ANDY SHARPE takes a look at current happenings in Rugby League
Welcome to the latest edition of Six to Go, looking at some of the things that have caught my eye over the past seven days.
1. New shirts – the good, the bad and the ugly
A couple of new shirts were launched this week, one top quality (the good) and one pretty awful (the bad and the ugly).
Hull Kingston Rovers have launched a shirt inspired by their connection with Papua New Guinea and which is a collaboration with the Stanley Gene Foundation.
Stanley is a Hull KR legend and one of the greatest ever PNG players. His foundation not only raises money for children in PNG but they also collect essential items and send them over to PNG.
Items such as books, writing equipment, desks and chairs, clothes, toys, and sports equipment are all items that we take for granted, but others are not so lucky to have readily available to them.
Hull KR have supported the SG Foundation in the past and many rugby teams in PNG play in old Hull KR shirts. £5.00 from each of the new shirts will go to the Foundation.
Stanley came over to England after the 1995 World Cup, with team-mate John Okul, and scored 104 tries in 166 appearances in two spells with Rovers. He is one of the most popular players in the club’s history. He also played 25 times for PNG, scoring nine tries.
The other shirt launched this week was the Warrington Wolves Magic Weekend shirt. There isn’t too much to say about this shirt except that it reminds me of the Gotye music video for his no. 1 single ‘Somebody that I used to know’!!!! It’s not a good look!!!!
2. Where is everybody?
Only 3,978 hardy souls went out in Sydney on Monday night to watch reigning Premiers South Sydney take on Cronulla Sharks.
Now this attendance would normally be a great cause for concern, but I think you actually have to congratulate the spectators for getting to the match and also the players and officials for getting the game on.
The game was played in atrocious monsoon conditions with 87km/h winds and surface water at one end of the Remondis Stadium.
The press box was flooded and some of the crowd were decked in full length wet suits!! The NRL gave both clubs the option to postpone the game if they were at all concerned about player welfare, but they went ahead and got it on.
Even though the Sharks were missing Paul Gallen and Andrew Fifita they fought the hardest and claimed their third win in a row, 18-10. This, after losing their opening four games of the season.
It wasn’t a good night for the Rabbitohs and they have now lost three out of their last four matches.
The crowd for the match was the lowest NRL attendance since 3,362 spectators turned up to watch North Sydney take on North Queensland back in 1999 – the year before the Bears were kicked out of the competition.
3. Kiwi Legends
Legendary Kiwi winger Manu Vatuvei has signed a new three-year deal with New Zealand Warriors. It will take him to the end of the 2018 season, meaning he will have served 15 seasons at the Warriors and will join some of the most illustrious one club names in the game.
That list is led by Andrew Ettingshausen, who played 18 seasons for Cronulla, the legendary Darren Lockyer, who played 17 seasons for the Broncos, Jason Croker 16 at the Raiders and Nathan Hindmarsh, who did 15 years at the Eels.
If Vatuvei completes the deal he will go beyond Cliff Lyons and Steve Menzies who both played 14 seasons at the Sea Eagles and winger Hazem El Masri also completed 14 seasons with the Bulldogs.
The giant Kiwi winger made his first grade debut as an 18-year-old in May 2004 and is on track to overtake Stacey Jones’ club record 261 games.
He has scored 141 tries in 201 appearances including six in 2015 already.
He is a true modern great and is New Zealand’s record Test try scorer with 20 tries in 28 Test Matches. He was voted the RLIF Rookie of the year in 2005 and Winger of the Year in 2008.
Whilst Vatuvei continues with the Warriors, another Kiwi legend leaves.
Football Manager Dean Bell, the captain of the original Warriors, has left his post and is looking for a new challenge elsewhere. Bell re-joined the Auckland-based club in 2007 as manager of the Under-20s side and went on to become the football manager of the NRL side before moving through various development and recruitment titles.
4. Challenge Cup draw
The draw for the 6th round of Challenge Cup may have been relegated to the backwaters of BBC News and had a dodgy ball, but there is no doubt it has thrown up some interesting ties.
The BBC has chosen Leeds Rhinos v. Huddersfield Giants and Wakefield Trinity Wildcats v. Leigh Centurions as their TV games. They are heading to Wakefield in the hope of seeing another Cup upset by the Centurions, who knocked out Salford Red Devils last weekend.
Other all-Super League ties have multiple winners Wigan Warriors entertaining Hull KR and Castleford Tigers visiting Hull FC.
I predict here and now that Wakey will beat Leigh and Hull KR will get over the Warriors on their home patch.
I’m not really a fan of the new format that sees the top 8 Super League teams from the previous season entering the competition at such a late stage. The Cup is all about romance and upsets, and this format leaves much less opportunity for smaller clubs to get a big draw, earn some money and upset the big boys.
All Super League clubs should come in at the 5th round stage, if not earlier, in my opinion.
5. No conspiracy theories and a comeback!
Some Salford fans have amused me this week with their whingeing on Twitter. They are not too upset that they lost to Championship side Leigh Centurions in the 5th round of the Challenge Cup in front of the Sky TV cameras – most seem to have accepted that – but because they have had another two players suspended from the aforementioned match.
Cory Patterson has been suspended for three matches and Darrel Griffin one match, which means that the Red Devils now have four players under suspension.
Rangi Chase is serving a seven-game ban for ‘that’ tackle on Brett Ferres and Weller Hauraki a four-game ban for a couple of misdemeanours.
Because of this some Red Devils fans think there is a conspiracy by the RFL against their club.
It was a good job that referee Phil Bentham forgot his red card on Saturday because Patterson deserved to see it inside ten seconds for his abysmal head shot on Leigh fullback Greg McNally and, in my eyes, he is lucky to get away with a three-game ban.
Patterson had disciplinary issues in his year at Hull KR and I think most Red Devils fans will know there is no conspiracy, just poorly disciplined players.
On the opposite side of the pitch, Leigh duo Tom Armstrong and Jake Emmitt were lucky not to receive anything worse than a penalty for a lift that put Salford’s Carl Forster in a dangerous position.
With their suspensions and injuries Salford are struggling for this week’s fixture against Castleford Tigers although, ironically, they should have Kevin Locke available. However, they will be missing Michael Dobson and Junior Sa’u. With both halfbacks being unavailable they registered 38-year-old assistant coach Ian Watson just in case he was needed. Watson played his last game for Swinton Lions in June last year and holds the record number of caps for a Welsh international with 30.
6. Stick to the contract
The Round 13 rule in the NRL is a strange one and should be scrapped.
This has been in the news this week because of speculation over star halfback Daly Cherry-Evans move from Manly Sea Eagles to Gold Coast Titans from 2016.
DCE agreed a four-year multi-million dollar contract just as the 2015 season started and the week 13 rule is designed to give players AND clubs the opportunity to ‘backflip’ on an agreed deal before the paperwork is lodged with the NRL.
Constant speculation by the press unsettles the players and the clubs they have signed for and I think that this rule should be abolished, along with allowing players to agree a contract for the following year when they already have nearly 12 months of their existing contract with their current club still to run.
I know I would not be happy, as a supporter of a club, if our star player had agreed a deal with a rival club in the same competition just as the current season had started. It would be deflating and I would be questioning his commitment and loyalty and he probably wouldn’t get the support that the rest of the team would get. And would the player himself be that concerned about results – his own performance maybe, but results?
I think a player should have to wait until at least two-thirds of the season has been completed before they can start negotiations on a new contract and I definitely believe that if you shake hands on a deal, that is it!
There should be no room for manoeuvre on EITHER side and this would stop all the press speculation and disruption that hits a player AND a club. Is it difficult to understand why Manly are having such a rough time on the field this year when their coach Geoff Toovey already knows he will be without DCE and his halfback partner Kieran Foran from next year. It must be unsettling and the sooner the NRL discards this rule the better.
A little bit of extra time thinking
It’s good to see Brian Noble back in the game. Noble is the most successful coach in the Super League era and his experience, on a part time consultancy basis, will be invaluable to new London Broncos coach Andrew Henderson. Noble has huge experience from his time at Bradford Bulls, Wigan Warriors, Crusaders, Salford Red Devils and as coach of the Great Britain national side.
A great story this week about Brighouse Rangers Under-16s, who raised over £70,000 so that they can tour Australia for two weeks later this year. They came up with the idea two years ago and the players and their parents have really bought into this idea and have made a dream a reality.
Lots of fund raising has gone on over the last couple of years and the club will head to Sydney for two games and then Brisbane for two games in August. The club will also organise sight-seeing trips for the players and, hopefully, they will get the chance to see some NRL games.
This will be a trip of a lifetime and shows everything that is good about youth Rugby League and also shows how important having the support of parents is to a club.
Some more rumours flying about this week
Newcastle Knights are apparently looking at bringing in Test backrower Greg Bird whilst they may be losing long serving utility Kurt Gidley to Super League.
Cronulla full back Michael Gordon and Canberra prop David Shillington have been linked with moves to Hull KR next year. As far as I am aware there are no overseas spots available at Rovers for next year, so I’m not sure how this will work out.
Albert Kelly is continually being linked with Manly, to the point of boredom at the moment, but I understand that the Sea Eagles have got a few more irons in the fire before they look at Kelly.
I keep hearing that Rob Burrow will be joining either Castleford Tigers or Hull KR – this has been about a while but won’t go away. I can’t understand why the Rhinos would even contemplate letting this diamond of a player go anywhere.
Ryan Bailey has joined Castleford Tigers until the end of the season after leaving Hull KR with a solitary substitute appearance under his belt. Along with the majority of Tigers fans, I will ask the main question – WHY??
You can follow me on Twitter @sharpster69.