot and if Brent Kite is playing with a broken hand, it’s hard to see Penrith encouraging him to play for Tonga. Sisa Waqa suffered a grade two medial ligament tear on Saturday night and seems set to be a Fiji Bati casualty. There will no doubt be more withdrawals – probably many more.
WOULD it really be such a bad thing for referees to be given a third option when they send a try decision upstairs, namely “dunno”. The signal could be arms at the side, bent at the elbow, with flat palms pointed at the sky. Maybe a head tilt as well. But seriously, is there not a logic disconnect in saying the on-field official must make a decision in 100 per cent of cases, only using technology to doublecheck his decision, then making it significantly harder for technology to disagree than agree with him? Surely the information of the video referees is being hampered to such an extent that we might as well not have them at all. Not having “dunno” seems a matter of pride rather than practical sense. At least I think that’s the case. I’m not sure.
LATE on Sunday night, Tony Smith – brother of Brian – was force to make a decision which he detested. Under the rules of the Super League play-offs, as the highest-ranking winner of week one in the play-offs, Smith’s Warrington got to choose their preliminary final opponents. The Wolves had a choice between Huddersfield, 76-18 winners over Hull, or perennial late-season-peak men Leeds, 11-10 winners over St Helens. Smith detests ‘club call’, as it is known, for old school coaching reasons – it gives the opposition ammunition. That’s how highly coaches rate psychology – they’d rather pass up the chance to choose their own opponents! The question is, who would 2012 Catalan coach Trent Robinson choose this year? I’m banking on the team where he used to be assistant under Tony Smith’s brother – Newcastle.
GROUNDS FOR CONCERN
ONCE upon a time, all finals were played at the Sydney Cricket Ground or Sydney Sports Ground. You knew it was September in Sydney when the wind picked up and you waltzed onto the hill around midday to watch under 23s and reserve grade. But crowds were poor early in the finals, so we shifted matches to home grounds. Then we did that in week two, then week three. And we stopped using suburban grounds completely. But – as we saw at the weekend – attendances are still and issue. What is the logical next step? Tendering out finals to venues who can guarantee big gates and financial security, perhaps? Perth, Auckland, Brisbane, Wellington, Adelaide, Darwin? Seems to be worth a try, given that finals venues are already centrally controlled and the grand final is in Sydney until further notice.
SOME questions regarding Saturday’s NRL media release: One of the people interviewed as part of the probe, a reporter, says he was told by the SC’s assistant the alleged incident itself was not being investigated. If this is true, how can one investigate a cover-up without determining if there was something to cover up in the first place? And how can a person who was not investigated be exonerated in the subsequent press release? Given that that the release said there would be “no further comment”, I guess we’ll never know. You might be wondering why this column is appearing, given its Sun-Herald predecessor. I’ve only stepped away from chasing news, because I can’t see the point under current conditions. I’m still hoping someone wants me to cover games and write columns and features. So far, so good. Fingers crossed.
Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
By STEVE MASCORD
TWO-try Joel Monaghan said Super League was fine without golden point after Warrington and Wigan played out an epic draw on Friday night.
The worth of the NRL rule forcing tied games into overtime was called into question when Wigan’s Matty Smith and the Wolves’ Lee Briers exchanged field goals in the final eight minutes at DW Stadium after Warrington eschewed a penalty shot from almost in front with the scores 16-16.
Despite the absence of a winner, the game – played in front of 20,050 – was hailed as a spectacle.
“It probably ended up fitting – both teams had their chances,” said the former Australia winger. “A draw was probably fitting, it was a great crowd, a great spectacle and finished how it should.”
Coach Tony Smith added: “With the number of games we play over here, golden point would be just too big an ask.”
Monaghan’s tries, which saw him cross untouched in the corner after his inside men skilfully created the extra man, bookended scoring in the first half. Competition favourites Wigan seemed set to take control on several occasions, only for Wigan to surge back.
