BONDI BEAT: December 2016

By STEVE MASCORDrlw-december-2017

LETTNG Australian NRL players playing a role in determining the next 10 years of international matches might sound daft – but there could be method in the madness.
The NRL itself will play a huge role, of course, in determining what is played – and where – between the 207 World Cup in Australia and the 2025 tournament which will most likely (fingers, toes, tongues and all other appendages crossed) in North America.
The NRL, in turn, has chosen to consult Australia coach Mal Meninga. Now, there is a very good argument it should give David Kidwell just as much say but that’s another column.
Meninga, in turn has consulted his players. Before the England-Australia Test in London, NRL CEO Todd Greenberg was to address the Kangaroos about the options set to be tabled in Liverpool at the RLIF congress.
Here’s why listening to the players may not be such a bad idea: they like trips.
I surveyed a number of them at the Four Nations series launch about where they wanted the 2021 World Cup to be held and the US had sizeable support.
Before the London Test, Australia prop Matt Scott said he’d be willing to give up the post-season break mandated by the Rugby League Players Association in 2018 if it was possible to play a touring Great Britain side.
Scott head earlier told me he wished the Australian side was able to see more of Europe during the tournament.
For what it’s worth, it is still likely to be a spring break in 2018 for the Aussies. There is a push for a full Kangaroo Tour in 2019 with perhaps an eight-team Federation Cup in 2020. That may be in America. The preferred structure is two pools of four teams, seeded, with a final.
Promoter Jason Moore has some different ideas on that structure.
But while NRL administrators are dominated by money and the clubs in in their concerns, empowering players who want to see the world might be the key to unlocking the potential of the international game at the highest level.
AT the height of the is-Wayne-Bennett-rude controversy I called the RFL to find out exactly what the great man’s job entails.
When I asked Bennett at his now-infamous London media conference if his only responsibility was to coach the team, he responded: ‘That’s exactly right.”
Asked if there was anything else in the job description, he said: “No”.
I won’t go into who I called and who called back and who I thought would call back because there are some personal relationships at work. But suffice to say three people were involved, two of whom I spoke to, and after four hours I was told there would be no on-the-record comment.
advertise here
To me, Bennett is entitled to be himself. It’s not as if the RFL didn’t know what they were getting. I agree with colleague Paul Kent that if there was any additional abrasiveness during the Four Nations it could be a sign of vulnerability at the end of a difficult personal year in unfamiliar surroundings.
But the RFL needs to be accountable for the choice they made. They need to come out and say they only care about winning and support Bennett.
Or they need to have a word to Bennett about their bedside manner.
Or they need to explain why they didn’t have a word to him about his bedside manner.
To duck for cover and say nada says little for the courage or leadership at Red Hall. When the RFL challenged me on an aspect of my reporting about this issue, I challenged them back to have a go at me publicly because that would at least be be an on-the-record comment on the issue.
At the time of writing, I am still waiting.
SOME of you, with an interest in such things, might find a look at the way the media was handled during the Four Nations somewhat instructive.
The Australians held media opportunities, on average, every second day at their hotel. There was an electronic media ‘all-in’ – usually involving, Channel Nine and Channel Seven – followed by the same player speaking to print. That was usually just News Limited, Fairfax and Australian Associated Press but anyone covering the tournament was invited.
It was possible to request interviews outside this set-up.
I didn’t go to New Zealand media opps but I’m told they were rather weird – everyone speaking at once. What I mean by that is a coach and two players facing media representatives all at once, with questions and answers flying from everywhere. Also, the Kiwis openly labelled these as being for “travelling NZ media only” – not much help when you’re in Carlisle and there are still tickets to sell in Workington.
(It subsequently transpires this designation was only supposed to deter Kiwi journos at home, trying to cover such events over the phone – not locals)
The England media opps were just as complex but in a different way. England would have a ‘media day’ once a week. In my experience, a ‘media day’ involves reporters and players mingling and talking one-on-one.
But an England media day involved the coach and three players each sitting at a desk and speaking to everyone at once. The first part of each of these was open to radio, TV and agencies. Then the cameras were told to stop rolling and newspapers took over.
The UK newspaper reporters would then collude to decide which day Mike Cooper or Josh Hodgson interviews would be run, agreeing all to quote the same player on the same day.
This system came a little undone when newspaper reporters from other countries, with other requirements, became involved. I approached with this philosophy: I would use answers to my own questions when I chose as I don’t really like being part of a cartel.
But even this approach causes some tensions.
While the England media manager could separate print from electronic, he could hardly dictate what day each story would run so it only took one dissenter for the system to fall apart.
As for one-on-one interviews, I made requests for players from Australia, New Zealand and England for Rugby League Week’s A-List feature. As I write this, I have not done a single one of these interviews.
A way to raise money for the international game, aside from a second ‘property’ such as the Federation Cup, would be for funds from a sponsorship in all internationals to be handed over to the RLIF.
There is an idea out there that the referees in all internationals across the world should be branded with a sponsorship that goes straight to the RLIF.
You’d think, with there being relatively few internationals at present, it would be easy to achieve. Not so. Red tape abounds.



Bennett Laments Broncos’ Loss Of Mojo


FOUNDATION Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett expressed disappointment the Broncos had missed the finals for only the second time in 21 years.

Bennett’s Newcastle consigned the current Broncos to that ignominy, coming back from 14-0 down to score a 26-18 victory at Suncorp Stadium with Darius Boyd and Joey Leilua each scoring try braces.

Asked his feelings upon seeing the club he helped found in 1988 fail to make the play-offs, Bennett said: “Second time in 21 years?

“Yeah, I’m disappointed for them. Proud club … they’ve got a short history but it’s a wonderful history.

“But it happens, you’ve just got to get on with life, recognise what you’ve probably done wrong. It was a thing for us a long time here, that we prided ourselves on enormously.

“I can go back to so many different years where we just scraped into the finals. It was a whole part of our being, just knowing you’d be there.

“You mightn’t be there one year in the top four, but if you’re (in the eight), you’re never going to be far off it.

“They always found a way to get there, they always found a way to win. I don’t know about the current crop here. I’m not here now. I’m just talking about the past.”

Asked how it felt to have preside over one the Broncos’ worst seasons, coach Anthony Griffin said: “It doesn’t (feel like that) but it is what it is.

“You’ve got to look it square in the face and build off it. I thought the last six to eight weeks we were starting to build again.

“That first 40 or 50 minutes tonight, I thought we were giving ourselves a chance. Unfortunately, we’re just not there at the moment.

“But the statistics won’t like, they’ll tell a story. That’s something for you guys to report.

“It’s very disappointing, frustrating … (they) are probably the main things which are the obvious ones.

“We need to learn why we got so close in a number of games – exactly like tonight. It’s obvious it’s not where we want to be but we’ll learn from it.”

Late Friday, Knights team doctor Peter McGeoch said it was likely captain Kurt Gidley had suffered the same tendon injury in his right foot has he had previously incurred in his left and would be sidelined for the rest of the domestic season and the World Cup.

Australia utility Gidley suffered the agonising break scoring a try just after halftime that got the Knights on the road to victory.

Another key moment was the sin bin dismissal of Brisbane captain Sam Thaiday for repeated infringements.

A fortnight ago, Bennett accused top teams of deliberately conceding penalties and called on officials to use the sin bin more.

“It’s hard for them, I understand that,” he said. “No-one enjoys that part of it. But you can’t give away four penalties there on the tryline.

“If you’re going to give up four on your tryline in that space of time, something’s got to be done about it.”

Thaiday was tight-lipped on the issue. “it got to the point where he had to do something, and he did something,” said the second rower.

“I feel more disappointed I let my team-mates down. I was on the sideline, they scored a try.”

Bennett also said the key to winger Akuila Uate overcoming an ugly first half gaffe was encouraging him to forget about it.

“He’s got a tendency to take his divot with him when he makes a mistake,” said Bennett. “Having worked with him for two years, I kinda know what works.

“My job was to pick him up. He was great in the second half.”




DIVING and deliberately conceding penalties. As we head into the finals, these are pressing on-field issues for our game.

Debate about the practice of “staying down” to attract as video review has been around for about a decade. So far, players and coaches publicly decry the act, but below the surface there is a tacit acknowledgement that sometimes it’s necessary.

When Paul Gallen made his “whatever it takes” comment after he attracted a penalty and winked at team-mates, he was hounded into recanting. But just because players don’t openly acknowledge doing something doesn’t mean they have no intention of doing it.

If there is a chance you will get a penalty on video review, I would estimate from watching around 100 games live each year that around half of players would stay on the turf even if they felt well enough to get up.

