Meet Joe Burgess

RUGBY league often boasts that it can replace the stars it loses with a rookie of comparable talent, almost instantaneously.
But this Saturday at Alianz Stadium, the maxim will be taken to its extreme when an 19-year-old Englishman called Burgess plays against the Sydney Roosters.
Joe Burgess – no relation to rugby union-bound Sam – started the season third choice winger at Wigan behind Ian Thornley and Josh Charnley and got a start a fornight ago because of an injury to Charnley.
He scored a try – and when he was given the nod ahead of Thornley in the World Club Challenge warm-up against the Warriors half a week later, promptly scored four.
“Pat Richards left, which gave me a good opportunity to work hard and get that permanent spot,” the local Wigan junior tells Fairfax Media.
“I played amateur for 11 years, moved onto Wigan when I was 16 and went fulltime when I was 17.”
Young Joe has been to the southern hemisphere once before, on a schoolboys tour, but said playing 48 hours after crossing the world in the 46-22 win over the Warriors was a completely new experience.
“It was tough, he said. “After the first 20, 25 minutes, I started really feeling it in my legs. But it was good to get it out of the way and move onto next week.” One experience the youngers liked was playing under two referees.
“I think it makes the game better – they’re more precise in their decisions. It was good.
“(We have to be) more aggressive, Getting up off our line and really getting in their (Roosters’) faces.”
The latest Burgess has made coach Shaun Wane’s 19-man squad for the WCC; Thornley has not.
“I can’t picture it. It’s been a dream, I can’t imagine the goosebumps. When we do find out the team and if I do get the chance to play, I’ll make sure I’m better than my opposition.”



THE JOY OF SIX: International Season Week One 2014


WHEN we went to Parramatta with claims Chris Sandow had played in an aboriginal knockout and been sent off for a shoulder charge followed by an elbow, Eels CEO Scott Seward told us: “He had permission to play. He passed a medical and the coach gave him his blessing. Chrissy has told us he was sent to the sin bin for a shoulder charge on a childhood friend. It was a bit of a joke between them.” But bootleg video on YouTube above appears to show a dismissal – with the elbow chiefly to blame. When Seward put this to Sandow, he insisted he wasn’t aware he had been sent off, only sin binned. We can’t find any record of a judiciary hearing. The title for the Murri Carnival at Redcliffe two weeks ago changed hands when it was discovered the winners, Murri Dingoes Blue, fielded a player who mistakenly believed his drugs suspension had expired. Parra’ refused permission for Joseph Paulo and Bereta Faraimo to play for the US in the Mitchelton Nines on Saturday.


WE have often heard this year that “little guys wouldn’t be pushing big guys if they could still be punched”. It was just a theory until the Super League grand final, when little Lance Hohaia pushed big Ben Flower, then lunged at him with a raised forearm. As we know, Hohaia punched Flower twice, the second time when he was on his back, possibly unconscious. They both missed the rest of the game, leaving St Helens to limp to victory as they have all year. Had Flower – who left Old Trafford before fulltime – not opted out of Wales duty, he could at least have counted the upcoming European internationals against what will no doubt be a mammoth suspension. Condemnation of Flower has been widespread and almost unanimous. Soccer star Joe Barton Tweeted he had “little sympathy” for Hohaia because of the provocation, but later stressed he did not intend to defend the Welshman.


LIKE Wigan’s Super League campaign, the proud 15-year-plus history of the United States Tomahawks may have come to an end with a punch at the weekend. The USARL is taking over running the game in the US and is likely to dispense with the old AMNRL trademark, meaning it was all on the line when the Americans trailed invitational side Iron Brothers 8-4 with three minutes left in a Nines quarter-final in Brisbane. The Tomahawks got the ball back but sometime-cage fighter Tui Samoa took umbrage to something a rival said and punched him. Water carrier Paulo – banned, as we said, by Parramatta from playing – helped separate them, Samoa was sent to the bin and Brothers scored again to eliminate the US 14-4.


AND what a mixed bag we had for rugby league public speaking at the weekend. On the plus side, congrats to departing Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin, the club’s player of the year Ben Hunt and CEO Paul White for their oratory at the club presentation. “Ben Hunt was entitled to test his value on the open market but he didn’t,” White told around 500 guests. “Although at a backyard barbecue I was at, he did get his message across to me by changing the words of the Status Quo song to ‘down, down, prices are down”. Griffin said: “Whatever I do now, I’ll be a competitor. But I’ll never be a critic of this club or the people in it.” On the negative, St Helens’ Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, at fulltime on live TV: “I’m absolutely buzzing. I could fucking swear”. Yes, he said those words – in that order.