The best individual try of the round two contest came via a stepping, weaving run from Warrington half Richie Myler in the 42nd minute but once again, Shaun Wane’s side hit back when second rower Liam Farrell crossed.
Halfback Smith was bloodied and bandages when he landed the 30-metre field goal in the 72nd minute, with five-eighth Briers opting for the one point on the scoreboard and the competition table with three to go when his wobbly drop kick hit an upright and went through.
Coach Wane was proud of 19-year-old late inclusion Greg Burke and said: “I’m a little frustrated because I thought we could have done better … we were nowhere near our best – we put ourselves under pressure with the penalty count – but overall I’m fairly pleased with that.”
Smith commented: “There’s such long way to go. I’m not going to go home and kick the dog.”
WIGAN 17 (J Charnley I Thornley L Farrell tries P Richards 3 goals M Smith field goal) bt WARRINGTON 17 (J Monaghan 2 R Myler tries B Hodgson 3 goals L Briers field goal) at DW Stadium. Referee: P Bentham. Crowd: 20,050.
Fulltime: When David Anley, who was chatting over at whitelinefever.ning.com, said to me with 10 to go that Lee Briers would kick a field goal to tie up this epic at 17-17, I didn’s read much into it. But sure enough, Briers landed the one-pointer which must surely revive the question of whether we really need golden point in the NRL. This was a magnificent game without it. End-to-end attack, refereeing controversies, costly errors and a great atmosphere. And it was a draw. Is that a bad thing?
72 min: … or, it could be decided by a field goal. Matty Smith, bandaged and bloodied, lands it from in front and Wigan edge ahead. Hope fans are signing something pretty cool but I can’t understand what it is. 17-16.
66 mins: Finally poised now. We just had a Warrington players held without the ball, a couple of dust-ups and some errors. Sam Tomkins even shaped up to Brett Hodgson. Holding onto the pill seems to be a problem for both teams right now. This is gonna be decided by a try and I bet it’s a beauty! 16-16.
53 mins: We’re in for a doozy here. Liam Farrell touches down after Warrington are penalised for going on with a tackle. Did Bentham call ‘held’? Richards misses the conversion Strap yourselves in, it’s 16-16. PS: Wigan just tried to ‘Tallis’ Brett Hodgson!
45 mins: Magnificent individual try for Richie Myler, edging Warrington in front, then San Tomkins fumbles a bomb and somehow Wigan get the penalty. Anyone? 12-16
Halftime: A high tackle penalty gives Pat Richards the chance to edge Wigan in front, from in front, just before the break. Good, tight contest. 12-10.
37 min: Joel is in again after Josh Charnley fumbled a bomb. Quick hands to the right saw Lee Briers and Brett Hodgson handle in a simple extra-man play before Monaghan dotted down. No goal to Hodgson. 10-10.
31 min: Reflections at this point are that Warrington are extremely well drilled by error prone, while Wigan are making the most of their opportunities. They are slightly unlikely leaders, but still deserved leaders … if that makes any sense. Meanwhile, psyching up for halftime video chat. Join at whitelinefever.ning.com. 10-6.
25 min: I wouldn’t have tipped this. Wigan get a piggyback penalty and keep the ball alive (most credit goes to Liam Farrell there) before replacement Ben Flower straightens things up and plunged over. Richards goals and the home boys are in front! 10-6.
19 min: News has just come through that Hull-Bradford has been rescheduled for 3pm Sunday. In other news, Josh Charley scored an unconverted try in the opposite corner of the field to Joel Monaghan. Good game, this. 4-6.
10 min: And Joel Monaghan is in. The dogs are barking. Actually it’s the Warrington fans. Lovely ball to an unmarked Joel in the right corner. Brett Hodgson goals from the sideline. Across the Pennines, they are talking about rescheduling Hull-Bradford for tomorrow. 0-6
4 mins: Evening everyone. All the action is at the other game – actually that’s where all the lack of action is. Bradford and even out-of-town Hull players caught in traffic on the way to the KC. Here’ play is underway in front of a vocal crowd. High standard game, Warrington – in particular – have class across the paddock. 0-0
Final team lists:
WIGAN: Sam Tomkins; Josh Charnley, Darrell Goulding, Iain Thornley, Pat Richards; Blake Green, Matty Smith; Sean O’Loughlin (c), Liam Farrell, Jack Hughes, Lee Mossop, Michael McIlorum, Gil Dudson. Res: Ben Flower, Scott Taylor, Sam Powell, Greg Burke.
WARRINGTON: Brett Hodgson; Chris Riley, Rhys Evans, Ryan Atkins, Joel Monaghan; Lee Briers, Richie Myler; Simon Grix, Ben Westwood, Trent Waterhouse, Chris Hill, Michael Monaghan, Adrian Morley (c). Res: Garreth Carvell, Mike Cooper, Mickey Higham, Stefan Ratchford.
Referee: Phil Bentham
CHALLENGE Cup-winning Warrington coach Tony Smith is understood to have engaged leading player agent David Riolo to check out job opportunities in the NRL.
Smith, who lifted the Cup on Saturday when the Wolves downed Leeds 35-18 at Wembley and is under contract next year, did not confirmed or deny information received by Rugby League Week that he was considering a return to Australia.
“I would say: ‘never say never’,” said Smith, the brother of Sydney Roosters boss Brian Smith.
“Who knows what will lead to where. I’ve enjoyed being a coach in this country for a number of years and I’ve served a pretty decent apprenticeship here I think and learning my trade.”
The news will only intensify speculation surrounding coach movement in the NRL over the next two years. Smith has led Warrington to three of the last four Challenge Cups but in recent times has made public his frustration regarding a number of aspects of the British game, including officiating.
Smith and Riolo are former Illawarra team-mates. There is a shortage of experienced coaches on the market in the southern hemisphere at the moment, although the sacking of Brian McClennan will not help the prospects of those hoping to return from the Super League.
“Whether I get the opportunity to ply that trade somewhere else – who knows?” Smith told League Week.
“I’m not going to worry too much about that, where my trade takes me. I’ll certainly be happy and make the most of it with my family where-ever we live, whether it’s in this part of the world or if we return back to Australia.
“I love both places. I love rugby league so it’s fairly open as far as I’m concerned.”
The coaching merrygoround seems to be picking up pace as more money comes into the NRL, which McClennan and Parramatta’s Stephen Kearney already given their marching orders this year and Melbourne’s Craig Bellamy linked to a number of clubs for 2014.
Smith was previously linked to the West Coast Pirates. Warrington’s millionaire benefactor Simon Moran could be expected to make a major play to retain Smith if he attempted a move.
In April last year, Smith signed on at the Halliwell Jones Stadium for a further two years – tying him to the club until the 2013.
Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK
WARRINGTON stated their Super League title claim by blowing league leaders Wigan apart on Saturday.
They are already at Wembley for the Challenge Cup final later this month and are hotly tipped to be adding a trip to Old Trafford for October’s grand ginal to that schedule after their second significant win in five days.
But coach Tony Smith is taking it week by week.
“That’s for you press guys to speculate whether we do that,” he said when asked if his side were now favourites to lift the Super League title. “We just try to do our business for 80 minutes each week. You guys can do all the hype about grand finals and all that sort of stuff, we’ll just concentrate on what’s happening next week.”
The Warrington forwards dominated for the whole 80 minutes and did not look like the team with the shorter turnaround and Smith said noise from the Wigan camp in the build-up motivated his men.
“I think the gauntlet was thrown down for our forwards earlier in the week,” he said. ” There were some comments made that they weren’t going to be bullied and they stood-up, our boys.”
And it was the forwards who came out the blocks on fire as Ben Westwood and Ben Harrison tries for the home side in the opening eight minutes – the first in the second set of the game – made sure the result was always beyond reasonable doubt. Wigan’s only answer was to string together errors and concede penalties.
