Thursday, 14 June 2012

Tumultuous Tuesday - David Gallop (2012)

Today saw the shock resignation of NRL Chief David Gallop. Gallop began as CEO in seemingly surprising circumstances on February 4, 2002. Up until his appointment, he was never considered as a real chance of being the top man, and even 3 days prior to his appointment, he ruled himself out of the running.

Gallop's rise to CEO was one which divided the Rugby League landscape in Australia, because in 1995 he was hand picked by John Ribot to be the legal affairs manager of the yet to be formed, News Ltd backed Superleague, a position he held until Superleague's demise at the end of their only season in 1997.

The reunification of the competition in 1998 saw Gallop instated as director of Legal and Business affairs for the NRL, which he held until accepting the role of CEO in early 2002, some four months after previous boss David Moffett had resigned.

Gallop spoke today about the great advancements in the game in his time, but failed to acknowledge the great contribution he made in splitting the game apart, which potentially sent the game back many many years. In this writers opinion, he has done just enough work to clean his slate.

His tumultuous leadership of the game wasn't without controversy. The Salary Cap scandals surrounding the Bulldogs in his first year running the game in 2002 and the Melbourne Storm saga in 2010 which saw them have two premierships stripped from them. A year later he likened the Storm fans to terrorists in one of his lowest and dumbest moments.

There was also the Brett Stewart saga in 2009 where he was alleged to have drunkenly sexually assaulted a 17 year old girl, which lead Gallop to suspend Stewart for a month under the flimsy ruling of essentially, being drunk. Stewart was later found to be not guilty of the assault, but it created a great tension between Stewart, his club Manly and Gallop.

In 2004, the Bulldogs were embroiled in an ongoing drama surrounding an alleged gang rape by several first graders at Coffs Harbour during the pre-season.

There were other sexual assault allegations during his reign, of which he took little to no action against.

In 2010, Bulldogs player Ryan Tandy was found guilty of match fixing.
In 2009, Newcastle player Danny Wicks was arrested and charged with drug possession and trafficking and in 2011 was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment. Gallop took no action in this case either.
Robert Lui, the Wests Tigers halfback at the time, was arrested and charged on two seperate occasions in the space of 12 months for assaulting his partner. He was acquitted the first time but found guilty the second time. Again, the NRL took no action, save for a one-season suspension. Lui will be welcome to play in 2013.

And there have been other assault allegations committed by players against girlfriends and members of the public, nearly all of which found the players not guilty. Most notable of these were the cases surrounding Benji Marshall, Greg Bird and Greg Inglis.

There was also the odd case of Joel Monaghan and his dog.

And the several cases against the likes of Willie Mason, Todd Carney, Brett Seymour et al.

Truth be told, under Gallop's reign, the game's players have become more highly paid than ever before, but the off field scandals have been increasingly more frequent in occurrence.

More and more clubs have been exceeding the salary cap than ever before and the game has become more and more distanced from grassroots and country rugby league.

Merchandise, memberships and just average game day costs have also risen sharply.

The media has been allowed to portray Rugby League in a very negative light, most notably the media organisation he once worked for.

Channel 9 had been allowed to televise the game however it seemed fit with no punishment or warnings from Gallop.

Sure it's easy to sit here and talk about all the negatives that happened under Gallop's reign, but it's even harder to conjure up a decent list of great things he did to move the game forward.

The game has cleaned up its image, but it wasn't done on the back of anything Gallop decided. In fact, if Gallop had've taken a more stern stance to the issues mentioned above, the games image would have been cleaned up many years ago and its possible that some of the lives affected by reckless NRL player behaviour could have been avoided.

So David, thank you for your time and your effort. No doubt you did try and make a positive influence on the game, but too often you were hesitant, reluctant to act and on the times you did react, you were too severe or you jumped the gun, further alienating yourself from the players, clubs and fans.

I hope for your sake, that you are remembered as the man who was CEO of the NRL as it moved into its more enterprising era ever, and not as a News Ltd lackey who played a key role in Superleague.

Onwards and Upwards!

Mad Monday - Origin in Melbourne (2012)

State Of The Origins has come and gone people.

Paul Callen, captain of the New Zealand Blues and his hip pocket team mate from the Cumunulla Sharks, Dave Carney, were unable to overcome the power of the mighty team from somewhere else that they were playing against.

There were some big talking points obviously, which I'll dissect for you now.

The Inglis try - Somehow referees can now read thought processes by players and they somehow read Farah's mind saying "I will try and kick the ball loose" and then after that incident, they read Inglis' mind saying "I do not want to touch the ball yet" when it hit his forearm, going forward before he scored the try.

Now thats technology.

The Cronky Bird tackle - Cronk landed on his back. If thats a spear tackle, then the game may as well stop being played now, because as soon as you land on your back. Penalty. This isn't even using the old "show more lenience in origin" belief either. That was a good strong legal tackle.

The Flying MJ incident - Jennings, mate, you're an idiot. You should have walked up slowly at first, pushed a few people and then started swinging when you got closer. I believe Jennings deserved his ten in the bin, but at the same time, Scott's action is what started the whole incident, so Queensland should have been penalised. The refs ended up telling all the kids "Starting fights is cool, but running in to finish them is bad."

