BONDI BEAT: July 2016

RLW Juy 2016By STEVE MASCORD

I FEEL sorry for Andrew Johns.

Unless you live under a rock or follow rugby union (give me a rock any day), you’ll be aware that there’s a match fixing ‘scandal’ taking place in Sydney right now.

Two matches last year involving Manly are alleged to have been manipulated by players involved being paid A$50,000 a man.

Now, the way this has played out is a reflection of two things: the changing face of the media and journalism and the way authorities in Australia seem to behave out of political expediency.

Many fans have drawn a comparison between the so-called ‘Darkest Day In Australian Sport’ a couple of years ago, when we were told organised crime had infiltrated out dearest institutions and doping was rife.

Since then, we had had sanctions levelled at Cronulla and the Essendon AFL club but the scale of the cheating was no-where near what was initially touted.

From a fan’s point of view, this smacks of something similar.

Even as a professional journalist I can appreciate the cynicism and that’s because politicians and law enforcement in Australia seem to like to use the media to ‘smoke out’ offenders.

Apparently many of my colleagues were aware of these match fixing claims for some time but couldn’t get the story ‘up’ – that is, no-one would be quoted. This changed when the Daily Telegraph’s Michael Carayannis managed to get a line from a police spokesperson at the end of May.

Again, for whatever reason but perhaps as some kind of deterrent, further high-ranking police officers have been quoted since. In other parts of the world, I would imaging police would be far more reticent to talk but there is a ‘Wild West’ feel to the way things are done Down Under.

As for the change in journalistic practices, that is reflected in the way the story has been covered since it broke.

In the old days, naming groups of people – such as football teams – and individuals such as the ‘big punter’ and former brothel owner Eddie Heyson would have been considered actionable and therefore ill-advised.

But today, decisions are made based on what a news organisation can get away with. One former News Corporation used to say “don’t start a fight with anyone who buys newsprint (ink) by the tonne.”

The question asked is not ‘can they sue?’ but ‘are they likely to’ and ‘does that person have a good reputation that can be sullied anyway?’ Increasingly we see lines in stories like ‘the Daily Bugle does not suggest the players named in this story are guilty of any wrongdoing’ when the rest of the story suggests exactly that.

As a result, we have seen detailed allegations of exactly who is supposed to have done what and which games and clubs are allegedly involved, when such stories would never have been printed in the past.

What does all this have to do with Andrew Johns?

One report suggested Manly blamed a former great no longer on the club staff for introducing Heyson to the club.

Johns, who has a number of media gigs, stepped up and said such allegations were ridiculous and he had done nothing of the sort.

By responding to the allegations, he outed himself. The reporters no longer needed to refer to him as “a former great”. They could name him – and so in the next day’s paper he found the allegations against him spelt out in greater detail but someone who was not named.

It’s a great three-card trick – put allegations you cannot publish for legal reasons to the target of those allegations and if they are denied, you no longer have any obligation to protect the aggrieved party.

No doubt Johns felt his time at Manly was positive and he left on good terms (he’s now an advisor at Sydney Roosters). Now one of his former ‘mates’ is trying to blame him for match fixing and he has no idea who it is.

That can’t be fun.

AT the time of writing, it appeared Zac Hardaker’s likely new home would be Canberra, where Jack Wighton is the likely fullback.

(I actually once had a copy of Rolling Stone with Jack White of the White Stripes on the cover at a Raiders game one day. It was only after Wighton had left the stadium that I realised what a great photo opp that would have been),

Wighton, from Orange in the NSW central west, is a likeable lad. Perhaps too likeable as indications are that the curry he has been getting from fans on social media recently has been getting to him.

Wighton made a couple of ugly errors against Canberra but also engineered the win. “Forget all those voices in your head and listen to mine,” is what coach Ricky Stuart claims to have told him at halftime.

A move to the centres or even to stand-off would relieve Wighton of the burden of playing in rugby league’s loneliest position.

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WHILE on Stuart, there’s a juicy rumour going around that he is going to be the new coach of Lebanon, in place of Darren Maroon.

Maroon quit just a couple of weeks before the recent international against the Cook Islands when was told his position would be reviewed after the match.

He had previously believed he would be in the post until after the World Cup.

Now, Stuart has not always been painted as a fan of international football, with many a developing nation coach wishing he was more charitable about releasing players.

But if there is any duplicity there, it seems to almost be de rigeur ….. right, Wayne Bennett?

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ALL is not going smoothly with the World Cup.

Recently, governing bodies poised to send teams to the ‘Festival Of World Cups’ – students, women, armed forces, wheelchair etc, were contacted by the organisers

Each participant was going to have to find extra funds because various hoped-for revenue sources had not eventuated.

Meanwhile, Suncorp Stadium was awarded the final with little or no fanfare.

While on the World Cup, it’s a shame Cook Islands won’t be involved, purely from a playing talent point of view.

Brad Takairangi, Jordan Rapana, Tepai Meoroa and Zeb Taia have all been among the season’s top performers in the NRL.

But, as you may have anticipated, Rapana and Taia have already declared their intention to try to make the New Zealand side.

Filed for:RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD

World Cup: ENGLAND 42 IRELAND 0 at John Smiths Stadium

By STEVE MASCORD
ENGLAND has been hit by another World Cup drama with coach Steve McNamara refusing to say why crack centre Zac Hardaker had been left out of the big win over Ireland.
Reports surfaced before kick-off in the 42-0 shutout before a ground record 24,373 crowd in Huddersfield that Leeds Hardaker had become the latest man to be punished for disciplinary breaches and his position in the squad for the rest of the tournament was in jeopardy.
When McNamara was asked by Fairfax Media about the reports, he said: “I don’t really know what the reports were so I can’t really clarify anything to you.”
Asked if Hardaker was injured, McNamara said: “No. He wasn’t picked, like there were seven this week who weren’t picked.
“You’ve very good at speculating, very good at trying to find things out. As the press, I guess it’s your job.
“The reality is, any decision I make is based on the best decision for the team and for the group and not based around pleasing the media.”
amazonMcNamara had previous reacted tersely to questions about disciplinary issues in his squad. Second rower Gareth Hock was sacked from the tournament in circumstances that have not been completely explained and former captain James Graham was missing from the opening match against Australia amid reports of him breaking a drinking ban.
Graham, who came off the bench in Saturday’s eight-try win at John Smiths Stadium, was afterwards asked why he was omitted in Cardiff.
“It’s not my thing to talk about selection policy. You’d have to ask the coach,” the Canterbury forward said.
“It was (hard) but I wasn’t selected and I was still cheering the boys on and they did a really good job.”
England played with poise and confidence at Huddersfield against an Irish combination including many part-timers, leading 30-0 at halftime. On one wing, Ryan Hall posted a hat trick while on the other, Tom Briscoe got one over selection rival Josh Charnley with a brace.
Sean O’Loughlin also made a return, meaning his last three games were a Challenge Cup final, a Super League grand final and a Test.
donateDespite prop Brett White playing on with concussion, the Irish side which will host Australia at Thomond Park, Limerick, next Saturday had no answer to the English class – although they did look like prizing open the defence at times.
“What you want is a consistent level of support,” said Ireland coach Mark Aston. “I don’t think any of the home nations get the right sort of support.
“We went into camp two weeks ago today. We’ve had 10 sessions together, 12 sessions. It makes it very tough for them.”
ENGLAND 42 (Ryan Hall 3, Tom Briscoe 2, Brett Ferres, Kallum Watkins, Rangi Chase tries; Kevin Sinfield 4, Gareth Widdop goals) bt IRELAND 0 at John Smiths Stadium. Referee: Thierry Alibert (France). Crowd: 24,373.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD