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R L Winger

Coach
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  1. We are going to need either some bonus points for Superbowl or a tie breaker as I will be taking the team that you don't take mate. There is not a split mickey hair between the Bengals & Rams.
  2. WINNING PICKS IN BOLD SUNDAY. JANUARY 30th 2022 Cincinnati @ Kansas City San Francisco @ Los Angeles Rams
  3. The way this is heading Irish Saint, this year. I think you might need a tie breaker for the Super Bowl.
  4. SEASON 2022 IS MAKE OR BREAK FOR THE RED V You’ve had a full season at the club to have a look around and see what you think needs to change. How do you see the future? It is really positive. Now after one season, we have got a good mixture of experience and we have recruited well. But the vital part is being able to produce our own players and that is starting to evolve as well. So as far as building a list and a team that we can start to sustain some success with, I think things are looking good. Some people have been critical of your recruitment in that you have signed a lot of older players, some who may be considered over the hill. But you seem to have gone about it with a specific purpose of getting value for money? Well, that is the case with someone like Aaron Woods. But I mean he is only 30, and he adds great depth. But guys like Jaydn Su’A, who is 24, and Frank Molo, I think is 26 turning 27, and current Origin players, I don’t know if they are over the hill. I know Aaron Woods impressed you when you had your initial chat before he signed. What did he say to convince you he’d be good for the club? I was just impressed with what he wanted to do. He was still very motivated. He felt he probably hadn’t played his best football over the last few years. He got caught up, obviously, in the Tigers/Bulldogs/ Cronulla move, and he is desperate to play well. I think if you have a look at his history, he has played 18- odd Test matches and the same amount of Origins, and like I said, he is only 30 years old. He didn’t strike me as a guy who had lost his enthusiasm for the game. In fact, he was more convincing the other way. I think he still has got a lot more to offer and I know he thinks he has got a lot more to offer. He brings a lot of experience and depth to our forward pack. What about a guy like Moses Mbye? He went to the Tigers and got paid big money because he was considered a player with great hope. But he has always been shifted around without really getting the chance to find a permanent position. How do you want to play him? Well, that was the attraction with him. Again, Moses is only 27. He has been around for a long time. I think he was playing halfback for the Bulldogs when he was only 18 or 19. But he has played in grand finals, he has played Origin. And he was really brutally honest about his own performances at the Wests Tigers, which you have got to admire. When I spoke to him, again, he was really driven and he wants to unlock another level of performance out of himself. And the thing I liked the most was he was really selfless in how he sees that happening. He wasn’t after a guarantee about a position. In fact, he probably sees himself more as that person who can fill a number of roles. That’s the attraction with him – he can play nine, seven, six or one, and he has played centre at State of Origin level. And the main thing is we don’t or won’t bring anyone to the club that is not motivated or doesn’t have a burning desire to win, and that is what I found in him as well. George Burgess is another one who has done everything in the game but now we find out he has also suffered in silence for years with agonising pain from his hip injury. What have you seen so far and can he get back to his best? I think so, now after working with him for a couple of months. He is training really well. Obviously it was major surgery, so the performance staff have been really cautious with him. But I think the way he is going at the moment, he is a really good chance of playing in the trials, which is his focus. And again, he hasn’t turned 30 yet, and the last five or six years he has sort of played in pain, which no one really realised the extent of it. I can only comment on the last few months since I have known him and he is similar to the previous two guys I spoke about: he is desperate to play at the highest level again and he wants to prove himself because he feels like he hasn’t been at his best for three or four years. He has been fantastic for our younger players. He has embraced the club and on and off the field he is looking really good. You throw in guys like Jack de Belin, Josh McGuire, Jack Bird, Blake Lawrie, Tariq Sims, Andrew McCullough. It’s a tough, experienced pack. Well, potentially. We are not getting ahead of ourselves. Everyone just wants to get through the pre-season. But that was always the focus. It was strategic and we have been patient. You know, Georgie Burgess and Aaron Woods are the last couple we have signed after we got Su’A and Molo and those guys. They came to us at the right time and probably at the right time in their careers, where they are still hungry and passionate about their footy. There is a bunch of good youngsters coming through: (Tyrell) Sloan, (Talatau) Amone, (Jayden) Sullivan, the Feagai brothers (Mat and Max). And (Cody) Ramsey. I mean, Zac Lomax is still only 22. The important thing with that is it is hard for them to develop if they are playing in a team that hasn’t got a strong forward pack. So it was always important we build our pack, and the size and experience, because if you are going to produce young players through your system, they need to be playing on a solid foundation. They are going to be inconsistent at times as they are learning over the next two to three years, so you need to balance that inconsistency with a strong side that gives them the opportunity to make a few bad decisions or have an off-day. That has been one of my main focuses. I never wanted or suggested we needed a rebuild, but we needed to add some arsenal to what we already had. You haven’t been afraid to make tough calls along the way. You made a decision on Cam McInnes, not that you didn’t want to keep him but you had a choice to make in respect to how much the Dragons were willing to pay to keep him. Paul Vaughan was sent packing. Matt Dufty is another who didn’t get a new deal. Just in the year I have been here as a group and a management group with Ben Haran and Ryan Webb, we have got a good relationship and we have developed well together. We are aligned with where we are going – clearly we had to change. The club hadn’t been successful and so that is just business. You have a look at the Bulldogs at the moment. They are changing every month with their list. But you’ve got to be in that mode. Obviously there is a performance change and a system change with the way you go about your business, but there has also got to be some roster change internally and bringing in people from outside you think can represent your club well. How disappointed were you with the barbecue