FAR & WIDE: October 2014

Far & WideBy STEVE MASCORD
JACKSONVILLE Axemen owner Daryl “Spinner” Howland says a successful move to the NFL by Jarryd Hayne could be a massive boost for rugby league in the States.

While there’s been plenty of hand-wringing within the game over the departure of a current co-Dally M holder, Howland says such an attitude is “crazy”.

“At the start of this year 49 per cent of Americans said they were fans of the NFL,” Spinner tells Far & Wide. “That is about 150 million people. If only one per cent of them become aware of the NRL or rugby league that is positive.

“If rugby league messes this up for the fear of losing a player, they are nuts. The NRL should be all over this and supporting Jarryd Hayne anyway that creates media attention towards them.

“Just one per cent is all they need to interest. That is 1.5 million potential new fans, and it will cost them nothing more than some effort in joining some media and PR dots.”

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ONE fellow who caught the eye at the recent Mitchelton Nines was Latin Heat back rower Ken McKenzie.

Born in Guyana, the big man was light on his feet, ferocious in defence and highly skilful. He’s a prison guard in one of Queensland’s toughest institutions and owns a massage business that has stopped him realising his potential until now.

Even some of his team-mates weren’t sure where Guyana is; it’s above Brazil, on the Caribbean.

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IT’S not just the Four Nations kicking off this weekend.

The European Cup continues with Ireland hosting Scotland in Dublin while France take on Wales in Albi.

In recent results, Greece beat the Czech Republic 68-16 in Athens, Thailand downed Norway 46-6 in Bangkok and Nuie outclassed Philippines 36-22.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

Sam Tomkins Says Sam Burgess Is Leaving For “A Buzz” Not A Challenge

South Sydney - Sam BurgessBy STEVE MASCORD

ENGLAND fullback Sam Tomkins says absent team-mate and international player of the year Sam Burgess is leaving for rugby union in search of a “buzz” more than a tougher sporting challenge.

Rugby league’s Four Nations kicks off in Brisbane today in somewhat curious circumstances for the 13-man game, when England takes on Samoa and Australia meets New Zealand before an anticipated Suncorp Stadium crowd of up to 50,000.

England’s Burgess, New Zealand’s Sonny Bill Williams and Australia’s Jarryd Hayne each played a full season of NRL but have chosen other sports in preference to the international series.

For Burgess and Williams it’s rugby union, for Hayne it’s training alone in Los Angeles in the hope of winning an NFL contract. Samoa’s best player at the 2013 World Cup, Anthony Milford was in Australia’s train-on squad but when he missed the cut, became unavailable for the island nation even though rules would have permitted him to play.

But New Zealand Warrior Tomkins – himself a rugby union target – says league is not under siege.

“I think the NRL’s a great stage to play on,” he told The Guardian.

“The reason I left the Super League is I wanted to challenge myself on a bigger stage and a tougher competition.

amazon“Sam Burgess, he’s not going and playing in a tougher competition. He’s going to a competition that’s not as tough. But the idea of playing in the rugby union World Cup … England rugby union, they can play against Fiji and fill Twickenham with 80,000 people.

“That’s the buzz there.”

Burgess inspired South Sydney to its first premiership victory in 43 years earlier this month. England or Great Britain last beat Australia in a series the year before Souths’ previous title, during the 1970 Ashes series.

Members of the England squad were reminded how long the Australian epoch has run when the 1994 Kangaroos were special guests at the Player of the Year Awards luncheon on Thursday and highlights of that series were played at length on a big screen.

For Sam Burgess’ brothers, Souths giants George and Tom, the opportunity is there to break enough droughts in the space of two month to be accredited as rain-bringing mystics.

“We’re all fully aware of how long it has been,” said Tomkins.

donate2“We’re here for silverware. There’s no doubt about it. We’re not here to make up the numbers. We’ve come and come second or third far too many times now so, yeah, we want a trophy.”

Winger Ryan Hall added: “It’s been 44 years. It might be unknown this side of the world but we talk about it every year, it going longer and longer since we last won something.

“It means a great deal to us. Hopefully this is the year. Hopefully next year, it won’t be 45 years, it will be one year.

“This bunch of players we’ve got, I think we deserve some sort of recognition on the international scale. There’ve been some new guys come into the squad this year but the core of the group is quite similar. We’ve been together so long, we know each other so well so I think it’s about time we got something.”

Captain Sean O’Loughlin’s thigh injury means James Graham will lead England on Saturday. This marks a measure of redemption for the Canterbury Bulldogs prop, who was omitted from coach Steve McNamara’s first World Cup team a year ago due to off-field ill-discipline.