The Hodges Mule Kick - I've not heard much about this but there was an incident where Robbie Farah had tackled Justin Hodges, once complete, Farah was sitting on the ground behind Hodges, who was about to play the ball. Hodges kicked back and hit Farah in the face with his boot, unprovoked, unneccessary and unnoticed by the refs.

Now, how did they determine that Hodges blatantly clear kick to Farah's mush was 'unintentional' but Farah's boot brushing the ball as Inglis went to score a try was considered 'intentional'. These two incidents clearly were the wrong way around.

New South Wales clearly copped the wrong end of some refereeing blunders. Whether it would have helped the Blues get a win, who knows, but thats what you want in Origin, uncertainty over who will win. You want players to determine the games result, not the most basic of refereeing errors made by two kids with whistles.

So Captain Callen, David and his boys have all retreated back to New Zealand.

But they'll be back!

Mad Monday - Gallen the modern Beetson (2012)

Paul Gallen has become somewhat of a cult hero ever since his performances in Origin last year. But after having studied archival footage, read books, news articles and comments about Arthur Beetson, I have come to the conclusion, that Gallen is a modern day Beetson.

Big call I know and one to incite a lot of anger amongst fans. And I would also like to point out that I'm saying this in full respect to both players.

Both men, personality wise have been known as being outspoken, controversial in their earlier days, and getting better with age, going against the trend of most forwards.

Then there are the little things on the field. This year has seen Gallen master the use of the hit and spin, a practice perfected by Beetson so much so that he became even harder than usual to stop.

The ability to turn 180 degrees in a tackle or hit up to allow easy passage for an offload, the positional skills of a centre when attacking the opponents try line, the ball skills of a five-eighth, the unselfishness of the play, the determination, the workload, the ticker, the toughness, the willingness to do the dirty work, the hard yards when no else would.

Most importantly, they inspire those around them not so much with words, but by their actions. They were feared, not just for their strength, but their relentlessness and their skill.

It's never easy to compare two players from vastly different era's, but by studying the small things that are relevant to both of their games; you can see just how similar they have become.

Beetson will always be regarded more highly and rightfully so. He was the man to reignite, transform and take the ball-playing forward role to a new height that changed the way future forwards played the game, although none ever managed to match him.

Until Gallen.

Last series saw the legend of Gallen in origin being born. This year he will show everyone that last year was no fluke and if anything, he is better this year.

And although Artie will be cheering on the Queenslander's as he always has, a part of him would be happy to see Gallen carrying on his form, because it's essentially a reminder of the way Beetson played.

It also shows that what Beetson did as a player wasn't just ahead of its time, it was revolutionary and it has taken until now to finally see a player performing at a similar level to that of Beetson.

That’s how good Gallen is.

That’s how good Beetson was.

Mad Monday - Picking Favourites (2012)

Every year in the lead up to the first State of Origin game, fans, commentators, coaches, player past and present, dogs, cats and who knows what else all throw in their two bobs worth of opinion of who should be selected for the two sides.

The last decade has seen this become more heavily focused on the New South Wales squad, and for good reason, they've been outclassed for nigh on a decade by the Queenslanders.

The most contentious argument of player selection surrounds form vs incumbency. Should out of form players who played Origin the previous year be the obvious first up choice for the current year? It’s a romantic concept to show loyalty to a player, but professional Rugby League is no place for Mills and Boon. Loyalty doesn't win you games.

Last night Ricky Stuart named his New South Wales Origin side for Game 1 of the series. In his squad were 7 players from teams not in the top 8. The two highest ranked Sydney clubs on the premiership table (Cronulla and Manly) provide 6 players, while the clearly 4 worst teams in the competition (Parramatta, Gold Coast, Penrith and Tigers) contribute 5 players.

It is about time that this romanticism is ended and players are picked on form. New South Wales is trying to create some sort of loyalty based culture at origin level because they've seen it apparently work so well for Queensland.

Here's the thing though, Queensland have very rarely picked an out of form player, the fact that their squads remain largely unchanged over the years is evidence that the players they pick are elite, their form and ability sees the side pick itself.

Blues team management stupidly thinks its loyalty Queensland is showing to its players. Idiots.
A one man team won't make its way to the top of the ladder; it’s a team of good players in form that see themselves at the top of the table.

So I hereby present my two bobs worth. A NSW team with players from teams in the top 8 only.

1 - B.Stewart
2 - B.Morris
3 - J.Morris
4 - M.King
5 - N.Merritt
6 - T.Carney
7 - J.Robson
8 - B.Gibbs
9 - I.DeGois
10 - A.Watmough
11 - T.Williams
12 - G.Stewart
13 - P.Gallen (c)
14 - B.Creagh
15 - M.Weyman
16 - T.Sims
17 - J.Reynolds

Players in successful teams are much more likely to be in a winning frame of mind, confident and in good form then players in teams performing badly.

This year the vast majority of Queensland’s origin players will come from 3 of the 4 teams in the top 4.

They will all be confident, in top form and ready to win.

Instead Stuart has opted to go with 7 blokes playing in teams that are putting in inept performances pretty much every week and losing much more than winning (or winning unconvincingly).

