By STEVE MASCORD
WAYNE Bennett offered a wry smile. “Yeah, that’s going to be a tough one. Not sure about that.”
The question was whether the England coach, in his role as Brisbane coach, would release Samoan superstar Anthony Milford to play against England. Ah, rugby league….
Of course, last year Bennett refused to grant such a release when the Samoans took on Tonga. Club coaches aren’t supposed to have the authority to stop their men playing Test football but there you go.
Bennett didn’t even give a reason for refusing to allow Milford to play in the Pacific Tests at Pirtek Stadium, although there were strong suggestions he was covering for the player himself who was said to be less than enthused. Samoa’s coach, Matt Parish, on the other hand said Milford texted him throughout the night and was heartbroken at missing out.
Milford would have been in the Queensland side in 2016 if not for a pre-season disciplinary breach but none of that is my point here.
My point here is that if Bennett doesn’t release Milford to play against England, NRL clubs might baulk at releasing their England players. NRL teams are going to be watching the situation very, very closely.
The NRL itself is very loose in its enforcement of representative team selections and in the eyes of the clubs, the England-Samoa Test is on the same level as last year’s Tonga-Samoa match – from which a club coach arbitrarily withdrew a player because he did not want him to risk injury.
The entire Sydney jaunt is intended to take advantage of the number of English players involved in the NRL – there are nine in round one, including three captains. How embarrassing, then, if some of them can’t get a release?
Almost as embarrassing as a training camp in a country where rugby league is illegal, cancelled because their clubs won’t support it.
THE NRL’s apathy towards standing up for representative teams in the face of intransigent clubs extends to – of course – the World Club Series.
Wins by Warrington and Wigan seem to have barely caused a ripple Down Under and now we have reports that NRL clubs are already organising their pre-season matches for 2018 and are leaving the WCS out of their calculations.
The idea that by winning will “show ‘em” seems woefully outdated thinking. Even if Super League was considered a better competition, the NRL has become so inward looking it would still probably not show much interest in inter-league matches.
Bondi Beat would argue that if four clubs – as pointed out by Bennett after the Warrington defeat – turned down the chance to come to the WCS and NRL teams lost a combined A$59 million last year, then the $400,000 they forwent should be deducted from their grants.
As I’ve argued elsewhere, it’s time for Super League to get aggressive about incursions into the Australian market, utilising gaps left by the League Central administration who continue to shun expansion.
IT would appear the threat of a rebellion against the RLIF by up to a dozen national federations has been doused for the time being.
This threat was first reported by journalist Robert Burgin – the man behind the Latin Heat, a concept that has now evolved to separate national teams in Central and South America – after the 2017 World Cup organisers successfully reversed the RLIF’s decision to allow emerging nations to play games in conjunction with the tournament this spring.
The World Cup cited exclusivity clauses – which is strange since it has no problem running a women’s tournament at the same time.
“I’ll be very clear in saying that it’s 100 per cent true there is discussion about forming a breakaway federation,” he wrote on the Australian website The Roar. (continued below)
“It has been discussed but it’s not what anybody wants the sport to endure.”
The RLIF and RLWC has offered to fund a similar tournament next year – but for some countries, that will be too late with sponsors and government recognition going by the wayside.
Bondi Beat has some sympathy for the idea an “Emerging Nations World Championship” should be decided by more than just the countries who can afford to compete, the players who can afford to go.
But that’s not the reason it was banned, is it?
AS you may be aware, Wests Tigers’ Samoan international centre Tim Simona has been suspended indefinitely pending an investigation into allegations he bet on players he was marking to score tries.
This is absolutely shocking, of course.
But we didn’t discover these allegations by watching him miss tackles. No, the authorities, as usual, relied on whistle-blowers.
And that must mean there are perpetrators out there who have not crossed someone the way Simona seems to have, and are getting away with similar underhand behaviour.
YOU may be wondering why you are reading this now and not – as may have been the case if you follow the column online – a month after it appears in Rugby League World magazine.
Bondi Beat seems to be the longest running rugby league column in the world; I’ve been doing for a couple of decades and before me, Malcolm Andrews was the author.
But a couple of months ago, Rugby League World editor John Drake just stopped asking for it. At first I thought it was because the next edition was the Super League preview edition and there may not have been any room.
But then another month passed and there was still no email.
In fact, John’s timing was perfect for me because this year I am planning to make rugbyleaguehub.com (and some other online endeavours) my real job. My paid rugby league writing will be what I use to finance those endeavours.
There is always a breaking point when you are taking money from traditional media platforms and then spending it on competing with them. No doubt, in order to avoid going broke, I will have to take some backwards steps in my new endeavours and not compete too hard.
But I’ll get there and I have no doubt this is a step forward. Eventually, I would love to take all my properties back and run them all in-house and have all my work appear here and nowhere else.
That’s probably a pipedream, I admit.
In any case, I am no longer looking at my online endeavours as a hobby. This is just as important as anything I do In the mainstream media.
Bondi Beat will appear on the first of the month, hot off the virtual presses, from now on.
Read past columns here: