By STEVE MASCORD
THE other day, sitting in a backyard in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, I found myself using the expression “bury the lead”.
It’s something journalists, and people who have worked around journalists, say when they hear someone who has not got to the point in a conversation.
Say, when you start a story with getting up in the morning – not being hit by a motorbike while crossing the road at 5pm.
Reading a column this weekend by colleague Paul Kent, I found a buried lead.
Paul was talking about Jarryd Hayne and how he had taken a pay cut without going to market and how bad this was for all concerned except Hayne’s intended club, Parramatta.
Can’t disagree with much of that.
But then he wrote this: “The NRL said it was well known Hayne was a ‘disruptive influence’”
I’ll let that sink in. The governing body of the world’s most powerful rugby league competition says one of its most famous players is disruptive.
How is this not on the back page?
The answer, of course, is that it was said by an un-named spokesman and is not in direct quotes.
The current administration of the National Rugby League loves background briefings and it loves trotting out the “spokesman”.
It’s the multi-billion dollar public-facing business in which no-one will put a name to comments on the daily issues affecting it directly. Not only that, the nameless person is reluctant to even be quoted!
By doing this, the NRL avoids scrutiny. Who told Paul Kent that? No-one! He must have heard it incorrectly or made it up!
It shows an administration that wants a bet each way – to answer criticism anonymously in language it would never use on-the-record. To avoid being bagged without taking responsibility for its own counter argument.
It’s OK to get an off-the-record briefing. But at the end of the conversation, I believe it is the reporter’s job to ask “OK, I am asking you this ON the record and I need a QUOTE”.
Otherwise it is just an incestuous little club where the reporter can look like he knows everything, the governing body can cover itself with Teflon and no-one is asking or answering questions on behalf of the public, which is who they are both there to serve.
IT’S tricky knowing, as a journalist, how to cover the emergence of this World Rugby League body.
We all know the man who started it, a Greek administrator, has a chequered past in our game and was responsible for his country being kicked out of the European Federation.
And we know that the body – very, very small in the relation to the RLIF – was used by World Rugby to delay rugby league’s recognition with the Global Association of International Sports Federations.
But the fact is, WRL exists.
As a fan I might wish they didn’t, I might be moved by people beseeching not to “give them oxygen”.
But as a reporter I can’t pretend they never sprung into being. Hopefully over the next couple of months, while the domestic competitions are in recess, we’ll be able to get to the bottom of exactly what’s going on there.
I know some people believe we should just co-operate with rugby union in countries where doing this will get us recognised – which is one of the few things WRL seems to stand for.
But if rugby union was willing to raise WRL with GAISF, won’t they point out that they themselves preside over us in many countries if we play that game?
I have my concerns.
THE world rankings are a great talking point and the mainstream media and the game at large have already started taking them seriously.
I guess what really means you’ve made it in rugby league is that people start slagging you off.
That being the case, I can’t understand how the Kiwis have stayed ahead of England in the rankings. New Zealand are simply terrible at the moment; they were well beaten by Australia in mid-season and also lost to England the last time they ventured north.
Bullet, consider yourself dodged.
I’VE said elsewhere that while bringing in dynamic outsiders with good contacts is preferable, we don’t really have time to moan about John Grant and Nigel Wood being the likely new chairman and chief executive of the RLIF.
Obviously, it’s important democratic practice is observed. We’ll be keeping an eye on that and commenting where necessary. Equally obviously, both have faced plenty of opposition at home of late.
But they are both committed to the international game – Wood might end up saving the British competition by moving into North America and he did invite Tonga to compete in England years before they were flavour of the month – and perhaps it’s there that they can find their respective niches.
Yes, there is an element of a getaway car in the whole process. However, there are so many opportunities of which we must take an advantage that playing the man could be a bit counter-productive.
IT’S to be hoped someone has the gumption to make sure we have a World Club Series next year.
The matches are on, they’re taking place on the same weekend but – as is the way in rugby league – no-one seems too worried about the detail.
Melbourne-Leeds into St George Illawarra-Hull into South Sydney-Wigan is a fantastic weekend for fans who have the money to come Down Under twice in four months!
And the AAMI Park game will probably out-sell Australia-England at the same venue.
So, someone, please brand it the World Club Series!
A QUICK update, then, on what I’m up to.
My ongoing employment at Fairfax, as usual, finished with the end of the season. Unlike usual, Discord will not continue on Fairfax platforms over the off-season. Instead, it will transfer to rugbyleaguehub.com
Not being tied to Fairfax frees me up to work for The Roar and foxsports.com.au. For the former, I’ll be doing something each Tuesday and for the latter it will be case-by-case but basically I’ll be pitching opinion stories on breaking news.
Leaving Fairfax also means I’m free to work for the Guardian and my mate Alex Brown’s new site, Players’ Voice.
But primarily I am taking the plunge to focus on the merch business I run with Phill Browne, Mascordbrownz.com, where we just got delivery of Fiji jerseys and will soon place on sale those cool Scotland shorts.
Thanks for supporting rugbyleaguehub.com which is huge cornerstone of my plans of the future. If other people can go out on their own and take their skills to the marketplace without a middleman, so can I!