Salford Reds Assure Parramatta They’re Not Trying To Add Hock

Gareth Hock/wikipedia
Gareth Hock/wikipedia

By STEVE MASCORD

MILLIONAIRE Salford Reds owner Marwan Koukash has written to Parramatta promising not to attempt to steal England star Gareth Hock from under their noses.

Rugby League Week last week reported how personal issues threatened to keep the 29-year-old back-rower in the UK – and how interest from the Reds would give him an out if he chose to do so.

But Hock is only on load to Widnes from Wigan, the Super League leaders hold his contract and don’t want him playing against them.

“Gareth is through the worst of it …it’s all looking good,” said Eels football manager Peter Nolan.

“There was never an offer from Salford. I got a nice email from their chairman. They understand he is contracted to us.”

Koukash told Nolan he had received a call about Hock. “He said he was interested in talking to him if he was available,” Nolan explained.

“Then he went on to say that no offer had ever been made, he understands he’s our player and if he became available in future, he would deal directly with us and no-one else.

“It was good to hear from him as it poured cold water on a lot of the rubbish coming from over there about Gareth.”

Parramatta’s other English signing, Lee Mossop, scored a try on Sunday in Wigan’s 68-10 win over Koukash’s men.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

Parramatta Confident Hock Deal Will Go Ahead

Gareth Hock/wikipedia
Gareth Hock/wikipedia

By STEVE MASCORD
PARRAMATTA’s deal with England forward Gareth Hock is in jeopardy – but the Eels say he’ll be forced into retirement if he doesn’t show up next year.
Hock is believed to have received an offer from Dr Marwan Koukash (see update below), the owner of Salford City Reds who has openly vowed to break the salary cap in his pursuit of assembling a champion team.
That’s despite the 29-year-old having already agreed to terms with the Eels. But according to Parramatta football manager Peter Nolan, Wigan – who hold Hock’s contact – will not let him join the Reds.
“Look, Gareth has some personal issues,” Nolan tells RLW. “All of us have personal problems from time to time which deserve some privacy.
“But I have spoken to him and he is 100 per cent determined to overcome them and join us next year. He says he is still coming.
“Wigan’s Ian Lenagan is a straight-up sort of guy and he has said that if Gareth doesn’t play for us next year, then he retires.
“There is an offer from another club but they don’t really understand the contractual situation.”
Hock is currently on loan from Wigan to Widnes but is banned from playing against the cherry-and-whites as part of the strict conditions of his loan arrangements.
Parramatta’s other English signing for next year, Wigan’s Lee Mossop, recently had shoulder surgery. In February he was ruled out for three months after suffering the injury playing for Wigan against London.
“We’re still confident of both of them joining us next year,” said Nolan

NB: Since this story appeared, Salford have written to Parramatta undertaking to make no attempt to sign Gareth Hock

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

Super League round 16: SALFORD 28 WIDNES 22 at Etihad Stadium, Manchester

By SOPHIE ARNOLD

COACH Brian Noble wasn’t getting carried away with a dramatic Magic Weekend win over Widnes, hauling Salford from the bottom of the Super League pile.

Replacement Jordan James slipped through a clutch of exhausted Vikings defenders to score the match-winning try in Sunday’s opening game for a hard-fought victory.

A hat-trick from loose forward Joe Mellor helped the Vikings recover from an early 12-0 deficit but the efforts of the Cheshire set were in vain.

In a tight but clumsy game, Noble was pleased with the win which he hopes will be a turning point for the soon-to-be-renamed Red Devils.

“We’re in the business of getting better, we understand the circumstances and we’re trying to keep away from the win and loss mentality,” said Noble.

“We’ve improved massively in the last few weeks and we will keep improving. The players have been overburdened with the reality of the situation, the pressure cooker.”

Salford - Brian NobleMellor’s second for Widnes seven minutes into the second half required the kind of soccer skills Manchester’s Etihad Stadium is used to seeing as the Vikings fought to keep the result in doubt.

A draw looked likely when the video referee awarded Kevin Brown a try after he snuck over from a tap penalty but two minutes before the hooter James struck the fatal blow.

Lee Gaskell was the first to cross the line for the Reds 30 minutes in after intercepting a pass by Jon Clarke to run the length of the pitch.

This was closely followed by a try from James to give Salford a comfortable lead.

But two from Mellor either side of the half-time whistle saw Widnes almost catch-up and make the score 12-10.

A valiant Joe Broughton effort was disallowed by the video ref for obstruction with Gaskell appearing to pushing Handbury to the floor.

Salford centre Martin Gleeson found the line in the 62nd minute to extend the Reds’ lead but a missed conversion and Mellor’s third five minutes later saw the score equalised.

Salford half Theo Fages and Brown traded further tries but James’ late winner proved the Vikings efforts were for nought. The nature of the finish left Widnes boss Denis Betts despondent as he rued his side’s lack of creativity.

He conceded: “It was a tight game – nip and tuck and all those cliches – but we looked flat.

“Salford had a point to prove and we didn’t have anything to throw at them, we looked devoid of ideas at times.”

SALFORD 28 (J James 2 L Gaskell T Fages J Broughton tries M Sneyd 4 goals) bt WIDNES 22 (J Mellor 3 K Brown tries J Owens 3 goals) at Etihad Stadium. Referee: T Alibert

Final team lists:

SALFORD: Marc Sneyd; Jodie Broughton, Martin Gleeson, Lee Gaskell, Ashley Gibson; Ryan McGoldrick Theo Fages; Stephen Wild, Andrew Dixon, Matty Ashurst, Adam Walne, Wayne Godwin, Darrell Griffin. Res: Liam Foran Vic Mauro Jordan James Jake Emmitt.

WIDNES: Rhys Hanbury; Paddy Flynn, Stefan Marsh, Cameron Phelps, Jack Owens; Kevin Brown Joe Mellor; Macgraff Leuluai, Dave Allen, Chris Dean, Eamon O’Carroll, Jon Clarke, Steve Pickersgill Res: Phil Joseph, Ben Kavanagh, Lloyd White, Frank Winterstein.

Ben Cross Wants To Work With Young Prop Stars

Widnes - Ben CrossBy STEVE MASCORD

FORMER NSW enforcer Ben Cross wants to return to Australia and mentor young props for a living.

The 34-year-old tells League Week he will likely retire at the end of this season with Widnes, although he’s open to the idea of another year of the club wants him.

And when he finishes he has his heart set on doing the same thing for prop forwards as former Newcastle team-mate Andrew Johns does for halves.

“At this stage it’s probably 95 per cent that this will be it,” Cross says of 2013. “The family’s pretty keen to go home but they would stay another year.

“I’ve got a big passion for (the game). I definitely want to get into coaching, mentoring, something to do with juniors, working with the seniors.

“ I’m going to get on the phone shortly and talk to a couple of old coaches in Bellyache (Craig Bellamy) and Michael Maguire and a couple of the Newcastle coaching staff.

“With Rick Stone being the assistant there, I played under him in my time there and Wayne Bennett is always looking for new blood, Danny Buderus will hang around.

“I’ll start making those phone calls now and laying the foundations. I’m doing all the right things over here, coaching a few junior teams to get some experience.”

Cross played for Country Origin and NSW in 2007 and 2008.

Filed for: LEAGUE WEEK

TRAVELS: V

TravelsBy STEVE MASCORD

THE old ‘Aussie take on the British game” routine has been done to death over the years – but I’m sure it’s what you’re expecting from me this week.

Since about 1970, Australian media types have been talking down their noses at British players, administrators and supporters about what has to be done to “fix’ the game here.

The fact is, it’s become such a cliché that it no longer seems to carry much weight. You just shrug and go watch your team this weekend like you always have.

Last weekend, I went to three games: Leeds-Hull, St Helens-Hudderfield and London-Widnes. I thought the middle one was compelling, the others had different flaws as spectacles.

Let me say off the bat that I love Super League. I sit up and listen to commentaries online on a Sunday night at home and tweet scores –that’s how much I love it.

I love the ball movement, I love the sense of adventure and the risk taking and I love the crowds who make the audiences at home seem like they are painted onto their seats.

No-one has sent me here for the first month of the season. Sure I pick up some work doing the World Club Challenge but I cannot think of a better place in the world to be right now than here, watching three games a week.

So if I must do the old “Aussie preaching to poms” routine, let it be known that I am not approaching the issue from a perspective of arrogant distance.

Leeds remains a true hotbed for rugby league, up there with Brisbane and Wigan. Game night is compelling and uplifting and the Rhinos are a great team to watch, with Ryan Bailey the perfect pantomime villain.

Now Hull, to me, do not look the part at all – and Gareth Ellis’ presence would have made no difference to the result on Friday.

They seem to lack penetration and play off the top of their heads. It’s hard to see them joining the top echelon of Super League sides this season.

Huddersfield on Saturday played like an NRL side – an NRL side with a point to prove. Please, don’t tell me playing against a coach who left you for “greener pastures” the previous year is not a motivator.

This is the sort of situation I see time and again as a rugby league writer. Players deny being motivated by factors that are as plain as the nose on Laurie Daley’s face and mock us as cynics for suggesting such a thing – and years later in their biographies admit we were 100 per cent right.

Whereas Friday night’s floggings were bad for rugby league, this one was good for the comp (sorry Saints fans) and injected much interest in this weekend’s Widnes-Saints game.

Which brings us to Sunday’s events at The Stoop.

I found it to be a rather depressing afternoon all round. The main reason, perhaps, is outlined in the item below but the 2800-odd crowd and dismal performance of the Broncos made it a particularly downbeat occasion.

On one hand, we want London to spend up the salary cap and be competitive. On the other, we seen tiny crowds like this come through the turnstiles. You don’t need to be a genius to work out that one of these things will continue at the expense of the other.

You can talk all you like about them playing at the wrong venue. London are like Melbourne – they are in hostile/apathetic markets and must ALWAYS be competitive (challenging for titles) to be a success.

In Australia, the AFL signed Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau and then just gave them to expansion clubs. I know it would never be tolerated in the north but maybe the only answer for London is for the RFL to adopt a similar policy with the Broncos.

I know Red Hall has had its funding cut and is laying off people but at some stage they have to revisit central contracting and take dramatic, unusual measures to help London – as the AFL did for its missionary franchises. Yes, I know the culture is different here and you are still getting your heads around salary caps and play-offs but we have to do SOMETHING.

As an  outsider, it is obvious to me that rugby league needs a team in London. But what we have IS not is not working. Another Aussie example (sorry) – the A-league soccer body founding itself running some of the teams in its own league to prevent them collaPsing.

OK, end of arrogant, ignorant sermon. I hope you found my thoughts interesting, even if you didn’t agree with any of them. I just figured I had to write about the first round of Super League this week.

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I was having a beer with my friend Howard Scott in the main grandstand at The Stoop on Sunday when I received one of the worst phone calls of my life.

read on

Super League round one: WIDNES 28 LONDON 14 at The Stoop

By STEVE MASCORD

LONDON started the Super League season disastrously when centre David Howell broke an arm and captain Craig Gower suffered a worrying groin injury in a heavy home loss to Widnes.

In front of just 2856 fans at the Stoop, the Broncos found themselves down 18-0 by halftime to a Widnes side which still has several key players – including star signing Gareth Hock – to be added. A second-half revival by Tony Rea’s men came far too late.

Making matters worse are injuries to Howell, halfback Gower – who missed most of the second half – and five-eighth Michael Witt (also groin).

“We didn’t handle the emotion of the day well,” said coach Tony Rea, referring to expectations the club would be more competitive this season.

“By that I mean  there is expectation. We want expectation to do do well. They (Widnes) played like they had nothing to lose. We want people to expect things from us.”
Rea said the seriousness of Gower and Witt’s injuries would be known in the next 48 hours. “We’re a squad, we’re not just one player,” he said in reference to Gower.

For rival Denis Betts, who saw his side defend grimly to deny several Broncos scoring chances at the death, next weekend’s clash with local rivals St Helens will not be made easier by the victory in the capital or Saints’s dismal 40-4 defeat the previous evening to Hudderfield.

“I can’t remember watching St Helens play that badly – ever, in 10 years of Super League,” said Betts. “I think they’ll be a completely different side next week.

“That was an anomaly that threw itself up last night. It was one of those things. I don’t think we’ll be watching the tape and hoping they play that badly again. I just can’t see it.

“They’ve got too many good players, they’re too well coached, I think the response next week will be massive.”

Widnes’ Danny Craven suffered a broken collarbone.

WIDNES 28 (S Marsh 2 J Clarke D Allen F Winterstein tries R Hanbury 4 goals) bt LONDON 14 (K Dixon 2 tries, goal) at The Stoop. Referee: T Roby. Crowd: 2856.

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Final team lists:

LONDON: Luke Dorn; Kiean Dixon, David Howell, Alex Hurst, Jamie O’Callaghan; Michael Witt, Craig Gower; Chris Bailey, Shane Rodney, Will Lovell, Scott Wheeldon, Chad Randall, Antonio Kaufusi. Res: Mark Bryant, Olsi Krasniqi, Thomas Lee, Chris Melling.

WIDNES: Rhys Hanbury; Willie Isa, Stefan Marsh, Chris Dean, Paddy Flynn; Joe Melling, Danny Craven; Hep Cahill, Macgraff Leuluai, Dave Allen, Eamon O’Carroll, John Clarke, Ben Cross. Res: Lloyd White, Alex Gerard, Frank Winterstein, Phil Joseph.

Halftime: Widnes 18-0