Its high time players in good form and in good performing teams get selected instead of the same tired old names that get brought up every year who have clearly been playing like crap.

Criticise me now, but my words will seem almost prophetic after NSW lose Origin 1 and look set to make umpteen changes once again.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Mad Monday - Origin in USA? (2012)

Should we take Origin to the United States?

Short answer. No.

Does the NRL need to do something to promote and advertise the game in the US? YES!

Origin is a unique beast. Its two states in Australia bashing each other in what many pundits believe, sadly in my opinion, to be the pinnacle of Rugby League.

It'd be almost akin to taking the Superbowl and playing it at Eric Weissel Oval in Wagga Wagga.

It won't have the impact that the games administrators in the US believe it will. A revolution doesn't happen from watching one game, especially when the rival code is loved and highly respected by all and sundry in that same country.

What the US needs is a regular fixture, that does have importance in the Rugby League World, not just exhibition and trial games.

Constantly playing meaningless games there does nothing. It's an advertisement sure, but it just says "We don't honestly think you'll be interested in playing this game at a competitive level, but if you do, that'd be swell!"

There have been dribs and drabs of games played in the US by Australian, British, French and New Zealand sides for many decades now. The fact that the game hasn't taken off as a seriously major rival to Gridiron in that time shows that not enough people in America are taking the game seriously.

And that’s because no one else outside the US has either.

There was a proposal by the US to play a World Club Challenge competition consisting of 8 clubs on their soil. Getting warmer.

The only problem with this is that it will essentially be just a few exhibition and tour games for the NRL and Superleague champions.

Instead of a competition, just have the actual World Club Challenge game played there in its current format.

Do that on a yearly basis, along with all the other exhibition games. It's a step in the right direction.

Next step - hold the World Cup in the USA and Canada. Advertise the pants off it, get some home grown Hollywood types who are league fans like Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe to hype it up, promote it, advertise it, go nuts!

These people have cash and influence. Crowe especially is mad keen to give the game a massive breath of life in America. He can't and won't do it alone, because he'll eventually ask himself 'what's the point of all my hard work if no one is supporting me?'

Prior to a World Cup, get the National US team to take tours of Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Cook Islands, France, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Lebanon, every bloody where!

The more exposure to the game they get, and the more exposure the game gets to them, the stronger the US will be. The better they perform, the better chance they have of their country taking a keen interest in them and consequently, playing the game.

Mad Monday - Overpaid Lazy Players (2012)

With the onset of the NRL's pending TV Rights deal expected to hit somewhere around the $1 billion mark by seasons end, clubs and players have seen fit to start paying ludicrously high sums of money for some players.

But these high wages have come at cost, moreso than financially. Most of these players have turned out to be either struck down by injury, horribly out of form or just plain useless and lazy. It has also meant that other players previously at the club, either fringe first graders or promising juniors, have had to be released to accommodate one player.

While commentators will give their varying excuses for these marquee signings, as they are commonly referred to nowadays, to justify their abysmal performances, fact is that they are paid excessively and appear to be rocking up and doing as little as possible to prevent them from feeling guilty about ripping hundreds of thousands of dollars from their club every year.

Due to the high wages some of these players are paid, it's almost impossible for a coach to drop them, because it would be an admission that he made the wrong decision, a decision the club is stuck with.

On the weekend we actually saw Parramatta coach Stephen kearney send his highly paid halfback Chris Sandow to NSW Cup to help him regain some form. Sandow hasn't been playing too badly for Parramatta, although he has been below his best this year. He has been criticised by former Eel's half legend Peter Sterling for being overweight and unfit.

Another big signing that has underperformed since joining his new club is Adam Blair. Some people have said that he hasn't adjusted to the Tigers style of play.

I say rubbish.

Since when does 'not understanding a style of play' prevent you from making tackles properly, and doing hit-ups? Blair has been woefully out of form and looking completely uninterested in playing.

Then there are the unfortunate incidents regarding marquee players being constantly injured. These unfortunately can't be helped, but maybe its time that salary cap concessions are made to NRL Clubs whose marquee players miss lengthy periods of time due to injury. Now is the perfect time to figure out a concept along these lines before the big salaries start rolling in next season.

With player salaries expected to boom next year, clubs should possibly consider looking at incentive and/or performance based contracts with future high priced signings to ensure the game doesn't suffer as a consequence.

Otherwise, performances by these overpaid players could become regular and our game's standard could drop dramatically as a consequence.

Worse still, it could see loyalty killed off and the focus on grassroots and juniors footy be completely lost by clubs outbidding each other for one player in a vein hope they will bring them premiership glory.

What has happened to the people's game?

Mad Monday - Channel 9 (2012)

All the good Channel Nine had done recently for Rugby League across the nation has been swiftly killed off by their own stupidity.

Back to square one.

Several weeks ago, after years or complaints from viewers across the nation, mostly by League fans outside of New South Wales and Queensland, for not showing NRL and Representative Rugby League at a reasonable hour, Channel Nine just a few weeks ago finally agreed to show all their League content on the Digital Channel GEM at the same time Nationwide as it is shown on Nine's primary channel in NSW and QLD.