SOUTHS chief executive Shane Richardson has savaged the running of the international game in Britain’s The Observer. “I look at the state of international rugby league and it just makes me angry,” Richardson – citing the departure of Sam Burgess as a symptom of the problem – said. “I know from the years I’ve spent in the game, and the contacts I’ve made in business, and the places I’ve been around the world, that there’s a potential to do so much more.” Nevertheless, Greece played their first home international at the weekend, beating the Czechs 68-16 in Athens, the Philippines defeated Vanuatu 32-16 on remote Santo and Norway were preparing to meet Thailand in Bangkok. Next weekend, Latin America faces Portugal and Fiji takes on Lebanon, both in Sydney while Tonga take on PNG in Lae and the European Championships commence.


REPORTS of veteran rugby league photographer Col Whelan’s retirement were greatly exaggerated last year. The NRL weren’t quite ready to take over Col’s operation and he went around in 2014 for one last season – wearing a South Sydney cap to every game. NRL rules prohibit media from wearing club merchandise but the media areas are full of uniformed club staff posting on social media, an inconsistency the irascible snapper sought to highlight. At fulltime on grand final day in the bunnies rooms, players became concerned Col had stopped shooting. He was crying with happiness. At the Red and Green ball, Whelan presented every player with a disc containing 120 photos of their life-defining triumph. What a way to go out – enjoy your retirement, Col.


BONDI BEAT: May 2014

Dr Who? Mockup by @drkockrash
Dr Who? Mockup by @drkockrash


LIKE your clubs in England, the NRL is considering ways to hold onto players and to recruit new stars,
Bondi Beat‘s spies tell us that the issue was raised in Auckland before the NRL Nines. The CEO of the league, David Smith, suggested that if one club wanted to sign a rugby union star, for instance, it could apply for central funding.
But every club would have the opportunity to match or exceed the amount of money the recruiting club was willing to pay. If Souths wanted to sign England rahrah George North, for instance, North Queensland could offer to pay a larger part of his wage package. This would leave the league paying less.
North would still have the opportunity to go to the club of his choice, not the highest bidder.
But another idea should be a concern to most readers. The plan is to make transfer fees salary cap-free if the incoming player is not from the NRL.
In other words, a leave pass to raid the Super League if you have enough money to pay the transfer fees.
I am told it was South Sydney chief executive Shane Richardson who pointed this implication out. “They play the same sport as us over there, you know,” was the crux of his argument.
If you go through the current NRL club CEOS, few have much experience in the international game.

THE debate over the marquee player proposal in England is a fascinating one.
I heard on the BBC recently that the NRL has a marquee player allowance of $600,000 per club. That is wrong. There is no marquee player system in the NRL that is even remotely similar to what Dr Marwan Koukash is proposing in Super League.

What is allowed in the NRL are third part agreements – club sponsors paying players up to a limit. It is not the same as allowing clubs to spend their own money on imported talent, regardless of whether it sends them broke.
Instead of offering Stg200,000 for rival clubs’ “golden tickets”, perhaps Dr Koukash should guarantee to under-write the rest of the comp so every club can spend up to the cap as it exists now.
I am a bit of a sociallist when it comes to sporting competitions. I believe our game needs to be outwardly capitalist but inwardly communist.
Until every club in the Super League is spending up to the cap, there is no point giving them more rope to hang themselves. Maybe if every club in the new division of eight is spending up to the cap and is on a sound financialfooting, it can be considered again.
The recent Widnes-Salford epic was a clash of cultures – between licencing and throwing raw cash at something. And who won that?
THIS column probably features a few too many items which paint my Australian compatriots as being a little ignorant of the realities of rugby league outside their own bubble. It’s a point that gets laboured here too much.
But it was curious the other day to hear Penrith coach Ivan Cleary say this: “I think, personally, we shouldn’t have representative tournaments every year at the end of the year,” Cleary said. ”Maybe a one-off game with Australia and New Zealand straight after the grand final pretty much. Basically, if you are going to have one it needs to finish a lot earlier.”
Cleary, you’ll remember, is the New Zealand assistant coach!
Now, George Gregan played 139 Tests in that other code. Darren Lockyer had played 59 when he retired. But WE’RE playing too many Tests? Clearly, were playing too many club games…
One man who agreed with Cleary was Greg Alexander, who is on the board at Penrith. When I appeared with Andrew Voss and Brandy on 2UE to argue against Cleary’s contention, one of their responses was that if we needed international football so much then perhaps there should be a World Cup every two years!
From the sublime to the ridiculous…..
IN the wake of the sort of ignorance described above, you’ve got to hand it to the Sydney Roosters and former Catalan coach Trent Robinson.
He has hired the England coach as his assistant and in Remy Casty has a man who is likely to be only the fourth French born player to turn out in the top flight down under, after Jerome Guisset, Jacques Molinet and Jason Baitieri.
And when his team completely outclassed Wigan in the World Club Challenge, Robinson argued that the concept should be expanded. Even in the face of the increasing disparity in the salary caps of the two competitions, he argued an expanded WCC would narrow the gap, not accentuate it.