The deliberate concession of penalties is this year’s equivalent of diving. Whereas in the case of diving, the referee will always say “I’m not a doctor”, the retort for deliberately conceding penalties (I ran an inpromtu Twitter contest to come up with a snappier name for it and the winner was ‘Tandying’) is “I’m not a mind-reader”.

The only way to prove ‘Tandying’ would be to bug a team talk and hear a coach instruct his side to concede penalties when they are under pressure, defending their own line. Melbourne deny doing it, Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson says his club has been treated harshly by referees for over a decade and wants to work on discipline.

At fulltime in the Newcastle-Sydney Roosters game at Hunter Stadium on July 27 – the match directly referred to by Bennett in his media conference last Sunday – Sonny Bill Williams was asked on Triple M by Bill Harrigan if the tricolours had employed the practice.

“I’m not up to scratch with that kind of style, I just get out there and play, bro,” he responded. He then smiled. “I think I know what you’re trying to say, I’m just going to sit on the fence on that one.”

Relying on goodwill to keep these things out of the game is foolhardy. Eventually, everyone will do them and no-one will admit them.

The current interpretation that stops a video referee getting involved unless the incident is worthy of being placed on report should at least stop diving becoming the plague it is in soccer.

In the case of Tandying, the Super League system under which teams are placed under a general warning is worth considering. That aside, there is another simple remedy that’s been around for 30 years.

It’s called the sin bin.


THE WRAP: NRL Round 23


IF rugby league is good at anything, it’s internal fighting. But if it has a second forte, it’s slang and jargon.
Where else could you have the squirrel grip, the prowler tackle, the grapple tackle, the bomb and the chicken wing?
So when Wayne Bennett accused Melbourne and Sydney Roosters on Sunday of deliberately conceding penalties to buy time, it was instantly too much of a mouthful. It cried out for a slang term.
Your industrious correspondent immediately took to Twitter to find a snappier term for the (alleged) practice. The winner? “Tandying”.
A deliberately conceded penalty is therefore a tandy and someone who deliberately concedes a penalty is a tandier. The problem with the allegation is, of course, that we’ll never know if someone is  Tandying unless we have evidence the coach told him to.
In any case, the Roosters and Melbourne deny employing the practice.
“Wayne’s entitled to his opinion,” said Roosters coach Trent Robinson.
“I think our integrity’s intact as far as the way we play the game. We’ve been very strong in the way we’ve gone into each game. We weren’t happy with that. But it’s not a snapshot of the season.”
Likewise, Melbourne’s Cooper Cronk laughed off the allegation when he fronted the media at Newcastle Beach on Monday Morning.
“No, I’m not sure where that question’s coming from,” Cronk said when asked if his side deliberately conceded penalties. “Wayne’s entitled to his opinion.
“He’s a respected voice of the game but, look, I haven’t been a part of a side what wants to deliberately defend its line any more than we have to. “I think the game is hard enough as it is without making it harder for yourself.”
Cronk had his own criticism of the Knights regarding the illusive spirit of the game – an allegation that they wet the footballs before kick-off. “That may have happened,” he said with a smile

BEST OF ROUND 23: James Maloney’s 10 from 10 kicking performance in Monday Night Football. Doesn’t happen very often. WORST OF ROUND 23: Jeff Lima’s leg twist on Anthony Watmough. Ugly.
WEIRDEST OF ROUND 20: Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin’s claim that no-one is under any pressure inside the Broncos camp. Even though they’re linked with two fullbacks from other clubs and their halves have been told they’re in reserve grade?
WHAT I SAW: Melbourne winger Mahe Fonua arrive in Newcastle from Brisbane by plane just four hours before the game. He was in the programme – but clearly wasn’t playing.
QUOTE OF ROUND 20: “Is this an interview about the game, bro?” Sonny Bill Williams after being asked by Andrew Johns when he was going to make a decision on his future and whether he was going to the World Cup.

THE JOY OF SIX: Round 20

LAST week’s tiff between Wayne Bennett and Ivan Cleary over comments at a press conference highlighted a persistent cultural problem in rugby league which was further exemplified when Sonny Bill Williams took Willie Mason high at Hunter Stadium on Sunday. For all the progress the game has made with a gleaming new integrity unit, recognising the role of women and stamping out racism, there is still an obsession with what you can get away with rather than what you actually do. If Cleary’s comments led to Kade Snowden being suspended, then isn’t it the match review committee Bennett should be angry with, for allowing itself to be influenced by the media? And whether or not Mason should or could have jumped straight to his feet yesterday, isn’t the real issue whether or not Williams actually collected him in the head? It’s almost as if it’s OK to accuse people of bias as long as you paint that bias as a fact of life and direct your anger at the person who tried to influence them.

“HEY, shoulder!” a lone Newcastle Knights voice shouted after Willie Mason took the ball up 15 minutes into yesterday’s match at Hunter Stadium, before being felled in a tackle which featured Sonny Bill Williams coming in over the top.The voice, from an unidentified player standing directly behind the collision, was summarily ignored by referees Jared Maxwell and Gavin Morris. It’s only when Mason failed to regain his feet that the whistlers asked video referees Steve Clark and Justin Morgan to check “possible contact from Williams”. There was definitely contact; Williams later questioned Mason’s motivation in staying on the turf. Whatever the case there, it was apparent to this reporter the incident would have been missed – until Monday morning at least – if Mason had simply got to his feet and played the ball. Maybe it would have been picked up on Monday morning. You’d hope so.
DOES the NRL have a responsibility to make grand final tickets affordable for rank-and file supporters? Newspaper and magazine mailbags and social media pages are awash with complaints about the price hikes for tickets to this year’s showpiece. One fan complained that tickets which were $55 in 2006 are now $165. Gold seats are $225. Other blue ribbon sporting events charge similar prices and try getting into the Super Bowl or FA Cup final for anything like that. The grand final will sell out and generally speaking, the NRL is entitled to charge whatever the market supports. But everyone from FIFA to Bon Jovi knows it’s possible to avoid being painted as greedy by offering a limited number of low-cost seats through a ballot system. The League would do well to consider this option next year.
DARREN Lockyer had an interesting idea in his newspaper column at the weekend. He said video referees should turn up the television when deciding on possible tries to hear what the commentators think. At first glance, this may appear simple commonsense – but of course, it’s not. The test which is all too seldom applied to many of the ideas that get thrown around in rugby league is: if you didn’t know what the game was and who the people were, what would you think? If someone is making a major decision in another sport, or another walk of life, because a media person said it might be a good idea, how would that look? Imagine if boxing judges or AFL goal umpires listened to the transistor radio for inspiration, or police read the paper before laying charges. Always ask the question: how would it look from the outside – and can it be exploited?
GRAHAM Murray should have outlived newspapers. He was only 58 when his life support was due to be turned off yesterday and the news is difficult to come to terms with. Many of the things one says in this situation – about him being ‘larger than life’, ‘a positive influence on people’ and ‘loving life and people’ – sound hollow because they are said too often. But there really wasn’t anyone like him in my 28 years of covering rugby league; he was a man who engaged with people one way or another, who was never apathetic. “He taught me the value of honesty,” former Great Britain forward Barrie McDermott Tweeted. Murray coached Illawarra (where he had success by making it compulsory to go to the pub after training), North Queensland and NSW but he did it all so recently that it should have been years before I had to write anything like this. All sympathy to his wife Amanda, his family and his army of friends. This is a terrible time.

THE contrast between in attitudes of rugby league fans towards casual sports followers couldn’t be more different in Australia and England. British leaguies were mortified and humiliated on Saturday when a Challenge Cup semi-final, shown live on national television, end in a 70-0 win by Wigan over London. Not only was the scoreline indicative of an ailing professional game, considering both teams are in Super League, but having a comparatively small northern town thrash the capital also embarrasses the game’s national pretentions in front of the very people it is trying to impress. Compare that with the Origin fighting ban, which hardcore NRL fans believe was prompted by the concerns of those who watch the sport only infrequently. Australian league supporters not only have no regard for what these people think but actively resent them for sanitised the game.



WE certainly picked the right time to kick off our World Rugby League Power List in 2012 – if only because it bore little resemblance to rankings we now present to you 12 months later.
Last June, the game had just lost NRL chief executive David Gallop, who went to the FFA, and Rugby Football League executive chairman Richard Lewis, who is now back in tennis.
But at the time, the NRL didn’t have a CEO while no-one has really replaced Lewis at Red Hall, although former Football League CEO Brian Barwick is now the chairman and Maurice Watkins is on board a senior non-executive director.
But it’s at League Central in Sydney that the biggest shakeup has taken place. Since Gallop’s departure, Welshman David Smith has taken over as chief executive and he has designed and instituted a detailed administrative structure.
Todd Greenberg is head of football, Jim Doyle is chief operating officer, Shane Mattiske is head of strategy and Paul Kind runs commercial with three positions to be added.
The old guard is largely either gone, or going.
Last year we summed up the aim of this list thus: – if rugby league has a “direction” as such, who is behind the thing, pushing the hardest? These aren’t necessarily people who throw their weight around most often – but equally we have not favoured wallflowers who could action enormous change for the sport with their wealth and influence but who have so far done nought.
In achieving this aim, we looked at appointing a panel of judges. In future years, that might happen but for now we are sticking to the informal process observed by most journalists gathering information most days – ringing people and talking to them.
The buck for this list stops with the name at the top of the page.
1. John Grant
ARLC chairman: Grant has receded into the background somewhat but is still David Smith’s boss. He attends marquee events, presses the flesh, does interviews and recently presided over the decision to prioritise 30 tasks that the ARLC wanted to achieve over the coming months. He’s the most active and influential member of the commission and still spends a great deal of time at League Central – although much less than before Smith’s appointment. Because of his personal interest in international football, the game’s progress in that area will be significantly influenced by him.
2. Dave Smith
ARLC chief executive: For months last year, the only rugby league official we seemed to see on television was the Commission’s chairman, John Grant. He was everywhere – but has virtually become invisible since he found his man in Welsh banker David (now ‘Dave’) Smith. The name change is eerily reminiscent of predecessor David Moffett, who used to ring open line radio programs posing as ‘David From Hornsby’. Despite being labelled a ‘dunce’, Smith completely remodelled the NRL administration and was at pains to point out the changes were all his. By this time next year, he should go up a place on this list.
3. Gary Pemberton
ARL Commissioner. It seems strange to have three ARLC types at the top of the list and then no more. But Pemberton, Grant and Smith are seen as the men who run rugby league in Australia while the others six commissioners work behind the scenes. We called him a “head kicker” last year but he has been less obtrusive since then. However, clubs hear from Pemberton regularly. Pemberton has experience in TV rights negotiations but unlike others in that area of expertise, has held his spot in the top 20. The likes of Ian Frykberg and Lachlan Murdoch will next be heard from here in four years.
4. Cameron Smith
Melbourne player. Cameron Smith’s influence was best exemplified by David Smith telling the assembled club CEOs earlier this year the hooker wanted the accreditation of three journalists revoked overthe Jon Mannah story. If an Australia captain has ever been so politically active, we haven’t known about it. Smith regularly talks to players around the competition and reportedly would like to be Queensland coach one day. His steady demeanour means he inspires trust in others. As influential as any player has even been off the field.
5. David Gyngell
Television executive. With the NRL’s TV deal signed since our last power rankings, the executives of the stations that got the rights have held their places and those who missed out have disappeared completely. Channel Nine remains central to the way most Australians consume rugby league. People who tweet scores from games they are showing on delay are regularly abused and Nine’s commentators are arguably more famous than most players. Nine succeeded in convincing the NRL to allow them to delay Sunday games and keep grand finals in the evening by throwing truckloads of money at the new administration.
6. Todd Greenberg
NRL official. Despite his high profile, Greenberg didn’t make our list last year because we were told he was not a wheeler-and-deaer, preparing to focus on what was in front of him at the Bulldogs. But having handled the Ben Barba episode at the club earlier this year, Greenberg has been appointed as David Smith’s frontman at Moore Park. He’s the man who knows it’s Ben Barba, not Benji Barba, and will speak on football-related matters in future. Presumably, given Dave Smith’s pre-occupation with the corporate side of the business, Greenberg will increasingly seem like the boss of the NRL to average fans.
7. Patrick Delany
Television executive. Our first new entry, the Fox Sports CEO has been very proactive this year as his pay television channel completely overhauled its rugby league coverage, cutting a talent-sharing deal with Nine. A former Commonwealth Games swimming trialist, Delaney is known to be in constant contact with clubs about innovations such as the Fox Kopter and cornerpost-cam. A great corporate link with News Limited and a big move into tablets and mobile technology increases Fox’s – and Delany’s – influence.
8. Phil Gould
Penrith general manager. Gould was David Gallop’s no.1 nemesis and saw him off. No other club official commentates on games and writes columns in newspapers. He has the ear of David Smith and the respect of most, putting in long hours and leading the fight against the GWS AFL franchise. Gould appears to be a fan of the ARLC but history shows he will be a formidable adversary if they get him offside. He talks about politics, football and personalities and shapes public opinion in each these areas. And he almost prised Johnathan Thurston away from North Queensland.
9. Ray Dibb
Canterbury chairman. The rise of NRL club chairman has been a key development since our most recent power rankings. The group succeeded in getting an advance on the TV rights income which has been estimated at some $7 million per franchise. Initially, there were fears they would block the introduction of the commission completely if they didn’t get their way. Dib is in constant contact with other club bosses, recently appointed the first female chief executive of the NRL era, Raelene Castle and played a key role in the recent restructure of the NSWRL.
10. Gary Hetherington
Leeds chief executive. Our highest ranking English power broker, Hetherington runs the dual code Leeds Rugby conglomerate and is the man behind bids to expand the World Club Challenge which now look like being successful. Hetherington is always thinking outside the box, be it taking games to places like Dubai and Hong Kong or tinkering with the domestic season, and has more influence than anyone at Red Hall given the recent financial problems at Bradford and the near-collapse of Salford.
11. Dave Trodden
Wests Tigers official. The Balmain solicitor stepped down as Wests Tigers chairman at the end of his term last year but by then he had already played a key role in establishing the NRL chairmans’ group and won significant funding from the Commission, creating a new power group in the game. At the end of 2011, he was quoted in RLW saying the clubs were refusing to sign licence agreements with the NRL, which could have freed them to form their own competition. Despite no longer being a club chairman, Trodden remains active. Also a huge influence over NSWRL restructure.
12. Graham Annesley
NSW Sports Minister. The next big revolution in the NRL is going to concern the stadiums policy, and attempts to match venues to events more sensibly.. That will mean a painful departure from suburban grounds and better deals for clubs and fans at the super stadia. As NSW sports minister, former international referee Graham Annesley will be at the centre of the paradigm shift. He’s rocketed up eight spots in our world rugby league power rankings as a result.
13. Wayne Beavis
Player agent. With the television deal done and the competition structure settled, player agents such as Beavis come into their own once more. When it was reported recently that Neil Henry had two weeks to save his job as coach of North Queensland, it was a meeting Beavis held in Townsville which sparked the rumour. Beavis manages Trent Barrett, who has been linked to a coaching job at the Cowboys. He also represented the players in talks with the RLPA about representative payments and is also deeply involved in the Agent Accreditation scheme.
14. Wayne Bennett
Newcastle coach. The supercoach has dropped a few spots because he has had enough on his plate at Newcastle, restricting the time available to influence the sport as a whole. Nathan Tinkler has gone from the top 20 completely for similar reasons. But when Bennett has something to say, like recently regarding cannonball tackles, people listen. Having brought back the Tri- (now Four) Nations, he has reportedly moved his focus to Australian sport as a whole. Bennett knows how to use his influence and is anecdotally close to ARLC chairman John Grant.
15. Jim Doyle
NRL chief operating officer. Already influential in his role as the chief executive of the New Zealand Rugby League, the Navman millionaire has crossed the Tasman and is helping run the NRL. Doyle turned Kiwi league around in the wake of the SPARC report, winning many admirers, and could even be regarded as over-qualified for his NRL gig. His oversight includes the new NRL integrity unit and he gave an early indication he won’t be a wallflower by speaking out against the practice of sweeping off-field incidents under the carpet.
16. Shane Richardson
South Sydney chief executive. Richardson has a finger in plenty of pies. As one of the longest-surviving club CEOs, he has plenty to say at CEOs conferences. As a former Super League club boss, he is on the committee that liases over the future of the World Club Challenge. And as the boss of the competition’s form team, he has a big input on competition-wide policies, such as media procedures. Richardson is also not afraid to make a public statement, meaning he can use the media to apply pressure where necessary – a lost art among most NRL CEOs
17. Isaac Moses
Player agent. A new entry by unlucky to miss out last year. Moses is the man who manages Cameron Smith, the current Australian captain, and the recruit the game most covets, Israel Folau. As part of Titan management, which also handles Karmichael Hunt, he has been involved in some of the most seismic transfers in recent rugby league history – ones which affect the overall health of the game by shifting athletes from one sport to another. Moses was banned from operating by the Agent Accreditation Scheme over his involvement in the Storm salary cap drama but the suspension seemed to have little or no impact on his operation
18. Simon Moran
Warrington majority shareholder. The English “pop impresario” rarely gives interviews but is too polite to decline them, simply going missing at the appointed time. He’s the man behind some of the biggest bands, festivals and venues in the UK but his big passion is rugby league and, more specifically, Warrington Wolves. He has single-handedly turned them into a Super League force and is part of a powerful group that is negotiating over the future of the World Club Challenge. A man with enough money to make things happen.
19. Paul Gallen
Cronulla captain. Gallen has become increasingly outspoken in recent years and the ASADA investigation at the Sharks has brought his leadership qualities into shark focus. Cronulla’s decision to stone-wall the drugs agency has forced it to change tack and probably prolonged the investigation. On the field, he took the law into his own hands in Origin I as NSW skipper and probably went a long way towards determining the result. Number 19 with a bullet.
20 Owen Glenn
Warriors shareholder. Probably holds the fortunes of rugby league in New Zealand in his hands. The billionaire took a share in the Warriors last year, with an announcement he and Eric Watson would share the ownership on a 50-50 basis. Without the club as a flagship, rugby league in New Zealand would not be able to keep its head above water in comparison with the dominant rival code. The owners last year announced they wanted to make the club the biggest sporting franchise in Australasia. That’s got off to a shaky start.