at Paul Vaughan’s? How much did that rock your season? Because you were in the eight at that point and I don’t think you won another game. No, we didn’t. We were in the top eight for 18 of the 24 weeks. So it was obviously disappointing. Everyone at the club was disappointed – the players involved and right through. But we have to use that experience as a lesson going forward and I suppose an opportunity to build a stronger standard within the club. The hardest thing was not being able to win a couple of football games, but in hindsight I am a believer everything happens for a reason, and that might be a strength now we can draw on. The fact we went through that has made us hungrier. I mentioned Dufty. He had a crack at you publicly, talking about the fact you wouldn’t let him play his style of attacking football. Is that the reality of it? There are a lot of reasons throughout a year, when you are working with players, why you can get a performance out of them or you can’t. Some of that you have got to take responsibility for yourself as a coach and as a club when a player doesn’t work out. But I have no problem with Matt. He did a great job for our club. He had been a junior and played a lot of football. But the reasons for us not wanting him had nothing to do with when he had the ball in his hands. It was the other way. And he understands that, and I think anyone that watches football would understand that. But he is entitled to his own opinion. What about the options you have for fullback. Tyrell Sloan has obviously got exceptional talent. Is he ready to be a starting No.1 for a full NRL season? Guys like him and Ramsey, who has had a few more games. But they are obviously guys we are looking long term to be in those positions, and we are working constantly with them on and off the field with their education in that area. They are both doing well, physically. They are growing. They are both nearly 90kg. So you just don’t know. They are young and they are inexperienced. So that is what I was getting at before. We need to build a strong side around guys like that. But it is a real key position, particularly over the last five or six years with the way the fullback position has evolved. There is a lot of strategy and being able to read play, both with and without the ball. So we are working as a coaching staff really hard on that education for them. Whether Sloany or Cody nail that position down, all I can say is that we will give them every opportunity. I think long term they will, we will just need to wait and see for this year. What about the young halves, you’ve got two rising stars in Jayden Sullivan and Junior Amone. How do you plan out their future? Sullivan has also played some dummy half. Sully did a great job last year at nine, and Junior jumped in and took his chance the first time we gave him a go at five-eighth. He came off the bench I think about two weeks after the SG Ball grand final and sort of stayed in the side, filling in at lock and centre and places like that. But as soon as we stuck him in at five-eighth, he showed a bit of class so he stayed there for the rest of the year. Jayden is a really gifted player as well. He struggled with injury for the most of last year, which probably didn’t help him. He didn’t actually start playing footy until midway through the year. They are both exciting. And with Ben Hunt, with the captaincy on his shoulders, he had one of the best seasons he’s probably had, even though we would have liked him to be on the field a bit longer. I think he was only there for 14 or 15 games but between the three of those guys and Moses Mbye and Jack Bird, who can also play in the halves, we are well stocked. Ben Hunt has shown tremendous character. Not many players have copped it more in recent years, and the way he has fought back and won a lot of respect is a credit to him. I mean, you just have to see what he did in the third State of Origin. They threw him in at hooker and he played 80 minutes and got man of the match. He has had some obstacles over his career, which we all have. But it just gives you an insight into the mental toughness of the guy. And, also, he is just a really good person. You give him the captaincy and even though it might have been not what he was thinking of when he started the year – we all thought Cam (McInnes) was going to be our captain but then he got hurt – so you give it to Ben Hun and he grabbed it and did a great job, to the point where now he is really entrenched in that role. And I think having that extra responsibility has brought out the best in him. It is probably one of the reasons he has played so well because he takes it really seriously, the fact he is a leader of our club. You briefly mentioned Zac Lomax. He is a young guy with enormous talent and you have brought Moses Suli to the club. They are two strike centres and two players of the future. Well, as I said Zac is 22 and started playing first grade when he was 18 or 19 and still has a long way to go in his education and his maturity. But he will be at the club long term and he is going to be a great centre, I think, if he continues to develop. And Moses didn’t get much of a go at Manly last year. He was injured for a while but he has got enormous potential. Again, he is another one of those old blokes we signed at 23 (laughing). But when I spoke to him, he is very driven about what he wants to do as well. I think he only had one go at the end of last year against Canberra and everyone saw that night the potential that he has got. I don’t think potential has ever been the issue with Moses Suli, has it? It has been his attitude, in some respects, but in fairness he was very young. Yeah. As I say, when I spoke to him he didn’t shy away from that either. He admitted he’s contributed to a few of his tougher times over his career. So at 23 he has a long time to mature, but he is 107/108kg strike centre so we are looking forward to working hard with him to get him to his potential. What about yourself? You had a couple of years out and now you’ve had one back. Regretting it? I love it. Obviously last year was a tough year the way we finished. But up until round 16 or 17, whenever that was, I thought we were building really well to be sitting seventh, I think, at the time. As a club, everything is progressing really well and the future looks good. From my point of view, I just love going to work every day. Well, I don’t call it work, but going to practice every day, and working on something that when we get it right, it is going to be really special.
  5. Picks In Bold Saturday, January 22nd Cincinnati @ Tennessee, San Francisco @ Green Bay, Sunday, January 23rd Los Angeles Rams @ Tampa Bay, Buffalo @ Kansas City
  6. My opinion and a view held by very few of the future of Rugby League and Union is....Somewhere down the track in the mists of time there will be a new game born, called Rugby United......This will be the coming back together of Rugby League and Rugby Union on a world wide scale.....The rules of the game will be 75% League rules 15% Union rules and 10% new rules.....Dare to dream and see what can be.
  7. No Wayne Bennett and no Adam Reynolds? No worries says Souths’ new mentor It was only a decade ago you started out coaching the Keighley Cougars (competing in a lowertier competition in England). Today you are replacing Wayne Bennett as coach of South Sydney. Now that’s a meteoric rise by any standards? Yeah, it is. It is crazy when you think of it like that. And you didn’t come with a reputation as a big-name player but you can obviously coach. So what sort of coach are you? How are you different to Wayne? I don’t know if I am that different. I have worked under him for five years and I had a lot of success as a head coach at lower levels, which led to Wayne wanting me to join him. I think morally we are both player driven and ensure that our players are good people off the field. Also creating an environment where they are happy to come to training and give their best. I think we are very similar in that path. Time will tell. When you say you are player driven, what does that mean? My job is to provide a platform for the players to be able to be the best they can. And that’s on the field, off the field, and making sure that I am building relationships with them so that there is a lot of trust between myself and the players. Is it also providing a happy workplace? Is that a big part of it? I think so, yeah. I am somebody who is motivated from what I can achieve and not fearful of what I can’t achieve. I want my players to feel that as well. I want them to come to training excited about what they can do and not turning up worried about what they can’t do. If we can get a group of blokes collectively looking forward and chasing a dream then we are always going to keep moving in the right direction. That’s a great attitude because there is always this focus that every coach who replaces Wayne comes in with an expectation that they have never really stepped out of his shadow and had instant success. But what you just said sends a different message. It does. I had that conversation with Wayne. I don’t fear being in Wayne’s shadow. I don’t fear being compared to him. If at the end of my career people are comparing me to Wayne Bennett, I will be a pretty happy coach. I would be foolish not to take plenty away from that five-year experience and that is what I will be doing. Wayne has also given me the belief to know who you are as a coach and stick to the person you are and the players will follow that. Different coaches work different hours. Are you one of those blokes who gets out of bed at 4am to wake the birds up, or are you more relaxed? I am more relaxed. I do get there early. I am one of the first ones, if not the first one, in the building. I think that is important for the players to see that. I will be there until the players leave. But at the same time I want the players to understand that there is life outside of football. I can’t get them to buy into that if I am stuck in the office for 12 hours, 14 hours, every day. I have three young kids and a wife. I have a family outside of footy as well and I want my players to know that they are as much a priority as my job. I was going to ask you about your family because you have been married 19 years I think (with wife Natalie) and have three daughters (Isabella, Maddison and Sienna). Sometimes surviving at home is a job in itself. how are they handling juggling the two? They are all right. Not a lot has changed so far because it is preseason. They are noticing that I am on the phone a lot more than I probably used to be. But they are excited. They have been a big part, as you spoke about before, going from Keighley in England to head coach of South Sydney. My wife, in particular, and my three girls have been a big part of that journey. They have had to sacrifice plenty for me to get in this position. What about your expectations. Souths have made the past four preliminary finals and a grand final in 2021. But I’d imagine losing Adam Reynolds is going to have a huge impact on the team. Yeah it is, but like I said before, I am somebody who is motivated by what we can do, and I think we have a group of players that are exciting for the future. I think we have seen that last year when we went to Queensland and we took four of our development players in the 30 that all played first grade. Underneath them there are another four or five. So there is some really exciting talent. I get to turn up to work every day and work with Cameron Murray and Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker and Damien Cook (pictured left) and a host of others. So we are in a pretty blessed place and fortunate to be at a pretty strong club. How will Cody’s game change not having Reynolds? I don’t think it does in terms of on the field. I think off the field, which he has done over the last two years, he will develop even further as a leader in the team and especially when we are out on the training field and that leads to game day. But we are confident in Lachlan Ilias, or Dean Hawkins if he is called upon, that we will be able to fill that role that Adam plays. They both play direct in the line, great kicking games. Are they Adam Reynolds? No they are not. But we know we can simplify their role and that will allow Cody and Latrell and Damien Cook to do what they do. But it is a big ask for a young halfback. You talk to coaches at every club and they say the same thing. When young players, especially halves, are called up into the NRL it is usually an upand-down process. Yet one of those blokes is going to come into a team that just played in a grand final and that comes with huge expectation. For sure. But that is up to us as coaches and as a club and particularly myself not to put that pressure on the halfback. He has a simple job to do and we will spend pre-season making sure that he is across that. The bottom line is we believe he can do it, otherwise we wouldn’t be in this position. We have backed them and it is a chance for us now as staff not to blink and make sure we give these players coaching and the guidance they need to go out there and be confident that they can fulfil their role. Ilias (pictured right) comes with big raps. Where is he at in his development? Well, he has come through and played union and league, which I think has been a good grounding for him. In terms of his skill set he is very similar to probably a young Adam. Like I said, he has a great kicking game, plays direct into the line, is very physical and fit, which is a major attribute you need these days coming into first grade. The best thing about him is his temperament. He has a really good temperament. He is not overawed by anything and he keeps it simple. I think they are the qualities that are going to help him transition into first grade and have a long career with us. You mentioned Latrell earlier. How is coaching a person like him, because he is a big personality but also a young man and he gets a lot of criticism. Do you think he needs to change, tone it down a little bit? Not really. I think he needs to be Latrell and he needs to understand we value him at the club. I think everybody at the club loves having him around. I know for myself I am so excited to be coaching him. We get to work with him every day. We see Latrell for the great character he is but also the family man and the guy that wants to do anything to help his teammates. As long as we are seeing that, I am not too worried about what the outside noise is. From a football perspective, how does he learn from that tackle on Joey Manu, because I would imagine that would have had a pretty significant impact on him? I think