“I think we completed at 37 per cent in the first 20 minutes – just absolutely unacceptable,” said Wigan boss Shaun Wane, who had earmarked this fixture as a must-win before this season had even started. Instead he was left to rue a the performance of his players who “didn’t trust the game plan.”
“I can name you lots and lots of reasons why,” continued Wane when left to assess the damage after the beating. “Missed tackles, dropped balls after not having the ball for four sets. I’m not that bothered to be honest. What I am bothered about is they scored 30 points and that massively disappoints me.”
The halftime score of 16-6, with Wigan’s try coming from Gareth Hock on the back of a penalty, flattered the league leaders and when asked what he said to his players in the dressing room during the interval, Wane responded: “[I can’t tell you] There’re too many ladies in here.”
Whatever he said failed to work as a sole Wigan try, a well-worked effort finished by Iain Thornley, was not enough to counter Warrington scores. Stefan Ratchford read a Matty Smith kick with clairvoyance to stride 80 metres to touch down in front of the Wigan fans with the other Warrington score coming from Richie Myler in the 68th minute.
Myler’s halfback partner, Lee Briers, is normally the one to hog the limelight at the Halliwell Jones and in this, his 400th appearance for Warrington, the stage was set for him to do just that.
The fact the forwards dominated and Briers was quiet in comparison to his normal standards didn’t worry Smith, who was happy to acknowledge one of his star men in becoming only the sixth Warrington player to reach the milestone.
“That’s nothing to be sneezed at [400 games] and he did some good stuff for us,” the Wolves coach said. ” He probably wasn’t at his absolute best in terms of form but he did enough behind the scenes and behind the play to orchestrate some of what we were doing out there. It’s a great achievement.”
Smith added: “He’s had a great history at the club. He’s had some ups in recent times and he’s had a few downs along the way. He’s done a bit of all of it but he’s playing good consistent rugby league and he’s found a way of remaining very current even though he’s got some age on him and he’s able to still contribute in big ways. He’s had a checkered past but he’s having a bright present.”
Warrington are now only one point away from Wigan with three regular season rounds to go. After this defeat and the Challenge Cup semi final defeat to Leeds, suggestions have surfaced that Wigan can’t compete in big games, but it’s a notion Wane moved to refute.
“We’ve played St Helens three times and went to Catalan and won – people don’t win there,” he said, before revealing both Thomas Leulaui and season-long absentee Stuart Fielden are both three weeks away from fitness, whilst Pat Richards appeared for the first half in the under 20s curtain raiser after a 16-week lay off with a cartilage problem.
WARRINGTON 30 (B Westwood B Harrison J Monaghan S Ratchford R Myler tries B Hodgson 5 goals) bt WIGAN 10 (G Hock I Thornley tries J Charnley goal) at Halliwell Jones Stadium. Referee: S Ganson. Crowd: 13,859
Final team lists:
WARRINGTON: Brett Hodgson; Chris Riley, Ryan Atkins, Stefan Ratchford, Joel Monaghan; Lee Briers, Richie Myler; Ben Harrison, Ben Westwood, Trent Waterhouse, Chris Hill, Micky Higham, Adrian Morley. Res: Michael Monaghan, Garreth Carvell, Simon Grix, Paul Wood
WIGAN: Sam Tomkins; Josh Charnley, Darrell Goulding, George Carmont, Iain Thonrley; Brett Finch, Matty Smith; Sean O’Loughlin, Gareth Hock, Harrison Hansen, Lee Mossop, Michael McIlorum, Epalahame Lauaki. Res: Paul Prescott, Jeff Lima, Liam Farrell, Jack Hughes
Halftime: Warrington 16-6
Tony Smith’s men were in control for most of the Monday night game than the scoreline suggested but the Warrington boss was left baffled by some of the five Warrington tries which referee Richard Silverwood referred to the video official.
“Some famous Australian once said if it looks like a duck…” said Smith, who has never shied from letting his opinion be known, in reference to Joel Monaghan’s 16th-minute effort being chalked off after it was decided he had knocked the ball into Francis Meli in the race for a Lee Briers kick.