“It was frustrating more than anything but … I’ve moved on,” said Graham, who now expects O’Loughlin to be skipper permanently and said he did not harbour ambitions regarding the position.

At a match-eve media conference, McNamara said Sam Burgess has presented the team with their jerseys and that he was not taking seriously reports linking George Burgess to rugby union club Gloucester.

The Samoa coach Matt Parish said he rated Tomkins as equally dangerous to any fullback in the game, and that had spent plenty of time schooling his men in how to contain England’s young hookers, Canberra-bound Josh Hodgson and Super League Man of Steel Daryl Clark.

Samoa have been hit with disciplinary problems of their own this week, with Reni Maituia, Tautai Moga and Sauaso Sue fined $10,000 each and dropped for their involvement in a brawl outside a Brisbane nightclub.

Filed for: THE GUARDIAN 

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The A-List: JARRYD HAYNE (Parramatta, NSW, NRL All Stars & Australia)

Jarryd HayneBy STEVE MASCORD

IN the middle of this interview, Jarryd Hayne’s answers get shorter. It seems like he’s had enough.

Your correspondent has to spell it out: ‘this story has to run to about 1500 words, that’s why I’m asking lots of questions’. There’s a brief nod, and the answers get longer again.

It’s a neat encapsulation of what some people say makes the 21-year-old Parramatta flier tick. There’s a story they tell around South Sydney, about how Hayne’s father Manoa Thompson was worried he would sleep through his alarm and miss a early training session at Redfern.

So he drove to the oval the night before, pulled up in the carpark – and went to sleep there, knowing someone would wake him up as they walked past his car. An apocryphal story, perhaps, but like father, like son. Jarryd Hayne marches to the beat of his own drum and the route he takes to success on the football field is rarely the conventional one.

But he doesn’t leave success waiting. The two of them, Hayne and success, almost always meet at the appointed place and time and get on famously. In fact, Hayne’s best friend in most teams is success.

A-List won’t bore you with stories of pet dogs, banter with team-mates, shopping malls and nearby AFL stars this week. We got Hayne at a NSW media opportunity – a bit before most of the fourth estate descended – and the details make for tedious reading.

The Fiji fullback is sat in one of those cubbyholes they have in the home dressingrooms at Sydney Football Stadium, wearing regulation NSW training gear, and talked into a digital voice recorder.

So after experimenting with Rolling Stone-style profiles and sub-headings, this week we’ll utilise another old journalistic favourite – the Q&A:

A-List: You’ve come into Origin camp on the back of Parramatta’s 23-6 loss to Wests Tigers. How do you reflect on that game?

Hayne: “We were a bit rusty, I was a bit rusty myself. It was probably our worst performance all year so I was a bit disappointed but I had a bit of a virus, a stomach bug at the end of the week and that didn’t help. I got it on Friday. We trained pretty late and then we had a sauna session after. We were out in the cold, when I was pretty sweaty. Then Saturday, Sunday I was a bit rusty and I wasn’t sure if I was going to play or not.’’

A-List: How would you sum up the year at Parra? And also your own year?

Hayne: “It’s been tough. It wouldn’t help any club to go through what we’ve been through. To not be coming last is a pretty good effort. To lose our halfback, to lose Feleti (Mateo). To lose one halfback, get a good combination going, and the lose another from the halves combination … it was very tough, it’s really taken it’s toll on the team. The state we’re in now, we’ve pretty much got to play our best every week to be competitive.’’

A-List: You’ve had a new coach coming in and changing things over the summer, there’s blokes off contract who do don’t know what they’re doing next year. Does that have an impact out on the field?

Hayne: “Yeah, it’s tough – especially when you’ve got guys who have been here for a while and they’re not sure if they’re going to be there next year or not. That’s what the coach is there to do. He wants players that he wants there. At the end of the day, it is what it is. There’s always fors and against. Obviously I’m going to lose some mates over the summer because they’re going to move on. I think he’s bought really well with (Shane) Shackleton and (Justin) Poore. I don’t know if he’s looking for anyone else….’’

A-List: You’re probably playing the best footy of your career right now. Is that how you thought 2009 would pan out? How would you describe the year for you personally and what’s changed?

Hayne: “I don’t know, just attitude. I’ve taken it upon myself to do a bit more and I’m a bit more confident in the team and I’m sort of take a bit more control of the team.’’

A-List: And being fullback must be a big boost to you as well…

Hayne: “Yeah, I’m rapt, I’m loving it. I hope to stay there, yeah.’’