it did, but I think there were a few previous charges that he had throughout the year that probably didn’t help him in defending himself against that charge. Look, I have been around a long time. I have seen a lot of people break cheekbones from accidental contacts, and I have no doubt that Latrell went in there to make a tackle and as coach, especially a defensive coach last year, we want to protect our line. We want to do whatever we have to do to shut down breaks and stop teams from scoring, and that was Latrell’s mindset going into the tackle. Unfortunately, it went wrong and he has paid the price. When you watched that tackle back, which I would imagine you did over and over, did you think that Joey lost his balance with Dane Gagai, I think it was Gagai, when he pulled at the back of his shorts? There is no doubt he loses his feet and he drops a good half metre within a split second as contact is being made which contributes to the tackle. I mean, Latrell doesn’t leave the ground, he does bend his back. But again, it is just an incident that no one likes to see because a guy has busted his cheekbone and is quite emotional about it. And from a spectator’s point of view it is not a nice thing to see. But unfortunately in a collision sport these things happen and, like I said, Latrell has So how does Latrell approach that tackle next time? I don’t know. I think he probably comes in on a slightly different angle, but who knows. Like, am I going to say that he is never going to be in a position where there is an accidental collision again? Well, you can’t predict that. That is what our game is, and it is unfortunate. Now if you look at (how) Sam Burgess breaks his cheekbone with a contact against James Graham, a head on head, there is no one at fault. It is just one of those accidental things that happen. Unfortunately, with the focus on head knocks now the game is getting harder on it. I think that is a good direction for the game to be taking, but it is tough when those accidental collisions happen. He is a mighty player, Latrell. You think about what he has already achieved at 24, but he’s probably only scratched the surface of what he is capable of. Without a doubt. Like I said, I am impressed with him every day. The way he trains, the way he motivates people around him. His skill set is second to none. Our job as staff is to get him doing what Wayne has done over the last few years and just loving turning up at training and playing footy. I am fortunate coming into this position, having worked with him for two years, that I have already developed some relationships with him and the other players so there is not going to be too much change for them. You spoke about Murray, who is another outstanding character. In the grand final, I am not too sure what you saw but I reckon if he wasn’t knocked out he was rattled by that first shot of the game when Jaydn Su’A collected him in the back. What impact did that have on his performance? It is hard to say because if it did have a negative impact I’d hate to see how good he would have played if he didn’t have that knock. He was outstanding for us. He was still out there in the 77th minute making line breaks. He went close to creating an opportunity for us to score to win the game. Look, the way we defended and the things we did, we wouldn’t have been able to do them without Cam Murray being at his best. What about the blokes you work for, there are some big personalities there also. How do you get on with Russell Crowe? Great. I have spent a lot of time in the off-season watching the Tales of Reinstatement and the South Sydney Story. So I have a real good understanding of those guys’ involvement. Nick Pappas has been outstanding for myself at the club, as was Shane Richardson in getting me to this point. But speaking to Russell, he just bleeds the club, and everything, from how many years ago they got reinstated to the takeover into where the club is now. A lot of that is off the back of what Russell’s vision was for the club and I think he should be pretty proud of where it is at. I love talking to him. It just gives you that extra bit of passion that you need to have for the club. Does coaching South Sydney also become a lot about knowing the history? I think so. I think its recent history and its reinstatement and the efforts of Pappas and George Piggins and guys like that are pretty special in Australian sport, but especially in the NRL. It makes us unique. We are a club that didn’t take the new wave of the NRL and just fold and amalgamate with another club. We paid the price for a couple of years but found the way back, and now we are one of the strongest clubs in the game. And I think that is a story that any player or person that comes to work at the club needs to understand, because it does make us unique and it is something that we can be pretty proud of. You talk about coaching at NRL level. To survive you have to ride the highs and the lows. So what are you expecting for 2022? I am not putting too much expectation on where we are going to go. What I do know is that the successes in previous years don’t mean anything unless you get things right in pre-season and start the season and rebuild again. Every year you have to build your season. We know that is going to be no different. What has been the biggest change so far? In your previous role you were almost like a cocoach with Wayne. But before we started this interview you mentioned you were running late because you were on the phone to a player manager. Has that been the biggest change, having these issues outside of the pure coaching to deal with? I think that has been the biggest thing. I always wondered why Wayne was on the phone so much, but I have realised why. There are a lot of little things that go on and every player has different circumstances and different managers, and there are those conversations. Talking to the media comes into it. That is probably the only real change for me. The other side of it is obviously managing staff. As an assistant, and even in the role I had which was probably a bit higher than a normal assistant that I had under Wayne, it was still all about the coaching. Now it is about making sure that the staff are as happy as the players are. It is my job to make sure they have an environment where they come to work and enjoy being part of this great club. I take that quite seriously because I know when people are happy they work at their best. Does that mean there is not expectation and I am not driving standards? Of course I am. But I want them to feel reward for the work they do as well.