“Some of the video stuff I don’t get. I don’t understand it. If we knew all the ins and outs of it and how it all operates maybe we would get more enthused about it.”
The heavy use of the video referee and his disagreement with some calls didn’t detract from Smith’s relief at winning at first visit to St Helens’ new home, as traditionally Saints have always pipped Warrington in league games.
“We’ve had to suffer defeat in this part of the world quite a bit so we want to milk a little bit of this if you don’t mind,” said Smith.“We had a pretty dismal record at Knowsley Road. We now have a good record here and we want to get the most out of that.”
Warrington’s relationship with Langtree Park looked set to start in the most emphatic of fashions as they raced to a 0-10 lead inside the opening eight minutes thanks to Brett Hodgson and Chris Hill tries, both of which were sent for a second opinion.
St Helens managed to get a grip defensively. though, and Michael Shenton scored arguably the try of the game in a fantastic move involving five players.
The home side lacked the same flair in the second half however, when in years gone by St Helens would’ve pushed Warrington to the wire.
St Helens interim coach Mike Rush conceded they will need to get better going into the playoffs: “They played the field position better,” he said. “When they got good ball sets they looked threatening whereas when we got good ball sets we tended to lack a little bit of composure. I don’t think we forced a goal line drop out tonight.”
Chris Riley’s try on the hour probably put the game beyond S. Helens at 6-22 but it was Lee Briers who controlled the game in this period and the result will sit well with him.
Smith said: “I thought he controlled the game brilliantly. He was really good. Particularly in that second half his kicking game was exceptional. He picked out the right sort of kick at the right time.
“It’s good for Lee as well living locally and he’s copped his fair brunt of it,” he added.
Prior to Riley’s try, one of the more controversial calls was made when Joel Monaghan batted a kick to his brother Michael for a try which was chalked off for a knock-on. The ball appeared to have gone backwards but it was Warrington’s discipline which has unsettled Smith.
“We’re on the back of a lot of penalty counts. Maybe it’s our discipline, maybe it’s that I don’t speak to the officials anymore. I haven’t this year but that’s some of my fault. I have to take that on the chin and I’ve got to make my team good enough to overcome some of those issues so if we do cop a hiding in the penalty count we’ve got to be good enough to overcome it. Fortunately tonight we were. For me,I can rest easy tonight.”
The win puts Warrington back to within three points of leaders Wigan going into next Saturday’s encounter at the Halliwell Jones Stadium. Smith was reluctant to talk about that, though, given the significance of a win over St. Helens. He did reveal Ben Harrison and Garreth Carvell will be available for selection after missing this game through injury.
Not giving much else away, Smith insisted: “Let’s talk about Saturday next Saturday. I’m happy to talk about this game and I think it’s important that we do. We’re still in St Helens mode.”
WARRINGTON 22 (B Hodgson Hill T Waterhouse C Riley tries Hodgson 3 goals) bt ST HELENS 12 (M Shenton P Wellens tries T Makinson 2 goals) at Langtree Park. Referee: Richard Silverwood. Crowd: 15728.
Final team lists:
SAINTS: Paul Wellens; Tommy Makinson, Michael Shenton, Josh Jones, Francis Meli; Lance Hohaia, Jonny Lomax; Jon Wilkin, Chris Flannery, Tony Puletua, Anthony Laffranchi, James Roby, Josh Perry. Res: Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Mark Flanagan, Paul Clough, Andy Dixon
WARRINGTON: Brett Hodgson; Chris Riley, Stefan Ratchford, Ryan Atkins, Joel Monaghan; Lee Briers, Richie Myler; Tyrone McCarthy, Ben Westwood, Trent Waterhouse, Chris Hill, Micky Higham, Adrian Morley. Res: Michael Monaghan, Simon Grix, Paul Wood, Mike Cooper
Halftime: Warrington 10-6