Like the way of the five metre gap in defence, reviewing the points from the NRL you may have missed from round 13.

Steve Price’s voodoo hex over Wayne Bennett-coached sides continued on Saturday in Newcastle as St George Illawarra beat the Knights. Many of the plaudits were focused on the individual efforts of Dragons fullback Josh Dugan however ball security won the day for the visitors , who completed 85 per cent of their sets. In recent weeks their completion rate had dipped to 65 per cent so it was been a back-to-basics approach which helped move the joint-venture side up to 12th on the ladder.

Despite the loss on Friday night and the fallout of the ‘Parra 12’ ,the Eels were able to salvage something out of the reshuffled side with the performance of stand-in fullback Jake Mullaney. The 23-year-old was elevated to the starting line-up as regular fullback Jarryd Hayne came off the bench after Origin duty and the former Tiger produced a game-high 19 runs which generated 124 metres and included eight tackle breaks. Given Parramatta’s lack of zip in attack in recent weeks, if your fullback can break the first tackle on nearly every second attempt it’s not a bad platform to start each set with.

Last week we highlighted the targeting of replacement halfback Ben Hunt when the Broncos were humbled by the Warriors in round 12 and this week it’s another substitute half who was in the crosshairs of their opponents. With Johnathan Thurston missing due to injury, Michael Morgan slotted into five-eighth for the Cowboys as they faced the Bulldogs eventually going down 36-26. Missing five of his 15 tackle attempts, the 21 year-old wasn’t quite in Hunt’s echelon but was still poor in his 65 minutes on the park.

With captain Robbie Farah injured, Masada Iosefa took up the workload in the absence of the Blues hooker, making 55 tackles as the Wests Tigers edged the Panthers on Sunday. Team-mate Aaron Woods was exceptional with 46 tackles to go with his 20 hit-ups but the former Panther is proving his worth as Farah’s understudy on the occasions when he has been called upon to play first grade for the side in the last two seasons.

As the Warriors continue their great run of form with their third win on the trot – against Manly on Sunday – coach Matthew Elliott has been left with an interesting predicament about his back three. Compared to the problems he was looking at four weeks ago, the subject of what to do with Glen Fisiiahi with Kevin Locke returning this weekend is a vexing one.  Fisiiahi, 22, produced 20 runs with four tackle breaks and was dynamic in attack playing in the #1 slot on the weekend and Elliott needs to try to get the best out of him coming off the wing when Locke returns but ensuring they don’t reduce the incumbent’s impact.

Not a bad problem to have, though, for the previously under-fire ex-Raiders coach.



IN last week’s Rugby League Week, Nate Myles raised the spectre of the “prowler” or “cannonball” tackle.

During the round 11 game between his Gold Coast Titans and Parramatta, he had appealed to the referees to do something about the practice. During a remarkably civil on-field debate with rival captain Tim Mannah, it was pointed out that Titans were doing it too.

Myles didn’t want us to make a big deal about the issue in last week’s mag.

Newcastle coach Wayne Bennett, on the other hand, clearly wanted to make an issue of the practice when his back rower Alex McKinnon suffered syndesmosis of the ankle, allegedly after a dangerous challenge by South Sydney’s Nathan Peats on Saturday.

It seems a straightforward process to stop a third defender diving at the knees when two others have an attacking player held.

But the bunnies point out that Peats was only tackling around the legs, as players are taught from the age of five. Of course, the legs used to be the first port of call for any tackler in rugby league.

Now, they’re the second or third priority and that’s why we have these injuries.

It’s unrealistic to expect professional players to go back to tackling around the legs but we can encourage referees to keep a look out for a “third man in” diving at the knees and start giving penalties, as happened in the second half of the Mudgee game.

Many readers no doubt oppose the recent mid-season rule changes in the NRL. But if they are concerned with player safety, like this one, are they OK?


I’VE been quiet on media access for a while, now haven’t i?

But how is it that you can waltz into a State of Origin team hotel, have 19 minutes with a NSW forward (see Trent Merrin A-List page 12-13) – and a brief chat with another for a news story – and yet that is completely impossible at club level.

There are only 34 Origin players and roughly 450 in the NRL – yet it’s easier to crack it for a chat with an Origin player. Crazy.

The new NRL media guidelines were a step in the right direction but clubs are now just trying to meet quotas, in some extreme cases putting up fringe first graders on weekend mornings at the exact same time as other events in the same city.

The ALRLC desperately needs a co-ordinated media strategy in each city to effectively combat other sports, instead of allowing the current situation where NRL clubs are undercutting each other with chaotic media schedules.


DISCORD 2013: Edition 15


IT’S now common for clubs to put media conferences up on their websites. You won’t get any print journalists asking good questions at morning recovery sessions as a result – but that’s not what I want to talk about here.

The interview marked “Round Five recovery” on the Newcastle Knights website features Darius Boyd on Monday, and is pretty unremarkable. However, it is just an “edited highlights” of the encounter.

Apparently Darius – famous for his antisocial media opp at the Dragons a couple of years ago – refused to answer innocuous questions like “what do you think of your own form?”

“Next question” and “no comment” were the responses to the sort of Dorothy Dixers that players at, say, Cronulla would kill to be fielding right now. Excerpts were shown on the Matty Johns Show this week.

Discord is not going to do the predictable thing and just have a go at Darius. I’ve got a slightly more complex point to make.

A number of players and coaches over the years – Darius is one but former St George Illawarra captain Ben Hornby and, at times, current Dragons coach Steve Price to much lesser degrees – have appeared to take their cue from Wayne Bennett when it comes to dealing with the media.

But what they have done is copy the substance of Bennett’s public utterances without any appreciation of the subtlety and strategy involved.

Wayne Bennett says very little so that his opinion becomes a rare commodity. When Bennett needs to get something ‘out there’, his comments have greater currency because he doesn’t say much when other people want him to.

He says more in defeat, generally, than he says in victory. Last Sunday was a classic example when Price’s Dragons beat his Knights at Kogarah.

Instead of writing about Knights great Kurt Gidley being consigned to a gruelling career as a hooker, for instance, we all wrote about how Bennett bagged us.

Bennett also often sacrifices himself for his team, saying nothing so we focus on his reticence rather than his team’s poor performance.

He has been known to ring journalists when he wants to get a point across. How many of his acolytes do that? The number of former Queensland greats who have criticised Maroons forwards on the morning of a match when he was coach may or may not be a coincidence.

But it is clear from the behaviour of those who have done their apprenticeships under Bennett that he has not shared the nuances of his strategies with them. They have just aped his “give ‘em nothing, take ‘em nowhere” exterior.

Without the intellectual underpinning, this often comes across as just plain rude.


ANOTHER coach bites the dust in Ian ‘Basil’ Millward at Castleford.

A friend of mine commented on Facebook yesterday that if Maggie Thatcher had never been born, Castleford wouldn’t be such a struggling club, since her policies hurt the industrial north more than anywhere else.

Basil’s had such a hard couple of years and a break from coaching will do him good. Discord wishes him luck

I can’t believe Brian Smith does not have a job in Super League by now. Or Stephen Kearney (I think he has to stay in the southern hemisphere to keep the NZ job).


LOTS of comments last week after a slow response to the previous column.

read on