A magnificent coup, long and well overdue. Fans rejoiced and rightfully so. Channel Nine for years had constantly told us all how important the rights to Rugby League was, only for of the country to see the game being snubbed for Rugby Union, Cricket, Hey Hey It's Saturday (on Wednesday) and countless number of crap movies no one ever watched because, as Nine's complaints department told me several times, they couldn't compete outside NSW and QLD with AFL.

So instead of showing the NRL live, they showed rubbish movies and crap American sitcoms with as much humour as 3 week old ham.

They also informed me on a number of occasions that League wouldn't be shown earlier in Victoria because it didn't rate well, which is hard to argue with considering all League content was screened at 11:57pm at the earliest, as there is a clause saying all League related programs must commence airing prior to midnight on the day of broadcast.

So after years of anguish, angst, animosity and being absolutely ignored, Channel Nine finally does the noble thing and gives League fans nationwide live coverage of their beloved game.

Until last weekend.

Back to square one.

The NRL scheduled all clubs to have a week off, and just three games were scheduled for the week. The Australia vs New Zealand Test Match on Friday night. The NYC Under 20's Origin game between NSW and QLD on Saturday night, and the City vs Country game on Sunday night.

Fox Sports showed the Saturday game live. Channel Nine in their wisdom, couldn't even televise the test match live nationwide.

Both the Friday and Sunday games were delayed telecasts.

When no other games were on, with no reason why they couldn't show the games live, they decided to shaft the game and its fans once again.

Back to square one.

We can no longer entrust this network to support Rugby League. They constantly whore the game to advertise its B-Grade programs but do nothing for the game in return.

The NRL needs to be tough on the next TV Rights deal, here are some suggestions:

* 1 live game every Friday night. The second game must be shown directly after the live game. Nationwide.
* 1 live game every Sunday.
* All Origin games will be shown live.
* All Test matches involving Australia, or played in Australia, are to be played live.
* City vs Country will be shown live.
* All Finals matches will be shown live.
* On Grand Final day, NSW Cup, NYC and NRL Grand Finals will be played live.

Every game will also include pre and post match broadcasts.

For every minute the games are delayed, Channel 9 will pay the NRL a fine of $1 million. That's motivation to show the games on time.

Let’s be honest, the game gives Nine its highest ratings every year and even provides the highest ratings of nearly all programs for the year, every year.

The Origin coverage and even the pathetic Footy Show have won several Logies over the years.

The game is doing more for Channel 9 than 9 is doing for the game.

That needs to change now, because we fans sure as hell don't want to be going....

...back to square one.

Mad Monday - Fixing International Fixtures in Australia (2012)

There's something wrong in the game today if International fixtures are not greeted with more fervour and fanfare than interstate clashes.

Since 2002, Australia has played 50 tests - 27 of them against New Zealand.

Go to any other decade in time prior to the Superleague war and you'll find Australia playing regularly against other nations. It is this very issue that has seen the Australian International Calendar becoming mundane and secondary to State of Origin.

If we are going to have a representative weekend, why have it between players who we see every weekend? Why not get people excited and give them something new and interesting other than the same tired schedule which is slowly starting to bore people.

People really embrace and love the All-Stars concept at the start of the year. Its great, it's a fresh idea and it works.

So here's my suggestions (all games are to be televised Live.):

Friday - Double Header in Country NSW
NSW - City vs Country - With NRL players in both sides.
NSW - City Firsts vs Country Firsts - City eligible players from NSW Cup vs Players from Country RL.
Saturday - Double Header in Country QLD
QLD - City vs Country - with NRL players in both sides.
QLD - City Firsts vs Country Firsts - City eligible players from QLD Cup vs Players from Country RL.
Sunday - Double Header
Oceania vs Europe - It would be a great quality game for all spectators and we would get to see players from other countries as well.
USA vs Lebanon (or any such equivalent) - Have this as an official match.

Here is now an opportunity for the NRL to showcase the game to the world, and to bring the world into the NRL. This would be a massive advertisement for the game everywhere.

It would also make for a much more exciting weekend of rep football than just watching NRL players playing against each other in different coloured jumpers one weekend.

Mad Monday - Gold Coast Titans Debt (2012)

The past two weeks has seen the NRL deal with the worrying situation with the Gold Coast Titans and their massive financial woes.

It's mind blowing how a club in just its sixth season can be tens of millions of dollars in debt.

While the cause of the debt is supposedly tied up in the Titans training facility, also known as the 'Centre of Excellence' and property developments, it does raise a few questions:

How many chances are the Gold Coast allowed to have to finally get it right?
How must the Central Coast and Wellington team bids, that lost out to the Titans, feel about all this?

Between 1988 and 1996 the old Gold Coast team had been bought twice and gone into administration once. It also relocated from Tweed Heads to Carrara in that time.

It had numerous CEO's, coaches, player changes, takeovers, bad business decisions and disharmony the whole time.

In the same period of time they had won just 38 of the 198 games they had played.

What exactly about that screams out that they deserved another chance?

Is it bad luck or coincidence that the Gold Coast entities since 1988 have suffered due to bad management?

I have a seperate theory, maybe the Gold Coast region in general just doesn't like sport.