  8. Twenty-five years ago today, Kerry Packer ended a bitter war but broke an old mate’s heart, Hugh Marks had been legal counsel at Channel 9 for two years when he was called in to negotiate a deal that would rock the ARL. Marks is the man who in April 2020, as Channel 9’s chief executive during the Covid-19 lockdown, attacked the NRL as bloated, called for clubs to be given more power and threatened that the sport’s long-time free-to-air broadcaster would walk away. His comments led to the departure of CEO Todd Greenberg, and 23 years earlier the deal he did with Super League hastened Ken Arthurson’s exit from the game. When Kerry Packer in 1995 insisted on enforcing a pay TV clause with the NSWRL even though he had no pay TV outlet, and threatened to “sue the pants” off any club that did business with News, the ARL went to war on his behalf. Surely Packer wouldn’t then put Super League on his TV stations, would he? “I had heard the rumours on this but had defended our ‘allies’,” Arthurson wrote, perhaps insisting on the inverted commas with his coauthor Ian Heads. “‘Not when the chips are down, they won’t do it to us’, I had said to people who suggested that treachery was in the wind.” Sure enough, on January 17 1997 it was announced Nine, until then the staunchest of ARL allies whose chiefs had handed out cheques at Phillip St like how-to-vote flyers at a polling booth, had taken a bet each way by signing a deal with the breakaway comp. Monday Night Football would be the domain of Super League and shown on Nine. “Ken felt betrayed,” Maurice Lindsay said. Explaining their decision at the time, the channel stated: “We believe that the Nine Network telecasting the ARL and Super League will increase the prospect of a unified rugby league competition, which we believe to be in the interests of the public, viewers and all parties. “If the Nine Network had not secured the rights, another network would have and this would have made the prospects of one competition remote.” David Gallop, the youthful legal counsel for Super League, recalled: “I was there (at Nine’s Artarmon studios) with Hugh Marks … and I remember we were there until 1am doing the deal that meant Channel 9 would now cover Super League games. “It was urgent enough that we stayed there until we got it done and it was at least one o’clock in the morning. I got a cab back over the Harbour Bridge with Tom (Mockridge, who was assistant CEO at News and went to Foxtel at the end of 1996).” Arthurson looks grim, even today, when the episode is raised. He insists that there was no mention of Monday Night Football when James Packer called him, just that Nine was going to show Super League matches. “It’s very, very clear in my memory and I was disappointed that Kerry hadn’t rang me personally because we’d had a good relationship over the best part of 20 years,’’ he said. “We always got on well and each of us had always honoured our agreements with the other. “The phone rang and it was James, his son. He got James to ring me. I can always remember his words. He said ‘it gives me no pleasure to say what I’ve got to say to you now Ken’ and he told me they’d reached an agreement. “I said to him ‘I can’t tell you how disappointed I am, James’. I said ‘you’ve let us down badly but in any case I at least expect you to honour the financial arrangements you’ve made over this (with us)’, which he did. “James handled it as well as he could. It wasn’t news he wanted to give and it wasn’t news I wanted to hear.” Super League marketing chief Gary Pearse said: “It showed the true colours of the media in regard to loyalty. There was a war between the two of them and one of their generals had basically gone across straight away and bought the rights to the opposition.” Super League CEO John Ribot said: “You could see a few cracks coming into negotiations (for the ARL). I really respected Kerry Packer. With cricket and all those things he’s done, he was just a leader. Rupert said to me one day, when we did the deal (to launch Super League) … ‘this is going to be a very difficult thing to do here because Kerry Packer owns Sydney. I’m very well placed internationally, offshore and that, with a head office here in Sydney. This is going to be quite a battle’. But he said ‘geez, it’s going to be a lot of fun’. “He shook my hand and walked out and I thought ‘bloody hell’.” After Packer did a deal with Ribot, Arthurson effectively demanded (“offered the opinion” in his words) that Nine CEO David Leckie could no longer sit on the NSWRL board, and Leckie duly resigned. Between this moment and the release of his book many months later, Arthurson did not speak to anyone at Channel 9. “Channel 9’s move dragged me down about as far as it was possible for a fundamentally positive person like myself to go,” he wrote. South Sydney patriarch George Piggins wrote: “Business and the bottom line had won, and it was a huge disappointment. Kerry Packer had seemingly been rock solid with the ARL since the February meeting in 1995 and then suddenly, bang! And he’s over the fence.” But true to form as a pragmatist-come-lately, ARL CEO Neil Whittaker was unfazed even by one of the most ruthless acts of the entire Super League War. “There were a lot of disappointing things that happened,” Whittaker said. “That each-way bet was disappointing but I just couldn’t allow it to distract me from getting the comp going and that’s what won us the outcome, the competition. “James (Packer) was more worried about the discussion than I was. I don’t know who made the decision within their organisation but it was a decision he was very anxious about. “I remember very clearly the meeting I had with James when he told me about it. Things were so bad that my reaction to it was really surprising. He expected me, I think, to go off the planet over it. Arko and everyone, we’d got this far and we were about to start the comp and they’d taken the Super League rights. “So I just said to James ‘it’s already done, you’ve told me you’re doing it, there’s nothing I can do so I’m just going to get up and walk out and get out of here and get on with something I can do something about’. And that’s what I did. “A few years after the Super League war when you bump into James, I always had the feeling he respected the way I approached that meeting, that I saw it as a business decision they had to make. Everyone was making business decisions to suit their organisation. No one knew how it was going to go, everyone was placing bets. “I’ve never spoken to James about it but I suspect that worked towards building the relationship that I had with him and I got on fairly well with Lachlan (Murdoch) as well. We had two youngish executives in the middle of it, caught up emotionally. One on either side, it wasn’t easy to manage.” Ribot recalled: “The Americans had Monday Night Football and it became the family night for their game. “We had a conference in Los Angeles with all the clubs from around the world (in December 1995) and we had keynote speakers and we all went down and saw San Diego on a Monday night. It was an unbelievably good night. Everyone enjoyed it, had a great time and I think … if you had the networks wanting to do it, and having seen it in America, I had no issues with that at all.” But Shane Richardson believes the TV deal between Nine and Super League was much more than a TV deal. If not for Optus Vision and its combative CEO Geoffrey Cousins, Richardson believes, it would have been the beginning of the end of the fight. “I’m sure Murdoch and Packer had come together and the real saviours of the ARL were Optus and Geoff Cousins,” Richardson said. “He’s never got enough recognition for what he did to save the ARL. The same goes for (saving) the traditional clubs.” And so as 1997 dawned, Super League had all the running. It looked like being the “juggernaut” it had promised to be. But the competition hit choppy waters when Nine conceded it could not contractually televise the opening game of the breakaway’s season – between Canberra and Cronulla – on a Friday. Its arrangement with the ARL precluded it showing any other competition on that day of the week, so the kick-off of the new league was put back a day (Brisbane v Auckland at ANZ Stadium) and the Raiders-Sharks game moved to Monday at the Sydney Football Stadium. But in a sign of the game’s malaise at the time, Nine did not judge either competition worthy of live prime-time coverage. MNF and the ARL’s Friday night match were kicked back to a delayed 9.30 timeslot; cop drama Water Rats was considered a stronger ratings bet at 8.30, while Friends and the Lotto draw also aired while the matches were being played. Heads wrote: “From the beginning, the struggle has been about hidden agendas unconnected with the game at the heart of it. “The two sides have just got to hope there are enough people around who still care.” And after a significant body blow to the ARL, Arthurson made comments that led the public to think he was heading the way of former ARL boss John Quayle – out the door. “I would have bet my life on Nine standing by us but I guess I’m naive. I’m bitterly disappointed,’’ he said. “When all this started and we were approached by News, we told them we would not, and could not, do what they were asking because we had a legal and moral obligation to Nine. “I’ve been friends with Kerry Packer for a lot of years and I vividly remember being at the International Sevens in February 1995 when he gave me an assurance that he would not make any deal with News without coming to me and getting the approval of the ARL. “If they are going to reach an agreement now, the Packer and Murdoch families, why the hell didn’t they reach that agreement in the first place without putting us all through this trauma we’ve been through the last two years? “It certainly would have added a few years to my life.” Ribot, in the same story, said: “If we can enhance the product, while there’s a coming together of the parties, then that’s good for the game and it’s good for Super League.” Another alliance seen as unholy in many circles was Saturday Super League on the publicly owned ABC. “There was a friend of mine called Gerry O’Leary who pursued the rights,” journalist and presenter Debbie Spillane said. “She was acting head of sport at the time. “She was a mad rugby league fan. She still doesn’t get much kudos. She was the first woman to be producer of ABC live rugby league. “She told them what Super League needs more than anything is national coverage but coverage with a traditional base, some cred. “She put a good argument: we can’t afford to give you any money for it but … “A lot of people were disgusted with the ABC for that. Those people were mainly from NSW and Queensland. But we were always getting tackled by the ABC board because rugby league wasn’t a national sport and it was the national broadcaster. “So Super League (with a wider geographic spread) fitted the ABC criteria a lot better than the ARL had. She talked (Ian) Frykberg into the deal and then she gave me the job of fronting it. She impressed Frykberg so much they offered her a job at Fox Sports.” “Aunty” broadcasting Super League was targeted on the ABC’s Media Watch program. Spillane’s dual roles with a club – she was Bulldogs PR – and on the coverage, was highlighted as a potential conflict of interest. January started with a game divided. Early in the new year, Whittaker told the Sydney Morning Herald: “We’ve got to accept there are too many teams in Sydney.” At the time, there were 11: Cronulla, Manly, North Sydney, Parramatta, Penrith, the Bulldogs (then known as Sydney Bulldogs), the Roosters (then known as Sydney City Roosters), the Tigers (then known as Sydney Tigers), South Sydney, St George and Western Suburbs. Talk of cutting the number of teams in Sydney is nothing new. When Illawarra and Canberra joined in 1982, it had not been referred to as “expansion” but “decentralisation”. The news cycle trundled along. Players outside each club’s top 20 in Super League were told they’d have to pay their own medical insurance, a backflip on a previous understanding. And Super League’s plan of “clean skin”, or sponsorless, jerseys was abandoned after a threat by Dominion Breweries to sue the Auckland Warriors for breach of contract if they were removed. In England, David Howes resigned as a director of the RFL. Canberra announced plans to float the Raiders on the stock market. At a mid-month media conference in Brisbane, senator Graham Richardson predicted a united competition in 1998. And, inevitably, on the evening of January 22, Ken Arthurson resigned, along with executives Greg Mitchell and Graeme Foster. Arthurson had intended to stand down only as NSWRL chairman and stay on with the ARL, but concluded that resigning twice was more than he could bear. “I don’t know what the scoreboard will say,” Arthurson mused at the time. “I hope it says ‘he gave the game his best shot. He never sold the game out.’ “Super League kept talking about a partnership. But what they really meant was a twotier system where News Ltd ran the elite tier of top clubs and we looked after juniors, referees and ran coaching courses.” Mitchell now says his own decision was taken earlier, in response to the departure of close friend Quayle. “When I knew that he was going .. to SOCOG (Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympics) with Michael Knight recruiting him, the minister in charge of SOCOG, I had a meeting with John. I said ‘if you’re going, I think I might move on.’” he said. Quayle helped Mitchell get a job at the Australian Rugby Union. Arthurson’s resignation was to take effect the day Super League was scheduled to kick off, February 28. Perhaps unlike his friend Quayle, Arthurson has let the circumstances surrounding his departure from Phillip St fade with the passing years. The betrayal by Channel 9 hurt at the time, but not now. “I’d always said that I was looking forward to retiring when I turned 65. I’d said that since I was 40,” he said. “I’d reached 67, John had gone and I thought probably the time had come for a fresh start and to have some fresh points of view in there. That influenced my decision, very much so. One, I thought probably it was in the best interest of the game to have a fresh start take over and also I missed the fact I wouldn’t be working with John. “I only went to 67 because I hung on because of the Super League War.” Having lamented that Packer and Murdoch had taken years off his life, Arthurson moved to the Gold Coast and set about getting them back. The relationship between Ribot and Arthurson is a touching and compelling one. It was Arthurson who separated Ribot and Quayle at Phillip St in 1994 when the latter confronted the former about rumours of a rebel competition. Ribot had an almost visceral understanding of how hurt his friend had been by Nine’s betrayal. Like Quayle, there was an old-world code to the way Arthurson saw the world and did business. That code had been eviscerated. “If you went into Ken’s office … a bit of an insight into why he would have been taken aback by that … there was a photo behind his desk, on the wall, of him and Kerry Packer shaking hands. “I think they both had their arms around each other. It was a really nice photo. “When it all went a bit pear-shaped, I said to him once ‘you see Kerry as a good friend of yours. He’s a businessman and he’ll make business decisions. It will be interesting to see where this goes. If he sees an opportunity, he’s going to go for it’. I think that probably highlighted it to Ken.” Cousins was unconcerned by the change in the balance of power in free-to-air TV. Whatever Packer and Murdoch did, he knew he still held the cards. “I wasn’t ... surprised about Kerry hedging his bets,” he said. “That’s what he’d done with Rupert all his life. He was a bit in awe ... of Rupert.” Tom Mockridge summed up Nine’s “deal with the devil” simply: “It was part of the peace plan.”
  9. Just finished watching season 3 of the TV series remake of Lost In Space, it was pretty good and finished the current story line quite well.....They say it is the final season of the show but they left the ending open for further seasons in the future for sure.
  10. Wild Card Round Selections In Bold Las Vegas at Cincinnati New England at Buffalo Philadelphia at Tampa Bay San Francisco at Dallas Pittsburgh at Kansas City Arizona at Los Angeles Rams
  11. FINALLY A FARCE OF THE HYBRID GAME TAKES PLACE IN 1933 In 1933 elements within the Australian football and professional rugby fraternity reignited the cause of a single, universal code of football. Again, the catalyst seems to have been that year’s 10-day interstate carnival in Sydney. Consequently, a conference was held in August, bringing together the state delegates of the ANFC and the delegates of the NSWRL (significantly the discussions were boycotted by the Queensland Rugby League). Supporters of an Australian football/rugby league fusion (including once again the NSWRFL Secretary HR Miller) held the view that the future of football would be assured by adopting one code which combined the best features of both games [‘One Code of Football’, Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga), 28 July 1933]. This time the proponents of amalgamation approached the issue in a more systematic manner. HR Miller drafted a specific set of rules for the new code which included 15 players-a-side (approximately splitting the difference in numbers between AF and RL), an oval field but reduced in size, abolition of the scrum and replacing it with a bounce, limited off-side would be allowed, behind posts replaced by a H-shaped rugby goalpost, and the scoring of both tries and goals permitted. In talks Miller pitched the new rules’ appeal to the Australian football leagues in terms of making it more of an open, action-plus game, “We are giving what you Australian rule (sic) people are asking for and what the Australian public require – that is action … at no stage of the game would the ball be dead.” [‘Amalgamation of Games – Second Time Round’, NSW Football History (July 2014); Sydney Morning Herald, 27 July 1933; ‘Rugby League Proposed Unification in 1933: The game they never played’ www.footystats.freeservers.com]. On the basis of Miller’s “compromise rules” a clandestine match was played at the RAS Sydney Showground at Moore Park with the players drawn from the Queensland Football League supplemented by some local rugby league players. The game was somewhat of a shambles – it was supposed to be 14-a-side contest but there was not enough players available, none of the participants were familiarised with the new rules, the Queensland AF players had just completed a hard game against the Canberra AF side the previous day. The demonstration game thus failed miserably in its aim of advancing the cause of the composite code game! [‘Amalgamation of Games’]. The proposals put to the ANFC by Miller on behalf of the NSWRL were taken back by the state delegates to their leagues for consideration. The football leagues ultimately however did not consider themselves bound by the ANFC’s recommendation. In the end the respective authorities of each code were not prepared to compromise by making concessions to any meaningful degree in the alteration of their game – the off-side rule remained a particular “bone of contention” in seeking a consensus on the rules. As a consequence, the case for amendment leading to a universal code of football floundered. The NSWRL committee subsequently voted 15 to 10 against further consideration of a fusion with Australian football. Thus, all discussion of a hybridised AF/RL football code was quietly dropped … this time for good! [‘Football Merger: Rugby League not to Pursue – Not Impressed by Conference’, Canberra Times (ACT), 15 August 1933; ‘Football Merger left in Air – No decision for renewal of Conference’, Canberra Times, 12 August 1933]. Ultimately, the respective city strongholds, Sydney and Brisbane (rugby league) and Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth (Australian rules) pragmatically stuck with the code (today we’d be more likely to say the ‘product’) that it had built up to a position of pre-eminence over the years.
  12. It was revisited again in 1933 where they played a couple of games of it, but after that the whole idea was put to bed forever, thankfully.
  13. UNIVERSIAL FOOTBALL Universal football was the name given to a proposed hybrid sport of Australian rules football and rugby league, proposed at different times between 1908 and 1933 as a potential national football code to be played throughout Australia and New Zealand. The game was trialled, but it was never otherwise played in any regular competition. BACKGROUND By the early 20th century, Australian rules football, which had originated in Victoria in 1858, had been established as the dominant football code in Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia, holding that position since the 1870s or 1880s. Rugby football, which originated in the English Rugby School, had been the dominant code in New South Wales and Queensland throughout the same time. One of the earliest mentions of a hybrid code was in 1874 when Brisbane's Victorian Association (Australian Rules) clubs and the two Brisbane rugby union clubs Rangers and Bonnet Rouge experimented with mixed rules to compete against each other, however it was ultimately deemed a failure, with clubs instead opting to co-operate until the growing rift caused the Northern Rugby Union to break away from the Queensland Football Association (1880-1890) and ultimately become more popular. In 1884 H C A Harrison known then as the "father of Australian Football" visited London where he proposed unifying Australian rules with Rugby under a set of hybrid rules and suggested that rugby clubs adopt some of the Victorian Rules. Football officials were insulted at the suggestion that they "abandon their rules to oblige an Antipodean game". The preminence of the traditional rugby union code was usurped by the newer and professional rugby league code with its introduction from northern England to Australia in 1907. The idea of combining the two sports to create a "universal football" code to be played throughout Australia, and potentially around the world, arose at around the same time as rugby league began in Australia. 1908 CONFERENCE The first conference addressing the matter was held in 1908 between the New South Wales Rugby League (NSWRL), led by the league's founding administrator J. J. Giltinan, and Australian rules football officials, led by Australasian Football Council (AFC) president Con Hickey, with the view towards developing a hybrid set of rules which could be proposed to England's Northern Rugby Football Union (the administrative body for rugby league based in England) on the upcoming 1908–09 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain – rugby league as a code distinct from rugby union was a small and new code at the time, prominent only in northern England since 1895 and in Australasia for only a few years, so major rule changes which could be adopted worldwide were still a possibility. However, there was no action resolved from this initial conference. With the AFC's preference for the Australian code to be played only in Australia, Hickey believed in promoting Universal Football to nations outside Australia in preference to Australian Football particularly North America, England, the United States and had particularly strong support from the AFC's New Zealand and New South Wales delegates who faced increasing competition from the rugby codes. 