ANOTHER great story in this neck of the woods this year has been the debut in Queensland’s Untrust Super Cup (the Q Cup to you) of the Kopoko-based PNG Hunters.
After the disappointments of the World Cup, the PNGRL signed players from rural areas to contracts, took them away from their families for 11 weeks and put them in a police barracks.
The result was a 24-18 win on debut against Redcliffe in Brisbane. “Back at home, after the World Cup when everyone got back into the country, the guys that played in
the World Cup never went out in public places because a lot of the media and the people around the country were pissed off,” said coach Michael Marum.
PNGRL chairman Sandis Tsaka says Mal Meninga is now the coach of the Kumuls. They hope to play the winner of the mid-year Samoa-Fiji Test before the Four Nations and a warm-up game against another 4N team – perhaps England.
TYRONE McCarthy and his partner, Helen Lomax, are settling in nicely in Cairns.
The Ireland vice-captain and ex-Warrington star scored two tries on debut for Q Cup side Northern Pride. “I was probably getting stagnant at Warrington, being in and out of the side,” he said.
“It’s pretty different to home here, very hot and humid, but I’m used to it now and the club have been great. Two tries is more than I scored all last year.”
Tyrone is hoping to get his charity project, the FullBloods, going in Oz. It helps kids in disadvantaged areas using rugby league to connect with them. Support Tyrone by visiting

DISCORD 2014: Edition Four

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?

read on

Nathan Brown Slams Wigan Props


OUTSPOKEN Nathan Brown has issued a World Club Challenge warning to Sydney Roosters: Wigan’s props are cheap shot merchants.
The St Helens boss and former St George Illawarra coach made the comment yesterday after his new signing, former Penrith half Luke Walsh, finished his first night as a Super League player in hospital undergong x-rays for a possible facial fracture after a late challenge from Wigan’s Welsh giant Ben Flower.
The 28-16 Wigan win at Langtree Park also marked the English debuts of North Queensland icon Matt Bowen and former South Sydney and Wests Tigers forward Eddy Pettybourne.
“He got hit in the head – without the ball. You know that’s going to happen when you play Wigan” said a fuming Brown.
“That’s standard with their front rowers. It happened to Gaz O’Brien last year.”
Brown was otherwise complimentary to the side who will meet the Roosters at Allianz Stadium on February 22, calling them “effective”, “fluid” and “terrific”. The starting props in Sydney are likely to be Flower and Scott Taylor with Pettybourne off the bench.
New signing Jordan James, a former Royal Marine, will push Gil Dudson for the final bench spot.
That’s if Flower, 26, escapes the wrath of the judiciary. Walsh played on after the 70th-minute hit and was taken straight to a local hospital for scans. Results were still unavailable at the time of writing.
Pettybourne, who played for the United States in the World Cup, had fans chanting his name after a couple of big hits off the interchange bench. “He’s got good footwork and a hit on him,” said coach Shaun Wane.
“There’s a few technical things EP can work on. He’ll get better.”
Bowen had few oppotunities, St Helens scoring one try after the Cowboys star lost the ball in a tackle. He was replaced at halftime.
“That was always the plan,” said Wane, joking: “He’s the same age as me.”
In Friday’s other pre-season game, Leeds flogged London 68-10 at Headingley.

Filed for: SUN HERALD

The A-List: SEAN O’LOUGHLIN (Wigan & England)

O'Loughlin, SeanBy STEVE MASCORD
SEAN O’Loughlin would probably like to say he remembers Wigan travelling to the old ANZ Stadium in 1994 and shocking Brisbane 20-14. For a start, his brother-in-law no doubt expects him to remember it.
“He would have played in that, wouldn’t he? He would have just come on the scene at the time,” says Wigan’s captain, Sean O’Loughlin, sitting by a pool near Orlando, Florida.
O’Loughlin’s brother-in-law is former Golden Boot winner Andy Farrell. It’s a family connection that links the February 22 Wigan-Sydney Roosters showpiece at Allianz Stadium with the last time the World Club Challenge was played in Australia, two whole decades ago.
But curly-headed O’Loughlin was only 11 at the time.
“I can’t really remember the game at the time … I’ve seen footage,” he concedes. “Those kind of rivalries with some of the Aussie clubs … especially Brisbane, they were a massive club at the time … they’re the kind of things the fans want to see.
“Like in ’87 when Manly came over to Wigan. That’s written into the history of the club, the big games against the Aussie teams. For us to get a chance to play in one of them now …”
O’Loughlin is a player most rugby league fans would recognise; tall, athletic, curly-haired, hard working. But very little about his personality is known. As it transpires from A-List’s conversation with him here at the National Training Center during Wigan’s pre-season US camp, that is not in any way because ‘Lockers’ is secretive.
He just seems disarmingly … normal (italicise ‘normal’).
“This will be our third time coming to Florida with Waney,” he explains when asked about the benefits of the camp.
“…with new lads coming in (there’s a chance) to get to know them better. We’re in villas, there’s eight lads a villa, and we’re spending 24 hours a day with them.”
The ‘new lads’ are led by NRL stars Matt Bowen and Eddie Pettybourne. Around me, the players are at different points in their daily routines. The squad is divided into forwards and backs, they do weights, swim and then finish up down on a field where Wane, assistants Iestyn Harris and Paul Deacon are idly kicking a Steeden around in relatively warm sunshine.
O’Loughlin, now 31 (maths, eh?) assures me he won’t be left behind, because “I’m one of the bus drivers”.
This is quite a different Wigan team – without some real stars – to that which clinched the Cup-League double in 20133 and there must be a question mark about how they’ll perform in Super League, nevermind against the might of the Roosters. Then again, the ’94 side was given no hope in front of 54,220 Queenslanders, either.
“(Lee) Mossop, Sam (Tomkins) and Pat Richards – they’ve left key positions in the team and they’re big characters as well,” O’Loughlin admits.
“It feels like a new group, a lot of new lads coming in, a lot of young lads stepping up. They have left holes but it’s good for the lads coming through now to kind of make their mark.”
Bowen’s is not what you’d call a “big personality” – certainly not in the presence of strangers.”I think he’s still jetlagged!” O’Loughlin says, in reference to “Mango”s circuitous route to Florida.
“This is the first time I’ve met Mango and Eddie. They’ve just come straight to Florida … it must be hard for them too, there’s a few Aussie lads in the team but not too many of them. It’s just trying to make them feel welcome and getting them up to speed on the field as well.”
OK, time to hit some meaty issues. Why hasn’t captain Wigan joined his buddies in the NRL?
“I’ve been tempted. The last few times I’ve come off contract at Wigan, there has been an opportunity to go … one year ago, the beginning of last year. It was something I sat down with the wife and kids … well, I didn’t discuss it too much with the kids …. and had a good chat about. It cropped up but having young kids and family ties, those kind of things kept me (in England).
“It was St George. My agent had a chat with them and I had a chat but when push came to shove, with Waney coming in here … it was our second year with Waney and I wanted to stay and be part of that. Luckily enough we had the chance to play in two finals that year and won both finals so I’d probably be banging my head against the wall if I missed that.”
At his current age, O’Loughlin believes the opportunity has passed him by. But if it’s not … he’s open to offers. “You never know. If there is ever an opportunity to go over there, it’s always something I could consider – just because the opportunities don’t come around too often. But I’m very, very happy at Wigan. I’m very happy with the time I’ve had here so I think I’d have to have another sit-down with the wife if that were to ever happen.”
What about the state of the game in England, with clubs facing consistent financial problems and the player drain to the NRL gathering pace?
“When you see clubs struggling like Bradford have done – and they’re a big club – it is a little bit of a worry but I think we’ve got a good enough game to look after itself,” he answers, optimistically.
“I think it’s probably the people on the other side of the fence, the RFL and that, looking after their finances a little bit better and looking after clubs a little bit better than they have been doing. With the salary cap going the way it is, it’s probably going to be harder to pull Australian players over. It gives a lot of young kids a stronger opportunity now.”
OK, another curly one: misbehaviour in the England camp during the World Cup with Gareth Hock and Zak Hardaker kicked out by coach Steve McNamara and James Graham omitted from the tournament opener.
“Most of the stuff happened early doors in the camp so it gave everyone the chance to get on, crack on with what we had to do,” says O’Loughlin. “It weren’t ideal, going in to a World Cup. I think Steve Mac handled it well, he dealt with it the best he thought and all the lads got behind him.
“He did put his head on the block with a few things. The most disappointing thing was to lose that game (against New Zealand), more than anything. The lads had all bonded together with a few things we were up against. We need to get past that last semi-final to kind of prove that our game is going forward a little bit.”
Saturday week provides the British game with another such opportunity. You might think the conditions will be outside Wigan’s comfort zone – but they look pretty comfortable here in Florida. And besides, “pretty much every other year, I went to Australia as a kid. We went as a schoolboy at 16, academy at 18, toured a couple of times with England and Great Britain….”
Besides, you know the WCC is a big game simply because Sean O’Loughlin is playing in it. Last year, he won at Wembley, did not pay again until the grand final, and then sat out the World Cup until the sold-out match against Ireland.
“I got a good bit of abuse about that,” he laughs. “The injury I got before the Challenge Cup final, it was just a slight calf strain.
“So I’d not played in three or four weeks. I went into the final and slightly tore my achilles. Then I thought that was season over. I was sort of hoping to try and get back and be in contention for England but I didn’t think I’d be back for the grand final. I got the boot off, I think it were Monday or Tuesday, and the grand final was on the Saturday.
“The physios were happy for me to try it, I had two sessions before the grand final, it felt good, so I played in that. Then I got back into the England squad. I think I only played about 18 games last year and two of them were finals!”
The fact the start of Super League was brought forward to give Wigan the best possible preparation for the Roosters is compelling evidence that everyone sees the Allianz Stadium encounter as being on par with anything Wembley or Old Trafford can offer. It’s hard to see the NRL doing likewise to help an Aussie side travelling to England.
“I think a lot of the clubs, and the league over here, want us to do well at it,” Sean agrees. “If you can go over to Australia and win that, it shows that our competition is strong and we’ve got a lot of good quality players. It’s not just big for Wigan, its big for our sport.
“Our boys will be pumped to be part of that. You’re wearing your Wigan clothes but you’re wearing your English and Super League flag as well.”