In 2011, Gold Coast teams came last in the NRL, AFL and A-League. This year saw the owner of the Gold Coast soccer team pull the pin on the club.

The AFL has stated that they will do whatever it takes to prop up the Gold Coast AFL team to ensure its survival and existence.

Throw in the Titans drama and you can see that all 3 codes are pessimistic about having teams on the Gold Coast. They do it because they want to compete with each other, but it is to all of their detriment.

The Titans finances are dire. Their crowd figures are dire. Their team is struggling on the field.

Sound familiar?

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Wild Wednesday - Robert Lui (2012)

Today we have been angered by the news of yet another player misbehaviour related incident, but this time, the punishment is nearly as horrendous as the crime itself.

Robert Lui, the new North Queensland recruit, was dumped late in 2011 after he was charged for the second time in 12 months for bashing his girlfriend. Charges arising from a domestic violence incident in 2010 were eventually dropped in April 2011, but Lui has pleaded guilty following the latest incident in September of last year.

The Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) reported that the court was told how Lui kicked Taleah Rae Backo in the temple and headbutted her on the night of the Tigers' mad Monday celebrations. Lui initially denied kicking Ms Backo and later said he admitted headbutting her only because he was scared of being "locked up".

Why did he attack her? Who knows. But then again a coward needs no reason, they just act in their own self-interest and deny any wrongdoing.

Did he get locked up?

No. He got a two year good behaviour bond and $2000 fine.


You'd think given the amount of effort and importance the NRL rightly gives to women and families in the Rugby League community, that they would take serious steps in this case.

No. He has been temporarily stood down.

Brett Stewart was temporarily stood for a month over an allegation which turned out to be false.

Harsh step, but it was fair. It showed that the NRL was serious about acts of abuse or violence against women.

In 2004, Melbourne Storm player Danny Williams king hit Wests Tigers back rower Mark O'Neill. Williams was suspended for 18 games.

In 2008, Sonny Bill Williams fled the country to play Rugby Union in France while still contracted as an NRL player. The NRL suspended him for five years.

In 2009, Danny Wicks was found guilty of drug trafficking and sentenced to a maximum of three years in jail.

In 2010, Ryan Tandy was found guilty of match-fixing and is currently looking at facing a lifetime ban.

All of these players have been served harsher penalties than what Lui copped today and not one of them resorted to the utterly cowardly, self-obsessed, dog act committed by Lui on the now mother of his child.

When you look at the severity of the suspension handed down to Ryan Tandy, which in my mind is just, to that of Lui, you can only shake your head.

How many people were physically and mentally assaulted by Tandy's actions? How many lives did he endanger?

Compare that to Lui and tell me how on earth Lui hasn't been sacked already.

The NRL cannot go and preach to the world how much they are doing for women in rugby league when the likes of Lui are given what I believe to be, a soft punishment.

He should have been immediately de-registered and banned for life from the game.

By standing him down indefinitely, as much as they stupidly don't realise it, the NRL will be seen by some as condoning Lui's actions.

Welcome to the NRL, where you can treat women like some sort of deplorable sub-species without losing your job.

Just don't try and make money out of it by match fixing. That's a no-no!

Mad Monday - Coaching Merry-Go-Round (2012)

Another early start to the season and the coaching merry-go-round has already started up.

We have always had this issue arise in the past but there has to be a point when we as must must sit back, take off the rose coloured glasses of which we see the players through and realise that maybe, just maybe, the coach isn't at fault.

After a demoralising loss in Townsville this past weekend, the rumour mill has been firing out talks of when Stephen Kearney will be sacked by Parramatta.

There has also been talk of Canberra coach David Furner being given 6 weeks to turn things around or else he too may face the axe.

Even over in England just tonight, St.Helens have sacked coach Royce Simmons after a slow start to the season.

Is the coach to blame? Well partly they are.

But if a team can't hold the ball, gives away stupid penalties and just aren't putting in the effort, then surely the coach should be given support.

Instead its the players.

Kearney has a team with inexperienced halves, missing their star player and has a big slow forward pack. Teams who can execute quick play-the-balls well will always thrive against opponents such as them.

Kearney isn't the first coach to struggle to succeed at Parramatta lately either. This says more about the players then it does about the coach. Yet still the coach is under pressure.

In 2011, Canberra were decimated by injuries to key players, most importantly their chief playmaker and test player Terry Campese. Find me a team that can string together a solid season when their chief playmaker plays just 3 minutes for the year.

And then there's Royce. He took an injury riddled team to the Grand Final last year. He had to fill the side with untried juniors who turned out to be mroe than capable. This year he has been cruelled by injuries once again. St Helens lost their last 4 games, but they were not belted, and against quality opponents have been steadily improving. But still he gets the chop.

If teams want to build a strong future and be dominant for a lengthy period of time, they need to have faith in their coach. Dumping a coach at the start of the year, just disrupts the club and the season completely.

Clubs have to stop focussing on one year of glory and think about long term success. The game is a business now. Companies can't run on one years worth of solid profit for several years. This is the problem the game faces as it moves forward.

Too many teams are using antiquated practices that were only viable back four decades ago.

Every club preaches about clubs being businesses yet they have no idea how to run a business.

Mad Monday - Mid-season Signings (2012)

This week saw the signing of current Dragons player Beau Scott by Newcastle for 4 years, commencing in 2013.

This absurd signing is made less so by the fact that the Roosters last year signed James Maloney from the Warriors, effective in 2013 as well.

These are a string of mid-season signings that have brought about the ire of many a league fan over many years of late, so much so that it has raised the old issue as to whether there should be a draft.

Talks of a draft in Rugby League have always been quickly stopped by the NRL who simply say "Terry Hill", which has always been met with the same eerie silence as the term "Superleague".

In 1991, Terry Hill was drafted by Easts. He didn't like the decision and contested it in court, and won. The draft in Rugby League died and has never been back.

However the time is now right. The climate for a draft in 1991 was not right. Player wages back then were not that good, unless you were one of the few elite players. Everyone else had to have jobs outside of Rugby League. Just recently I saw an old game on TV between Norths and Wests in 1991.

When they focussed on a player they had the usual player career stats as well as that players occupation.

An argument made today about the draft concept and why it shouldn't be introduced is because it means players won't be allowed to play for the team in the area they played their junior footy, or where they grew up.

At first look, its a fair call. But when you look a little deeper, you soon see that it is absurd.

Only 5 of the 16 teams have at least half of their 25-man NRL squads who played junior footy in the area of the NRL team they currently represent. Approximately 38% of NRL players are juniors of the team they currently represent.

Thus putting an end to that nonsense argument.

The NRL needs a draft. Player contracts were once iron clad, not so much legally, but because players were not interested in changing clubs that often. Now its such a frequent occurrence that it no longer matters to fans where a player comes from. Loyalty is a dying tradition which is why its celebrated so much more passionately now.

Bring in the draft, players are happily changing clubs all the time, even a year before their current contract ends. It will be better for the game and it would also help further even out the competition and make the most of all of the games juniors nurseries.

Complicating the Uncomplicatable (2012)

Ever since the introduction of the Rugby League International Federation (the successor of the International Rugby League Board in 1998), the International game has been in a steady decline.

It’s inability to have set rules for the code in every country the game is played in has been a minor issue for many years, but the most burgeoning problem they have has been surrounding the one thing of which there was never an issue before.

The one thing which it would appear would be so crystal clear without any grey area whatsoever, the most certain of all certainties.

International eligibility.

The International body began its existence in 1927, initially known as the Imperial Rugby League Board. It contained representatives from Britain, New Zealand and Australia. The big ideas of post-war French officials lead to the creation of the International Rugby League Board in 1948. Paul Barriere was the chief of French Rugby League at the time and he put forward plans for a World Cup. The French provided the trophy and the venues for the first competition in 1954.

The International game blossomed and soon games were played in USA, South Africa and Italy among other nations. By the late 1970’s, Papua New Guinea had a test team. The game continued growing right up until the Superleague war in Australia put International Rugby League in disarray.

In 1998, the games governing body was again reformed, this time as the Rugby League International Federation. In its time it has increased the number of member countries to twelve, however with half of these nations all located in the Oceania region, it has seen a lot of players leave the smaller islands to play in the ‘big time’ in either New Zealand or Australia.

The RLIF believed it needed to clearly define set rules for player eligibility, which had previously followed the very practical and inflexible rule – You play for the country you were born in.

Four core rules were created to define eligibility, providing greater flexibility, but also creating great controversy and confusion. While the core rules seem solid enough, all they have done is taken a simple, obvious, clear-cut rule and muddied the waters in what can only be believed to be a misguided attempt to improve the game

Internationally, by allowing prominent players born in either New Zealand, England or Australia, to play for a weaker International side.

Sounds good in theory, but the RLIF insistence on flexibility has all but muddied the waters and made the whole process a joke. It’s turned the International game into a mess.

A player is eligible to play an International game for:

1. A country he was born in
2. A country in which either his parents or grand-parents were born
3. A country he has lived in for at least 3 years prior to selection
4. A country he has gained senior international honours in any sport

Players who qualify for dual International representation are seen as taking the ‘easy way’ to International level football by playing with their second nation so to speak, because they may not have been good enough to break into the team representing the country they were born in.

If a player born in Australia, but with Tongan heritage decides to play for Tonga, he is not allowed to represent any other nation….

….until after the next World Cup has finished, or two years have passed since his last international game for Tonga.

Herein lies the biggest issue with the entire guidelines. They are set this way to allow a player to play International football, but to also play for his country of birth down the track if he so wishes.

This concept entirely removes pride for representing ones country, the once highest accolade a player could ever achieve. It has cheapened the International game, essentially whoring it out in a pathetic attempt to improve the quality of the game internationally.

And that has failed.

These rules are farcical and borderline insane. There are many great ways this Federation can improve the game Internationally, but this cheap pathetic ploy is getting out of control and turning the game into a parody. There would be close to half of all senior Rugby League players eligible to play for different nations to that of the one they were born in.

These rules need to be scrapped and we need to go back to common sense, for the sake of the game!

NRL Cinematic Classics (2012)

The midseason is fast approaching and fast with it comes the lowest period of excitement for the year before the build up running into the finals begins. In 2012, the NRL has decided to overcome this apparent boredom by releasing NRL versions of Classic films of yesteryear. Following are the synopsis of some of the more notable classics.