1914–15 PROPOSAL The furthest progressed attempt to develop a universal football code took place in 1914–15. Following two major football events in Sydney during mid-1914 – the Great Britain Lions rugby league tour and the 1914 Australian rules football interstate carnival – the motivation of the NSWRL and AFC to unify the Australian football codes was heightened. Many administrators from both sports supported an amalgamation. Sportswriters noted that there was a mutual financial benefit to the AFC and the NSWRL, which was considered to be the chief motivation for progressing towards amalgamation: the NSWRL had only one meaningful interstate rival (Queensland), and its tours to England generally lost money, so having more interstate rivals would generate additional interest and gate takings; the AFC also had the opportunity to gain additional interstate and international rivals; the AFC would gain the benefit of the strong financial position of the NSWRL; and amalgamation would put an end to the outflow of money which each body had expended attempting unsuccessfully to promote its code in the other's territory. Sportswriters were divided on whether or not English administrators would support adopting the changes globally, with the main argument in favour being that English sides had made strong profits when touring Australasia and that they may seek to preserve that capability. Many sportswriters, among them respected Australian rules football sportswriters Jack Worrall and Reginald Wilmot, criticised the administrative bodies for putting their financial considerations ahead of the quality of the respective games, and predicted that fans across Australia would react negatively to changes to their favoured codes. PROPOSED RULES A conference was held in November 1914 and a preliminary code of rules was drawn up. Key features of the proposed rules were as follows: The game would be played on a rectangular field 160 yards long and 100 yards wide – similar in size to an Australian rules football field, and the same shape as but much larger than a rugby league field. There would be a distance of 140 yards between the goal lines, with a 10 yard in-goal area at each end. The game would be played fifteen players per side – compared with thirteen per side in rugby league and eighteen per side in Australian rules football. There would be a set of rugby-style goal posts on each goal line, with two uprights 18 feet apart and a crossbar 10 feet high. A goal would have to pass between the uprights and over the crossbar to count. The game would be played with an oval shaped ball, which was common to both sports. The methods of scoring, which combined scoring methods from both parent codes, would be: Grounding the ball in team's attacking in-goal area for a try – three points plus an attempt at a conversion Goal scored from general play – two points Goal from a mark or free kick, or a conversion – one point Grounding the ball in the team's defensive in-goal area for a "touch-down" or "force" – one point conceded The rugby league scrum would be abolished, and play would be restarted by Australian rules football means: a ball-up, by which the umpire bounces the ball into the air, within the field of play or a boundary throw-in by the umpire from outside the touch line. A deliberate kick for goal or conversion would be taken by the player who marked the ball or scored the try as in Australian rules, rather than by a designated goalkicker as in rugby league. Throwing the ball as in rugby league would be permitted Forward passes and knock-ons would not be permitted, as in rugby league Tackling between the hips and shoulders would be permitted, as in rugby league. The most significant sticking point to developing the hybrid code, and indeed the most significant difference between rugby and Australian rules gameplay, was offside – a concept fundamental to rugby league and fundamentally absent from Australian rules football. The conference did not settle on a definitive hybrid solution for the offside issue, but early proposals were for the offside rule to be in effect in the forward quarters of the field, but not in effect elsewhere on the field. PROPOSED AMALGAMATION The progress at the conference was strong and amalgamation between the two sports looked likely. The conference concluded that some changes would be made to both codes in 1915 to bring them closer together, with a view to also playing exhibition matches of a fully hybridised code in 1915 with the potential for complete hybridisation as early as 1916; although it was thought by some observers that a gradual hybridisation under which annual rule changes which brought the codes progressively closer together over five to ten years until the two codes were uniform might be a more realistic approach. The initial set of changes slated in November 1914 for the 1915 season were: Australian rules football would add the crossbar to its goalposts over which goals were to be kicked, would disallow forward handpasses or knock-ons, and adopt the stronger tackling rules; and rugby league would replace the scrum with the ball-up and throw-in, and require the try-scorer to take his own conversion kicks. The NSWRL approved these changes to its rules immediately, conditional on the AFC also approving; but administrative procedures within the AFC meant that each of the Australian rules football state leagues needed to hold its own vote on the matter before the majority position of the AFC delegates would be known– the time required to stage these state votes, and then convene another meeting of AFC delegates to formalise a combined vote (in an era when interstate travel was by rail or ship) meant that any changes to the rules would be delayed from being put into practice until at least 1916. Over the early months of 1915, the issue was discussed at state league general meetings, with the South Australian Football League approving in January, the New South Wales Football League approving in February, West Australian Football League rejecting the changes in March, and the Victorian Football League approving in April. At the same time, fighting in World War I was escalating, and football was increasingly becoming secondary to the war effort. The Tasmanian Football League, when discussing the rule changes in March 1915, decided against providing any decision on the matter due to the war, and the positions of the Queensland Football League and the Goldfields Football League were not known. The Queensland Rugby League was not involved in the amalgamation discussions at all, having been neither consulted nor notified by the NSWRL. The war effort ultimately precluded any further meetings of AFC delegates. As such, even though gaining the requisite three-quarters majority support for the new rules appeared at worst to be an even chance, the AFC never had the opportunity to put the rule changes to a formal vote of delegates, and therefore could not approve them; the NSWRL's conditional approval of changes to its rules lapsed, and any efforts towards amalgamation were put on hold indefinitely. In its first post-war meeting in December 1919, the AFC discussed whether or not to revive the issue of amalgamation, but owing to improved popularity of rugby league in New South Wales, Queensland and England since the war, decided that it would not consider amalgamation any further unless approached again on the issue by the NSWRL. This never happened, and the two sports progressed on separate paths thereafter. The proposed amalgamation, however was to contribute directly to the demise of Australian rules football in New Zealand with the perception of Rugby League taking over the sport of Australian rules. FOOTNOTES Tackling was not a common feature of Australian rules football at the time, although it was permissible. Under the holding the ball–holding the man rules in place at that time, if a player in possession of the ball was "caught" – which could mean tackled, held or sometimes even just touched by an opponent – he had to drop the ball immediately or a free kick would be paid for holding the ball; however, if the opponent continued to hold the player for any length of time after the ball was legally dropped, a free kick for holding the man would be paid. In practice, holding the man free kicks were applied so stringently that any attempt to make a rugby-style tackle would end in a holding the man free kick after the ball was dropped, so tackling had virtually disappeared from the game. The proposal to allow rugby-style tackling allowed for a player to complete a fair tackle without being penalised.
  14. Hopefully Covid will be on the run by the start of the season, as long as variant 46 of Covid is kept out of Australia.
  15. Week 18 NFL Selections In Bold. Saturday, Jan. 8 Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos, Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Jan. 9 Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions, Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars, Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings, Washington at New York Giants, Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals, New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons, New York Jets at Buffalo Bills, San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams, New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins, Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders.
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