Charnley Learns Bare Facts Of Life In Oz

Charnley, JoshBy STEVE MASCORD
ENGLAND winger Josh Charnley has not been to Australia before – but he has already endured an NRL-style scandal.
Charnley, who holds the record for most tries in a season during British football’s summer era with 43, makes his second appearance back from a hernia operation in the World Club Challenge against Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium tonight.
Like several members of coach Shaun Wane’s side, he could find himself a recruitment target for NRL clubs with a strong performance.
And while he is new to the league wonderland of Sydney, having never made the junior tours many of his club-mates frequented, the attendant media scrutiny is nothing new to a man who found out a few hours before a Super League game last year that a naked photo had gone viral on the internet.
“It was only (taken) when I was 17 – it went out, an ex-girlfriend put it on,” 22-year-old Charnley, who has never previously spoken about the incident that mirrored a similar kerfuffle surrounding compatriot George Burgess, tells Fairfax Media.
“It wasn’t a distraction, it was just one of those things. I was with her miles before it went out. One weekend it just went out. It didn’t bother me at all, I can handle pressure.
“(But) people were tweeting it to my mum and stuff. It was upsetting for that…”
When the photo was retweeted by the fake Twitter account of a commentator, the TV man was interviewed by police at a match for passing on pornography.
Peering out from the overseas passenger terminal at The Rocks as the Queen Mary passed the Sydney Opera House during a team function on Wednesday night, Charnley found himself in almost alien surroundings.
“This is my first time, I’ve never been,” he said. “I’m looking forward to playing but I’m also interested to see the lifestyle as well.
“Everyone said it was all sandy with nice weather.”
He says he has three Australians to thank for his emergence as one of Super League’s speediest (“I’ve never timed myself – I just put my head down and go”) players.
“I had Michael Maguire as coach and he was really into his backs, Waney as assistant was into his forwards,” he explains. “So I got taught. Amos Roberts as well, when I was coming through the ranks, and Pat Richards – they’re probably two of the world’s best wingers.
“They fed into me where to go and what to do and I just went on with it. I was told coming through the academy: ‘you can always get better’.”
Initially, Charnley never thought he would make a living out of rugby league. “I’m a qualified bricklayer, I’ve got that on the side. I can build a few walls, a few barbecues and stuff like that.”
Now, the sand and nice weather – and media scrutiny – could be all his should the NRL come knocking, although he has two years left at the DW Stadium.
“I’ve not really thought about it,” he says. “I’m happy at Wigan. Wigan’s a good team. We did the double last year. Inside Wigan, the culture is unbelievable so I’m enjoying my rugby and enjoying my time there.
“It’s important for us because we’re the first team in so many years to go over to Oz. The Super League is backing us to go over there and do a job.”
While fullback Matt Bowen is not known as a big talker, Charnley says the club’s new signings are fitting in well.”He comes out with a few one-liners which are funny.
He’s a good bloke, same as Eddy Pettybourne – he’s been a lively character in camp.”