Wests Side Story

The love story in troubled times between two gangs, Wests and Illawarra. The Wests gang, lead by Robbie is seeking to obtain premiership glory, but they have to overcome Illawarra, run by Peter.

In a confusing love triangle, Robbie’s sister, Tim, is set up in an arranged marriage which she agrees to with one of the Illawarra gang members, but before long Tim soon learns she is in love with Wests gang member Benji. This tryst leads to a more passionate warfare between to the gangs. Will Tim get to be with her true love? Who will win the premiership? Who cares?

Dial ‘M’ For Murdoch

A successful media magnate hatches a plan to murder a game that had committed the crime of not giving him massive amounts of money he did nothing to earn nor deserve, but when the murder fails he concocts a brilliant Plan B, but he has the tough detective Ian Schubert on his case, who plans to bring the whole sordid affair to light

Die Hard With a Whimper

In this actionless packed blockbuster, Stephen Kearney is on a one man mission to bring down an organisation that has been committing crimes against the public. He finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and with a group of useless bumbling idiots whose failure to work as a team see’s them all being picked off, one-by-one, by Kearney.

Picnic at Redfern Station

An Australian cinematic masterpiece, tells the story of a bunch of unknown girls who go walking about at Redfern train station one day, only for John, Sam and Greg to all go missing, leading to an area wide search over several weeks, focussing strongly on the top 8, but cannot find them. Will they ever appear in finals football again?

The Replacements

During a prolonged run of injuries and player ineptitude, football head coach Ivan is forced to compete with a gang of replacement players, including an alter boy, a farmhand, a lazy drunk and a bald man. They come up with some not so surprising results.

Mary Shelley’s Furnerstein

In the sequel, and almost reversal, of the original classic, Dr Furnerstein had a perfectly functioning and able bodied daemon, which he created, but who continually falls apart. Dr Furnerstein is constantly on a mission to try and find body parts, to repair his creation with so that he can live. The soundtrack is headed by Metallica’s song “The God That Failed”.

The Greatest Story Ever Told

An epic story about Gal and the creation, life and teachings of the Shire’s new messiah, Todd. Go with Todd as he preaches about being the son of Gal and the lessons we can all learn from Gal’s wise words, most notably “When you see a wall, don’t waste time by going round it, simple go through it. Be more wall than the wall itself.” You will leave this movie inspired to do something, be it great or alcoholic. Screening only in the Shire, due to popular demand.

The Invention Of Lying

A modern comedy/drama with an unusual twist. Follow Craig and his mates around in a world where lying doesn’t exist. Until one of Craig’s mates, Greg, tells the first ever lie for his own personal gain. The fact everyone else knows the truth fails to deter Greg , who is committed to teaching all of Craig’s friends how to lie as well.

The Life of Wayne

A comical masterpiece from Newcastle surrounding the arrival of Wayne into their world, who is accidentally referred to as a messiah from the first day of his arrival. Watch in great laughter as Kurt the leper begs for money and Willie, the loudmouth moron living in a hole in the ground starts tweeting instead of speaking when he is disturbed.

There are many more great NRL films coming your way later this year.

Also, please feel free to take some treats with you while watching the movies. Prices are below.

Pie - $8
Sauce - $4
Pie and Sauce combo - $20
50ml Soft Drink - $10
Alcohol – Bring your chequebook

The First Boss - Henry Hoyle (2012)

Henry Clement Hoyle’s entire life read as the perfect plan for a man to become a senior member of the Australian Labor Party and as the first presidents of the game for the working class man, Rugby League.

He was born on November 20, 1852 in Millers Point and attended a convent in Balmain before transferring to the Fort Street Public School. Aged just 10, Hoyle entered the workforce, taking on light duties at a local sawmill before becoming an apprentice blacksmith at P N Russell & Co. In 1868 aged just 16, like many other his age at the time, began working on the docks in Balmain.

When he was 24 he joined the Railways Department and within a few brief years became a foreman. His passion for equality and fairness for all men saw him rise to a position of authority and as the spokesmen for his fellow co-workers. He was the key activist in the iron trade strike of 1882 that sought to obtain a better wage for all employees. Hoyle took a hard-line stance as he believed that his co-workers had earnt and deserved a significantly better salary. Even when the employer offered packages to senior staff to get them to cease strike action, Hoyle refused the offer. This strike lead to him founding and becoming the inaugural president of the Eight-Hours Conference. In 1885 Hoyle founded and became the inaugural president of the Railway and Tramway Association.

In 1877, shortly after he joined the railways, Hoyle married Maria Dillion and soon after, they moved into their first home in Surry Hills. They had 7 children born between 1878 and 1895 – Mary, Clement, Myra, Ida, Gladys, Leo and Clifford.

In 1890, the Railway Commissioners issued Hoyle an ultimatum: to surrender his role as President of the Eight-Hours Union or be relieved of his duties as President of the Railway and Tramway Association. Hoyle was given 24 hours to do as requested, but he refused and was subsequently sacked. He quickly set up his own real estate auctioneering business in Darling Harbour.

A year later he joined the NSW Legislative assembly, as a member of the Protectionist Party. The Protectionists ran mostly economic and trade policies that used trade restrictions and tariffs on imported goods between the states, mostly Victoria and New South Wales, to try and create fair competition. Australia’s first and second Prime Ministers, Sir Edmund Barton and Alfred Deakin, were both members of the Protectionist Party.

Hoyle remained with the Protectionists until losing his seat at the 1894 election. He then began writing for the Freemans Journal, an Irish Catholic publication.

During 1907, there was a growing discontent within Rugby Union player ranks in Australia, leading to a semi-revolt which saw some players keen to create their own competition based on the Northern Union game being played in England. Test Cricketer Henry Hoyle, entrepreneur James Giltinan and Hoyle regularly met for discussions with some disgruntled players at Trumper's sports store. These talks inevitably lead to a mass player revolt by the players, who took an enormous risk to create a breakaway competition.

On August 8, 1907 at Bateman’s Crystal Hotel, Hoyle was elected as the inaugural president of the NSWRL, alongside James Giltinan (secretary) and Victor Trumper (treasurer). The trio helped finance the birth of Rugby League in Australia.

A week after the NSWRL was formed, Hoyle, Trumper and Giltinan hastily organised 3 matches between the New Zealand team en-route to England, known as the All Golds, and the best of the players in NSW who had decided to jump codes. The NSW team lost all three games in close contests, which were played in the space of a week. These three matches though served as a great promotion for the new game.

Hoyle made two hurried trips to Newcastle just weeks before the scheduled start of the inaugural 1908 season, upon learning that a Mr Chambers of Newcastle was interested in having a team compete in the Rugby League. Giltinan urged Hoyle to get Newcastle in the competition so as to avoid having byes, as they only had 7 teams ready for kick off at the time (Balmain, Easts, Glebe, Newtown, Norths, Souths and Wests). Hoyle persuaded the Newcastle men to join the competition by revealing there would be a team of players representing Australia to be sent to tour England by seasons end. Newcastle quickly joined the Rugby League soon after.

Hoyle then chaired a meeting where the committee and players had to decide whether to play Rugby Union rules, or whether to adopt the Northern Union rules. A vigorous debate was had culminating in Hoyle having to cast the deciding vote, which he made in favour of the Northern Union rules.

And Rugby League was born.

At the end of the 1908 season, the NSWRL had a debt of £500. A Kangaroo tour to England was proposed to make enough money to make a profit after the debt had been cleared. The tour was bankrolled by Giltinan and Arthur Rofe (who provided £2000). Shortly after the tour begun, it was cruelled by abysmal weather and workers strikes in Northern England. This affected gate takings and meant by tours end, Giltinan had run at a loss, the NSWRL debt remained outstanding and the Northern Union in England had to pay for return tickets for many of the Australian players. Giltinan managed to repay Rofe £1545, but was eventually taken to court by Rofe who sought to recoup the remaining £455. A protracted case dragged on throughout 1914, which eventually ruled Giltinan had to repay the monies. The decision eventually led to Giltinan declaring bankruptcy.

On March 5 1909, Hoyle was initially re-elected as NSWRL President before angrily resigning just ten days later over allegations of mismanagement and vote -rigging. On the same day, Trumper was sacked along with Giltinan, who was en-route to Australia after the Kangaroo tour amid allegations made by club board members surrounding a secret bank account that was set up by Trumper, Giltinan and Hoyle. The Bulletin newspaper explained that sums of money were banked into a trust account to help pay marquee players and to generate further interest in the game “by secret but not dishonourable means.” Hoyle, Giltinan and Trumper were really only guilty of poor bookkeeping.

Hoyle returned to politics in 1910, joining the Labor party to pick up a surprising win for the seat of Surry Hills over the very popular Sir James Graham. He won the seat for a second term in 1913, becoming the Member for Railways and Mines. It wasn’t long before he climbed the ranks to become a senior minister and assistant treasurer. He was involved in a lot of key policies, the most prominent at the time was the prevention of smoking in train carriages occupied by children.

Hoyle had also seemingly been forgiven by the NSWRL and returned to become president of South Sydney in 1913.

The breakout of war led to many heated discussions in parliament about conscription. Hoyle’s leader and Prime Minister Billy Hughes was adamant that conscription should be enforced, a stance that Hoyle sided with, as did the NSWRL Secretary and Labor politician at the time Edward Larkin, but he was defeated in two referendums.

In 1916, Hoyle’s youngest son Clifford joined the Australian Imperial Forces. On his first day of battle he lost a finger in battle. A few months later Cliff was sent back home after he was found guilty of absenteeism, when he left camp for ten days.

In 1917 Henry Hoyle resigned from the Labor party, returning to Vaucluse and reviving his auctioneering business, which he ran up until his death on July 20, 1926.

His funeral was attended by a large gathering of politicians and former colleagues. One notable omission though was Giltinan.

Horrie Miller was the only attendee to represent Rugby League.

Hoyle died as a life member of the NSWRL, a trustee of Taronga Park Zoo, a pioneer in the Unions, the Labor party and Rugby League.

****This article appeared in the Men Of League magazine****