A-List: For people why have never done it, tell us what it’s like to run out in an Origin game. What was it like running down that tunnel for the first time? Did anything surprise you?

Hayne: “Yeah, (it’s great) just being able to do it. You know it’s going to be fast, you know it’s going to be intense. Just being out there and in the moment, it’s good, it’s an awesome buzz. It’s one of the best feelings you can get, running out in the Blues jersey. You’re playing against the best players. The main thing is that everyone’s on the same level. From the intensity in training to just the little things, you don’t see the same things at club level you see at Origin level.’’

A-List: Are you more worried about making a mistake in Origin than you are in club football?

Hayne: “Oh, 100 per cent. It’s Origin footy. You can’t make mistakes, pretty much. A mistake, it takes something little to change a game.’’

A-List: But you are a creative player, you take risks. Does that affect your mindset going into an Origin game, if you are more worried about making a mistake?

Hayne: “No, not really.”

A-List: But in your first year of Origin, you tapped the ball infield and Queensland scored. How hard is it not to dwell on things like that?

Hayne: “Not that pass. I thought I was doing good for the team. I thought it was a 40-20, they’d scored two tries, we were on the back foot and I knew when it went out it really would have rattled us. It wasn’t like I was trying to do a magic play or I was trying to do something arsey or silly. That’s not why I did it.‘’

A-List: Everyone else is talking about four series in a row for Queensland. Are you fellas thinking about it a lot?

Hayne: “Yeah, of course. We don’t want want to play in the team that has been beaten four series in a row so it’s a major factor. I think the team we have now should be up for the task.’’

A-List: Tell us about how the side lifted in Melbourne after a poor period in the first half?

Hayne: “I think we were playing like that the whole game but sort of just weren’t getting the lucky chances we were getting in the second half. ‘’

A-List: Have you watched your no-try back on many occasions since then?

Hayne: “Yes’’.

A-List: And what are your thoughts when you watch it back?

Hayne: “What everyone else says. It’s a try.’’

A-List: What can we do to prevent those sort of mistakes happening again.

Hayne: “If there’s a touch judge there, what’s the point of going to the video ref? He didn’t put his flag up. So if he doesn’t put his flag up, why are we going to the video ref, you know what I mean?’’

A-List: So they should show more faith in the officials on the field?

Hayne: “Yeah’’.

A-List: You’ve played just one Test for Australia. At the end of the year there’s a Four Nations and a Pacific Cup? Would you like to play for Fiji again?

Hayne: “No, I think I’ll just stay with Australia this year. The World Cup was something special but I think you can only change a certain number of times in a certain amount of years. I’ll probably stick with Australia and if I don’t get selected I’ll go on a bit of a holiday.’’

A-List: When you say your attitude is different this year, what do you mean?

Hayne: “Before, I used to eat rubbish the day before the game. Now I’m eating right seven days a week and looking after my body a bit more, not going out as much. Just a bit more focus on footy. When I first came into first grade I was a bit young and got a bit sidetracked with the partying.’’

A-List: Was there a single thing that changed your outlook?

Hayne: “Just the World Cup. I really appreciate what I have and how many people wish they were in my shoes so that’s something that really drove me. Seeing the Fijian boys, how proud they were just to play for Fiji. To see them, puting the effort in and the enthusiasm they had really made me feel I should be doing more for myself.’’

A-List: And I suppose you were thrust into a leadership role there whether you wanted one or not.

Hayne: “I think that really helped me because I brought it back to Parra. The thinks I was doing in the Fijian team I was puting it upon myself to do with Parra. It’s obviously affected me in Parra as well.’’

A-List: And before that, you just considered yourself another footy player?

Hayne: “Oh, being young you don’t really want to be really stepping up and taking charge of a team. You had a whole lot of people there who had been around for a while and you just sit back and let them do their thing and you just finish it off at the end of it – which in ’06 I did. We had good halves and a good centre in Luke o’Dwyer who just looked after me. They all sort of left so I had to step up.

A-List: You will forever be known as the man who was shot at in Kings Cross. Is it still fun being a footy player or has scrutiny made it just a business?

Hayne: “Of course. I wouldn’t swap it for the world. It’s just a bit different now compared with back in the day, what the older players used to get away with. It’s a bit hard when you hear all these stories about what they used to get up to. Now, it’s like if you do anything near that you pretty much wouldn’t have a contract. It’s tough. It’s a new generation, a time when things are changing. We’ve just got to get used to it.’’

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Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK