Malcolm Andrews looks ahead to what might happen in Rugby League in 2014…
Move over Nostradamus. Olde Malcolm is here again with extracts from his annual Almanack, predicting what will be happening to our great game during 2014. And there will be no quatrains that take a lot of understanding.
First prediction: There will be a host of withdrawals of top players from the inaugural Auckland Nines – especially among players who turned out in the World Cup.
Of course, they will be ‘injured’ … so that’s okay! Can you imagine Melbourne Storm wanting to play Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk (both on the Golden Boot shortlist) and Billy Slater to risk losing them for the season? Perish the thought.
Cronulla will win the Nines. The reason is simple. The Sharks need the major share of the prize money to help pay off the $600,000 fine imposed by the NRL over their role in the illegal supplements scandal. It was to have been a $1 million penalty, but the Cronulla chiefs will toe the line in order to have it reduced by 40 per cent.
The Roosters will finish nowhere. Because soon after they will be playing in front of their Sydney fans, and their supremo Nick Politis won’t want to be embarrassed). They will take the World Club Challenge seriously this year and rest all their key players from the Nines.
But the Roosters will win the world title by beating Wigan Warriors. The RFL will quickly claim credit. “You can see the influence Steve McNamara has had on the Roosters, even though he has only been assistant coach for a few weeks,” an anonymous member of the RFL hierarchy will explain.
New Zealand Warriors coaching staff will move Kevin Locke from fullback to loose-forward to make way for Sam Tomkins. A club spokesman will point out: “Locke by name, lock by nature.”
“I’m happy to play anywhere on the field as long as it helps the Warriors in their quest for a Premiership,” Locke will tell a media conference through gritted teeth.
“Money talks every language,” Tomkins’ accountant will add.
Wayne Bennett has his 700th game at the helm of a Premiership side, prompting the Sydney media to claim the Knights’ coach is too old.
“He’s old enough to claim the old-age pension. He should step aside and give a younger bloke a go,” scribe Phil Rottweiler will make clear.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It’s not Newcastle … it’s Oldcastle. And, anyway, he’s a bloody Queenslander!
“Matt Busby knew it was time to go when he quit Manchester United last year.
“What’s that, you say? His name wasn’t Busby? Oh, well, whoever he was, he was still too old.”
Rottweiler is 77.
Parramatta will sign up retired English cricketer Graeme Swann as the Eels’ Executive Head of Morale. They will also offer Kevin Pietersen – he of the South African accent – a place on the board to help Swann in his endeavours.
Former Bradford Bulls media man turned conservative Queensland politician Jason Costigan will continue his geography lesson for Rugby League supporters. He will visit yet another quaintly named hamlet in his electorate, Pindi Bog. The mind boggles.
Another Aussie Rugby League star (no names – no pack drill) will retire and sign a journalist to pen his ‘autobiography’. The star will promise the publishers he will tell all and make some explosive revelations.
But as the tome is about to be printed he will order all the controversial quotes to be expunged. Having accepted a contract for a new career in television, such revelations would mean none of the current crop of players would have talked to him.
Don’t you believe Old Man Malcolm? Well, there was a similar situation earlier this year.
The faceless judges of the International Federation will announce Nathan Hindmarsh as the Player of the Year, even though he retired two seasons earlier. “We still like him as a bloke,” one of the judges will explain.
“Anyway, Parramatta deserves to win something.”
Hunslet fan Steve Beck will be seen waving a giant Hawks flag at the Melbourne Cup horse racing meeting, adding to the sporting contests around the world in which the well-travelled ensign has been caught by television cameramen.
But the English racehorses will finish well back … the trainers not realising the support they could have had from Yorkshire because they are Rah-Rah followers and ‘Our Steve’ doesn’t have a cauliflower ear or ears.
In a controversial change to the Super League play-offs, the game’s chiefs will change the Club Call. From the 2014 finals onwards, the League Leaders will be able to pick one of the teams that didn’t make the play-offs as their opponents in the first week.
“We are confident that this latest amendment to our two-twelves, three-eights league re-structure proposals will persuade all the clubs to support them. We are keen to preserve our reputation for innovation,” says RFL Chairman Brian Barwick.
And the RFL plans to recall the late Eddie Waring to host the Club Call television coverage, not realising that the former BBC commentator passed away in 1986.
“How were we supposed to know that,” said an indignant RFL spokesman, when challenged about Red Hall officials’ apparent lack of knowledge about the history of Rugby League.
“I suppose we’ll just have to get Albert Goldthorpe. Do you have his telephone number?”
No, boss. But if you speak to him, don’t forget to toast the Greatest Game of All.
Have a great New Year, folks!